Top 10 Most Popular Hobby Electronic Components (2024)

Many thousands of hobbyists/makers use PartsBox for managing their electronic parts inventories. Thanks to this usage, we have a unique perspective and we can get some insight into which components are in every collection. We thought we would start publishing the results, as they are quite interesting!

How this list is generated: we estimate the popularity for each component by checking how many people have it in their part database. Then, in order to make the comparison more interesting, we remove the boring passive components which everybody uses: resistors and capacitors. The rest goes into a ranking.

This ranking represents hobbyist/maker use and is not at all representative of commercial/business usage. We intend to publish a separate ranking in the future, with top components used by small and medium businesses manufacturing electronics.

It's interesting how conservative hobbyists can be when choosing electronic components. Some of the parts on the list have more modern replacements that are often improved in many respects. The μA741 op-amp is an outdated design and very few people should use it in 2024, and yet it surprisingly ranks as the 19th most popular component! Some of this popularity is probably due to books and other publications that have circuit designs with this op-amp.

1. NE555P (Texas Instruments): Precision timer, microseconds to hours, TTL-compatible, up to 200 mA output

The number one spot on the list is both somewhat surprising, and simultaneously not surprising at all.

The venerable 555 timer is a versatile IC designed for generating precise time delays or oscillation. Introduced in 1972 by Signetics (now part of ON Semiconductor), it was designed by Hans R. Camenzind. The estimated global annual production of the 555 timer IC is in the billions.

This equivalent of 25 transistors, 2 diodes, and 15 resistors on a silicon chip proves to be incredibly popular. Microcontrollers offer an easier and more precise way of generating timing patterns, and you can get a full 32-bit computer with peripherals (including timers) at comparable prices. But then one has to write software, and some argue it's no longer electronics!

2. L7805CV (STMicroelectronics): Positive Voltage Regulator IC, 5V, 1.5A, TO-220

This non-adjustable 5V voltage regulator was a staple of every TTL logic circuit built on 74xx ICs. Also dating back to the 1970s, its popularity was due to how easy it was to use: just add two capacitors, and you have a stable 5V supply for a wide range of input voltages. And it's a great choice, as long as you don't have to worry about power dissipation.

There are variants for other output voltages as well, but 5V still dominates the hobby electronics world.

3. LM317T (STMicroelectronics): Adjustable voltage regulator, 1.2-37V, 1.5A, TO-220

When you need adjustable output voltage, this is the default chip to go with. You need at least two additional resistors to set the output voltage, but otherwise it's also easy to use. It's also quite flexible, and it isn't difficult to add functions like current limiting or slow start to an LM317 circuit.

Not a good option for low power circuits, but a solid choice for hobby breadboards.

4. SN74HC595N (Texas Instruments): 8-Bit Shift Register, 2V-6V, 15 LSTTL loads, 13ns tpd

An 8-bit shift register with tri-state outputs, this chip is the simplest I/O expander you can get. It is used to drive LEDs, LED displays, or in any application with multiple outputs. Most microcontrollers are I/O constrained and have a limited number of pins available, and this chip solves the problem nicely. Found in everything from LED chasers to Nixie tube clocks, it's a common tool where more outputs are required.

The 74595 ICs are also easy to chain together to form a string, multiplying the output capacity.

5. 1N4148 (onsemi): Small Signal Diode, DO-35, 100V, 300mA, 4ns reverse recovery

You might call the 1N4148 the "default diode". The most basic of semiconductor in its most basic implementation. Used for low-power rectification, waveform generators, signal modulation/demodulation, clamping circuits, switch debouncing, or in oscillator circuits.

6. ATMEGA328P-PU (Microchip): 8-bit AVR Microcontroller, 32KB Flash, 1KB EEPROM, 2KB SRAM

The ATmega328P microcontroller is used in the Arduino Uno, which hugely boosted its popularity. It's an 8-bit AVR CPU with 32kB of flash, 2kB of RAM and a maximum clock speed of 16MHz. There is also a basic set of digital peripherals (UART, SPI, I2C), timers, a comparator and an ADC.

It is listed as "not recommended for new designs" by Microchip, but who cares, when it's available in a 28-pin DIP package, easily usable on breadboards by hobbyists.

7. ATTINY85-20PU (Microchip): 8-bit AVR Microcontroller, 2/4/8K Flash, 1.8-5.5V, 20MHz

Another 8-bit AVR microcontroller, but this one is a compact variant in an 8-pin DIP package. It is more limited than the 328P: only 8kB of flash, 512 Bytes of RAM and 512 Bytes of EEPROM. There are also fewer peripherals: 2 PWM channels instead of 6, no hardware support for I2C and UART, only 4 ADC channels and only 6 IO pins. But when you don't need too many peripherals and you're more focused on space and simplicity, it's a solid choice. And the 8-pin DIP package makes it very accessible for breadboarding or soldering.

8. 2N7000 (onsemi): N-Channel MOSFET, 60V, 200mA, TO-92, SOT-23

Just as the 1N4148 could be called a "default diode", the 2N7000 could be called a "default MOSFET". Its Rds(ON) will not impress anyone and it is not a good choice for power switching circuits, but other parameters more than make up for that. Its low Vgs(th) (gate threshold voltage) of 0.8-3V means that it can be directly driven with logic-level signals from microcontrollers. It's also a robust part: high maximum Vdss (drain-source voltage) of 60V and Vgss (gate-source voltage) of ±20V (even ±40V peaks are acceptable!) mean that it isn't easily damaged, like many delicate MOSFETs.

It is available in TO-92 and SOT-23 packages, so it's suitable for breadboarding, hand-soldering, and SMT PCBs as well.

9. LM324N (Texas Instruments): Quad op-amp, 1MHz bandwidth, 3-32V single supply

If you're building analog circuits, the LM324 provides four high-gain op-amps in a single package. Its big selling feature is the capability to operate from a single supply (3V-32V), unlike the traditional μA741, which needs at least a ±5V power supply. Dual power supplies have always been a problem in hobby circuits, so this chip makes things much easier. It also has a low power consumption.

One drawback of the LM324 is that it is not rail-to-rail capable. It can drive its output close to the ground, but can't reach all the way to the positive supply rail.

10. LM358P (Texas Instruments): Dual op-amp, 3V-36V supply, 1.2MHz GBW, 300µA/ch

Closing the list is another op-amp, or more precisely two op-amps in a single package. The LM358P shares several appealing traits with the LM324N, making it popular among hobbyists. It can also operate from a single power supply (3-36V), although it is also capable of dual-supply operation. It has low power consumption, and is available in a wide range of packages including the hobby-friendly DIP package.

Like the LM324, this chip is not rail-to-rail capable.

More information

If you are interested in more than just the top 10 components, take a look at the Electronic Component Database, where you can browse the rankings and discover new parts that are used by others and that you might not know about.

Earlier blog posts:

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