When it comes to computers, I’ve always been a do-it-yourself kind of buyer. I’ve been building my own PC’s for many years, and while I can’t claim that I’ve ever saved a lot of money doing so, I’ve always been able to get exactly the components I want and thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting it together. When it comes to builds, shopping for parts is half the fun.
In the Stick Computing category, there’s not much room for DIY in the systems themselves. You have to rely on external expansion possibilities to get your home-brew fix. Thankfully the USB port gives us a highway to Mini PC upgrades. If you add a USB hub to your Stick, you can add nearly anything that you can to an ordinary PC. I look forward to the day that even memory, processor, and graphics upgrades are possible. After all, with Thunderbolt interfaces, we’re nearly there.
For the most part, Mini PC hobbyists are more software focused than hardware anyway. That is, unless you’re one of the millions of people who’ve bought a Raspberry PI. While not technically a Stick Computer, it is a member of our Mini PC/Home entertainment space and therefore worthy of consideration. The Raspberry Pi, while still not fully upgradeable, gives you much greater access to the internal hardware.
In case you’re not familiar with the Pi, the latest generation is known as the Raspberry Pi 3. Built on the Broadcom 2837 ARMv8 64 bit processor the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is faster and more powerful than its predecessors. It also has better power management to enable more demanding external USB devices and also includes built-in wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. It includes 4 USB 2.0 ports and a GPIO interface for connecting a host of hobbyist type devices.
I put off looking at the PI for quite a while because the cost to complete a working unit far exceeded the original cost of the motherboard. And I’m not talking about electronics costs, but the casing itself. It never made sense to me to spend that proportion of the overall budget on non-essential functions like casing. Now cases can easily be found for just a few dollars. In fact, complete Kits are little more than the cost of the device itself.
The leading Kit maker for the Raspberry Pi is CanaKit and they offer a number of different products around helping you get started with Raspberry PI in one of the various applications where they can be employed, from Home Control to Media Center.
What I like about the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 with Clear Case
The Clear Case Kit from Canakit includes the latest and fastest model of the Raspberry Pi family – The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is the third generation Raspberry Pi and 10x faster than the first generation Raspberry Pi. Additionally, it incorporates built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. While the Bluetooth is 4.1, the Wifi is only 802.11n and single band, so if you plan to use them simultaneously you may want to add an external Wifi adapter.
At the heart of the Pi 3 Model B is a Broadcom BCM2837 64bit ARMv8 QUAD Core 64bit Processor. At roughly 10 times the processing power of the original Pi the quad core CPU means it’s rarely bottlenecked on routine tasks. Even with a noticeably smallish 1GB of RAM, the Pi 3 performs well on a variety of benchmarks.
In addition to a bountiful 4 USB ports, the Pi 3 also includes a Full HDMI, a Micro SD card slot and a CSI camera interface. Of course the connection that’s most important to hobbyists is the GPIO, which allows you to connect many types of devices for both input and output, including test equipment, motors and sensors. With the GPIO you can interface your Pi to be a centerpiece of home control.
The Canakit also includes a high quality thickened plastic case specially designed for the Raspberry Pi 3. It looks great and exposes the inner workings of the device to onlookers.
To power the device is an included 2.5A USB Power Supply with Micro USB Cable and Noise Filter. It is specifically designed for the Raspberry Pi 3 and can provide additional power to USB connected devices.
Two heat sinks are included, one for the CPU and one for the Wireless chip which help to reduce the internal tempurate of the Pi should you need to leave it on for extended times.
The Open Source community has rallied around the Pi and created a specific Distribution of Linux just for Raspberry Pi called “Raspbian”. Just look at Distrowatch or Linuxquestions.org for more information on how to get Raspbian running on your Pi 3. With Linux, you’ll be able to run a wide array of apps, including Kodi.
Cana Kit Corporation is a Canadian manufacturer of high quality educational electronic kits for the electronic hobbyist or student. Cana Kit Corporation is also a supplier of electronic components.
The company is located in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
In the Fall of 2016 they began shipping the CanaKit for Raspberry Pi 3.
CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Clear Case
- BCM2837 64bit ARMv8 QUAD Core 64bit Processor
- VideoCore IV 3D graphics core
- 1 GB LPDDR2 RAM
- Integrated Wireless 802.11n
- 4 USB 2.0
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 2.5A USB Power Supply with Micro USB Cable and Noise Filter
- Premium Clear Raspberry Pi 3 Case
- Set of 2 Heat Sinks and CanaKit Quick-Start Guide
The Raspberry Pi 3 is the leading bare bones motherboard kit for the Mini PC market. It is consistently one of the highest rated general purpose Mini PC’s available today.
Some customer reviews
I’d say in total, this sub $100.00 purchase is worth every bit of over $1000.00 worth of entertainment equipment.
I know that there are tons of cases and ways to customize your Pi. But – if you’re like me and tend to over analyze every purchase, just get this bundle. It is good enough to get you started, and that’s what you’re really after…
This little box is a work horse, and saves me lots of $money$. I have mine tasked as a Kodi streaming box and it works great!
It’s the incomparable Raspberry Pi 3 put together in a complete, ready to go package. Add a 32Gb Micro SD and you have a little powerhouse for running your Home Media Center or your Home Control setup. As is always the case when buying Mini PC’s, make sure you know what you’re getting. Inspect what’s included in the kit and what isn’t. For the CanaKit Raspberry Pi, you’ll need to make sure you have a keyboard, mouse, monitor and Operating System to complete the package. I recommend Raspbian as the OS of choice.