Starting with Arduino What do you need?

NicoHood edited this page May 5, 2016 · 1 revision

###Extracted from the old Wordpress blog. This page was never published and is not finished yet. It is just here to not lose the information.

Are you interested in coding or do you want to start? Are you also interested in hardware and how it works? Or do you simple want to build something fun on your own and learn something new?

Arduino is probably the best way to do so in my opinion. But most people wonder what to buy, where to buy and where to start. Here are some suggestions from me, what I think is useful for beginners and if you gain more experience you can still use and expand your 'old' hardware.

I will write and explain what choices you have and what you should take. At the end I summarize my recommendations.

Choosing an Arduino Board

Choosing the correct Arduino board for your needs is probably the most important choice at the beginning. You can get an overview of all available official boards here. As you might have noticed it's hard for a beginner to know what you should buy.

Pretending you just want to learn coding and want to have a flexible board that you can use for almost anything, you best choose is an Arduino Uno. It is the most 'standard' board and mostly supported by the Arduino community. It has the standard Arduino layout so you can still use shields(extensions, we will come to that later), it has a pretty flexible Microcontroller (Atmega328) and it also has optional a secound Microcontroller with USB functions which you can use later on with my Project HoodLoader2.When you buy an Arduino Uno you should ensure it has a 16u2 USB chip on it and an Atmega328P, DIP version (the long chip on the board), not the SMD version. If you for some reason kill the Atmega328P you can simply pull it out and insert a new one and not buy a whole new board.

Other choices would be an Arduino Mega which has the same features as the Arduino Uno but a better main Microcontroller(Atmega2560). If you want to go for bigger projects with more program storage and more ram this might be your choice. But its more expensive and in most cases not needed if you code not too resource unfriendly.

The Arduino Leonardo is similar to the Uno but has built in USB functions. That might be easier to use but the pinout is slightly different and many beginner tutorials rely on the Uno. And since the Uno also can have USB functions with HoodLoader2 you can use this instead. So the Leonardo is easier to use if you want to go mainly for USB functions but I'd prefer the Uno anyways.

There are many other boards out there like Micro, Mini, Nano, Pro Micro or a Teensy. Each of them is made for a special use. But in general you should be fine starting with an Arduino Uno. And if its not enough and you are still interested and need more you might want to buy another board later.

What else do you need?

Its not simply buying an Arduiono board and you are done. Microcontrollers are just the main hardware. What you do with them is up to you. You can buy any kind of hardware. You just have to ensure there is a library online to control this hardware. I will list some recommendations here, what you nead in any case and what you could need, depending on your project/ideas.

Things you need:

  • Breadboard. Buy it locally, good quality is important. 800 contacts should be fine.
  • Leds, some sellers like Reichelt also sell them with resitors integrated
  • Resistors (use some standard resistors like 100, 220, 1k, 2k, 10k, 1M)
  • Capacitors (10nf, 100nF should be fine in most cases)
  • Cables (only for breadboard use since they are not that qualitive)
  • Jumper Wires (to connect to your Arduino board and sensors. M-M, M-F, F-F)
  • Some breadboard buttons
  • Some potentiometers (to get analog input)
Other hardware/sensors you might want to use:
  • IR Sender + Receiver
  • 433MHZ Sender + Receiver (for wireless power control)
  • Led strips (Ws2801, 5V, sensure is no WS2811 or anything else)
  • MSGEQ7


Shields are extension that are stacked ontop of your board. Its mostly designed for beginners to easy plug and play. Normally you dont need any shield. You have to keep in mind that this is not a computer with an operating system. An ethernet shield is not that simple as it sound. Neither the USB-Host shield or anything else. You also dont need a motor shield to drive motors. A simple IC it drive them should be fine and cheaper. I wont go into details here, since there are other website which explain the uses of Arduino shields.

Where to buy the board?

Buying your Arduino board and sensors can be tricky for beginners since there are so many offers.The first decision you should take is whether you want to buy an official Arduino board or a cheaper China clone.

First of I dont suggest you to buy an Arduino starter kit. Most of the things in them you wont need. Also in most of the cases its more expensive to buy them seperate but get what you want. Also these kits normally have unofficial board (see below). Buying everything seperate costs the same but gives you more flexibility.

There are mainly three reasons why you should buy an official board: You support the developers, you will receive it in time (china might take 2-6 weeks to arrive) and you will get a board with the correct PCB layout as in the documents. For example some cheap Arduino Unos dont have a 16u2 USB chip. Instead they have a cheaper USB chip which is not able to reprogram with HoodLoader2 as I mentioned.

If you carefully look at the china offers and you know what you are buying it is okay to buy from china. It could happen that you not get what you want and then have to buy twice. You should be patient to wait for it to arrive though. I suggest not to buy boards with copyright violation. Most sellers write Arduino and the logo on their board which is illegal.

I suggest to buy it from a local seller for about 20€/25$, you wil get it in time and ensure it is new. Do not buy it from Ebay, Amazon or Aliexpress. In Germany you can buy from Watterott, Expt-Tech or Reichelt.

Where to buy the other hardware?

For the sensors it is different. They are always the same quality and functionality. Local resellers just earn money with this hardware. If you are patient it is totally legit to buy them from china. I normally buy from ebay (select all countries) or Aliexpress. They are sold seperate, shipping is always included. Dont get confused if the price is 1-5$. Some parts are just that cheap, even with shipping. If you buy local the only one who gets more money is the reseller, not the chinese worker, sadly.
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