When we reviewed the Kano last year, a kit that includes a Raspberry Pi and everything you need to get coding, we were very impressed. The Kano has been something heavily used and tinkered with at Test Pit Towers, even long after the review went live. However, read the review and you'll see that the one thing the Kano doesn't come with is a screen, requiring you to hook it up to an external monitor or TV. Well, not any more, as we discovered when we reviewed the Kano Screen Kit.
What is it? Well, the Kano Screen Kit allows you to build your own 10.1 inch HD screen, in the same way you would have constructed your Kano microcomputer. The set includes everything you need to put the screen together, including the circuit board, buttons, wires, and power cable. All you then have to do is add your Kano and you're away.
The idea behind this is to give kids their own personal screen to let them use the Kano coding programmes and games wherever they like – no more borrowing dad's PC monitor or hogging the living room TV. Also, the Kano Screen Kit can be used to store the whole Kano package, because as well as accommodating the Raspberry Pi there is also a slot for the orange wireless keyboard to slide into.
Putting the screen together was slightly simpler than building the Kano itself, but still very fun and interesting. The control board is pre-soldered and attached to the back of the screen unit, so all you have to do is plug in the connectors for the buttons, then attach the Micro USB power wire (which is a splitter cable, allowing you to also power your Kano from it), and then the HDMI cable. A shorter HDMI is included with the screen, so there's no need to coil up the huge one you got with the original Kano kit to make it fit. You then protect the board with a clip-on cover, as below.
You attach the power/brightness buttons by way of a small piece of Velcro, then clip your Kano into the space on the back. Once completed the instructions (which lay everything out like a LEGO instruction book) then prompt you to use the included magnifying glass to peer at the screen as it comes to life, pointing out the many pixels and what makes them work. It's all very fascinating, even for a thirty-something technology journalist.
Fired up, the 10.1 inch Kano screen is LCD and features a resolution of 1280 x 800p, which is very good considering this is just a tad more than £100, and that it is made from tough Gorilla Glass. Connected to the Kano, and running their special Linux-based operating system, it is a pleasure to use, and doing so with the Kano's wireless keyboard (with integrated trackpad) feels very natural. Everything looks bright, crisp and clear on the screen, from the basic coding software, to running heavier things like Minecraft and playing videos.
The screen can either be set upright or angled downwards. There is no accelerometer in either the screen or the Kano, so changing between the two requires a quick settings change. We discovered that kids preferred to use it upright, as they tend to be lower down in a chair, (being smaller, as they are. Bless) whereas our adult testers preferred the laid back position to get a better view of the screen. No matter which way you choose to place it, there is still a gap for the power cable to trail out, and the Kano stays locked in and secure.
Just as with the Kano itself, the screen kit offers other uses outside of the coding world. You basically have a very good screen here with an available HDMI port, meaning anything could be connected to it. We've experimented using it as a second screen for a laptop (which it did so very well), as well as hooking up a couple of games consoles (although doing so required additional speakers). When the Kano Screen isn't being used in conjunction with a Kano, it still has many uses, both for kids and adults.
A great addition to your existing Kano kit, the Kano Screen Kit is well worth it if your little coder is hogging other screens too much, or if they are looking for a fun and challenging gadget to use with their other computers.