Back in January I ordered my first Raspberry Pi (Model B revision 2). Very soon I realized that there’s a host of options to choose from for the required accessories needed to get started. As such, I spent months of research and testing to ensure that I didn’t keep wasting time replacing accessories until finding the best ones. So in this post I’ll provide you with some tips for choosing quality Raspberry Pi accessories. I’ll be as brief as possible since the objective is to save you both time and money.
Before continuing you may want to read: What Is The True Cost Of Running a Raspberry Pi?
Raspberry Pi Power Supply (Micro USB)
The Raspberry Pi is powered by 5v micro USB. The Raspberry Pi foundation recommends a 1.2A (1200mA) power supply. This is a safe suggestion because on forums and blogs you’ll notice that users with popular 750mA, 850mA and 1000mA power supplies often have issues with random resets and freezing. Don’t fall for the popular cheap chargers especially if lower than 1200mA. Of course, how much current (mA) the Raspberry Pi requires depends on what you plug into it. Also, note that many cheap power supplies deliver less amperage than advertised. To avoid frustration my recommendation is to go with a minimum of a 1.5A power supply. Currently I use 1.8A (here) and 2A power supplies. Also see: Raspberry Pi Safe Overclocking.
Raspberry Pi SDHC card (SD Card)
There are a lot of Raspberry starter kits being sold around the web and I’ve found that the vast majority of them include class 4 SD cards. Yuck! If you are interested in performance, you’ll want to go with a class 10 or at the minimum a class 6 SD card. Keep in mind how you will be transferring data from your PC to the SD card, you may need an SD card reader and this takes longer as well with slower SD cards. If you plan on messing around with multiple Linux distros on your RPi then make sure to have multiple cards so you can swap them without having to reformat. Lastly if you’re installing NOOBS then a minimum of 8GB of storage is recommended. Otherwise 4GB is usually fine for most projects. My cards are 4GB, 8GB and 32GB. I once used a 1GB class 4 SD card (had it laying around) with Openelec and found it to be slower. I found the same performance issue with Arch Linux ARM on a 4GB class 4 sd card vs faster class 10.
Raspberry Pi Enclosure (Protective Case)
A case isn’t necessary, but if you handle your Pi a lot or want to protect it, then buy a case with good ventilation. Hot air rises so vents at the top of the case, and to let cool air in some vents on the bottom. Personally, I like clear cases because its almost like not having a case, in that you can still see the RPi board in all it’s beauty. You can also make your own case.
USB Wi-Fi dongle or Network Cable
Be careful there are a TON of cheap Wifi dongles that offer poor signal strength, random connection drops and/or requires manual installation of drivers. Thus why I’ll recommend some specific dongles. The LB-Link long Range WiFi USB Antenna (LB Link) and the TP-LINK TL-WN725N Wireless N Nano USB Adapter (TP-Link). The LB-Link cost about twice as much as the TP-Link since its features a long antenna. You can read more about them here… Download Arch Linux Raspberry Pi WiFi Access Point Image.
The fact that your RPi comes with not one, but two USB ports may seem cool at first, but soon you’ll realize that 2 ports are sometimes not enough. If you require network access, to help free up a spare USB port you can use network cable instead.
Wired or Wireless Keyboard
Chances are you already have a keyboard sitting around in your garage, or in a closet along with an old computer. If not, then invest in a wireless keyboard with built in trackpad. I really like the Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 and Microsoft’s All-in-One Media Keyboard. I used an old wired Microsoft keyboard for months before going wireless. If you prefer smaller wireless keyboards check out Rii and Favi.
Choose wisely, everyone has very different preferences and this in most cases will your most used accessory. I started with the smaller Rii and Favi keyboards, they are nice for travel but slow to work with due to size. I would recommend the Logitech K400 for a compromise between size and usability or the Microsoft keyboard for all out usability. There are also other options so pay attention to the layout of keys and compare to your preferences.
Everything else is useless if you can’t see what’s going on. You can use the video-out connection if you like, but the HDMI port makes using the Pi a blast. Still, unless you are using the Pi for 1080p movies or live TV then just buy the cheapest HDMI cable you can find.