Our verdict CrowPi: a compact Raspberry Pi kit :
CrowPi is a unique all-in-one Raspberry Pi starter kit, well designed and reasonably priced. To start someone off with Pi programming or hardware, there’s nothing better right now.
Raspberry Pi starter kits usually contain the same thing. While some of them vary in the number of components or price, they all generally offer the same experience.
That is, until now.
Enter CrowPi, the portable, ready-to-use, all-in-one Raspberry Pi starter kit. The basic kit is $239 and the advanced is $329 (according to review), and is on the higher end of the price range for this kind of package. Is it worth it? Read on to find out, and at the end of this review, we have one complete set to give away to a lucky reader!
If you can’t wait, we have exclusive discounts valid until the end of June. Use code GZGQIJZT on Amazon for 15% off!
CrowPi in a nutshell
CrowPi was successfully funded on Kickstarter by Elecrow last year. It comes in an ABS plastic case with aluminum rings (in different colors). Inside is a custom printed circuit board with a huge array of hobby electronics and a 7″ HDMI touchscreen mounted in the lid.
The basic version comes without the Pi, but provides a preloaded 32GB microSD card. The upgraded version comes bundled with a Raspberry Pi 3B+, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and two USB game controllers.
The ribbon cable connects the Pi to the custom PCB, eliminating the need to set up circuits on the breadboard entirely. Instead of taking it apart and putting it away once you’re done, you can just turn off and close the case. This, along with the sketch examples provided by CrowPi, makes getting started with this kit a quick and painless process.
What comes with CrowPi
The Elecrow managed to fit into a 27 x 17.5 x 7 cm carry bag.
Basic version contains:
- USB camera
- 7″ HDMI touch screen
- LCD module 16 x 2 (MCP23008)
- Segment LED (HT16K33)
- vibration motor
- Matrix LED (MAX7219)
- Light sensor (BH1750)
- sound sensor
- IR motion sensor
- ultrasonic sensor
- stepper motor
- Tilt sensor (SW-200D)
- infra red sensor
- Touch sensor (TTP223)
- Temperature and humidity sensor (DH11)
- 16-button matrix
- 4 assignable buttons
- RFID module (MFRC522)
- mini layout
- IR remote
- USB2.0 to microSD converter
- Touch screen stylus
- Power adapter and connection cables
- Preinstalled Raspbian 32GB MicroSD card with code examples
Several additional parts have been added to the extended version:
- Raspberry Pi 3B+
- Wireless keyboard and mouse
- 2 x USB retro game controllers
- Headphones with built-in microphone
That’s more components than Pi GPIO pins, so there are two mini 8-row switches that allow components to double up on pins.
The included power bank connects to the CrowPi via a barrel connector, though MicroUSB power is also an option. With a powerful enough portable power bank, you can power your entire board on the go.
Setting up CrowPi was easy. Since the extended version comes with the Pi already installed, it was just a case of plugging in the power supply, mouse, and keyboard and powering it up.
Although I have a lot of experience with the Pi, I approached this review with a beginner’s mindset. By following the quick start guide, you will be able to connect to Wi-Fi and download the provided source materials, as well as code samples.
Within five minutes of opening the box, I was making things flash, buzz, and vibrate. I’m sure anyone would have the same experience regardless of previous experience.
One of the issues I ran into in the review was the build quality. A portable clam kit is useless if it’s too fragile to travel with. I found the ABS shell to be solid with no kinks and the iron hinges are strong enough to keep the top that houses the screen open.
The PCB is clean and well made and displays the components you are using as well as the SMC components required for them to work properly.
Considering how much they’ve squeezed into this board, everything is well organized and messy. The Pi fits in the top left corner of the case, with 90-degree HDMI and 3.5mm connectors for connecting to the screen. The CrowPi doesn’t have built-in speakers, but the included headphones are good enough for everyday use.
Given that everything comes pre-assembled, the CrowPi hardware is incredibly easy to use. Even external parts such as the servo and stepper motor have connectors, making it difficult to misconnect.
This is the first major CrowPi plus for beginners who can accidentally fry hardware with a simple mistake. This kit removes that disappointing scenario.
Following the provided Python tutorial was an easy process, although it suffers a bit in translation. Each lesson covers a single component and its associated code before providing a terminal command to see how it works.
The tutorials could more accurately be called a guide to the provided code as it doesn’t explain too much, but CrowPi provides the tutorials on their YouTube channel in more detail.
No matter how much Python you learn in these lessons, they will walk the reader through identifying the components, reading the code, and running it in a terminal. In many ways, this is a great way to keep someone interested in the initial stages of using the Raspberry Pi with the hardware while avoiding some of the pitfalls that can cause some of them to lose interest.
Other Uses for CrowPi
The 7-inch HDMI screen doesn’t compete with smart devices or full-size monitors, but it’s more than adequate for watching YouTube. With two game controllers, I thought it would make sense to install RetroPie and spend the day playing some old classic.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the CrowPi turns into a fantastic little retro gaming machine, and having USB gamepads is a nice touch.
Are there any disadvantages of CrowPi?
The lessons mentioned above demonstrate each component on the board, but the explanation is lacking in places. For information on how to program your Raspberry Pi using Python, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
If only there was a site with a resource of Raspberry Pi tutorials to help you learn how to use it?
It’s funny that part 20 of the tutorial refers to the LED and resistor, which is not included in the kit, and lesson 21 (which deals with the camera) is mentioned in the quick start guide, but it’s nowhere to be found.
These are minor points, and given the large online community of Raspberry Pi users and tutorials, it’s no big deal.
For some, the $239/$329 asking price might seem a bit high. For comparison, I have compiled a list of most of the parts provided in the extended kit. Without any power supply, cables, headphones, and a few other small peripherals, the total purchased separately was over $260. Even so, you still have to put it all together, and you won’t have enough of a built-in sink cover.