Contrary to its name, the Arduino kit is actually a better buy for hobbyists and enthusiasts who already have a strong grounding in electronic invention – basically because it does not come with a manual. If you are looking for a real beginner's kit then you should consider instead the SparkFun Inventor's Kit, which has a printed manual with it so you can learn the basics before you start to get more involved.
The Arduino starter kit is really best used by existing hobbyists with a level of experience already – who need to top up their inventor's bag of bits prior to starting their next project. The starter kit comes with a large selection of useful bits and pieces, from a breadboard to resistors and capacitors, and is therefore perfect for helping ardent amateur inventors get the most from their creative streaks.
It is split mainly into inputs, outputs and sensors – plus a micro controller board and a bread board (no, you do not get to decide what color the bread board comes in and beware, you also do not get to choose between the two variants of the Arduino Uno (the micro controller board you get with the Arduino starter kit either.) There are flex, resistance, ambient temperature and light sensors, plus a trimmable knob for volume control or adjusting contrast.
You also get LEDs, a buzzer and a selection of resistors, both at the normal and the heavy duty ends of the spectrum.
You do not get a box for the Arduino Uno; you do not get push button switches. To create a full workbench kit, then, you need to set yourself up with equipment not available in the Arduino starter kit. The Sensor kit and a box for the Uno itself are both good investments to make sure that your inventing room is stocked up with everything you could conceivably require from the basic Arduino starter kit.
After that, the sky is your limit! Why not get hold of a 4wd Arduino robot platform, and mount the micro controller on top of it as the base work for your very own mechanical friend? With the range of light sensors and pressure sensors available in the Arduino kit, plus extras from the Arduino sensor kit, you will be able to create a flexible and tightly controlled robot from scratch. Now that would be an impressive achievement!
The great thing about any starter kit is its list of cool components – the things that you can not get just by walking into your local electronics store and asking for them. The Arduino starter kit scores big here.