Following on with the microcontroller shootout, today we’re going to look at the ECIO28P from Matrix Multimedia. This is a nice little system which is based on a PIC18F2455 but with Matrix’s own bootloader flashed on to it. The system also comes in a 40 pin version which offers more I/O. The first thing to note about this board is it’s size. It measures 5.5cm x 2cm in total and is perfectly sized to fit into most breadboards. Another thing I noticed with this board is the quality of the pin headers. I know it may seem like a minor detail but a lot of other boards come with the cheapest headers available at the time of manufacturing. The pins on the ECIO28P are just that bit nicer. Again, not massively relevant but I did notice it.
This development system is designed to work with Matrix’s Flowcode 6 software. We wrote an article recently about it. The idea of using Flowcode 6 is that you don’t actually have to write a single line of code to use the controller, everything is designed using flow charts. Even though some of the other micro controllers make using their systems easy (like the Arduino), I found it extremely easy to get an LED flashing on the ECIO28P. In fact, I almost felt like I’d cheated because it took nearly no time at all.
Another point worth mentioning is that unlike some other companies that provide pre-bootloaded chips, once you’ve bought your copy of Flowcode and development platform of choice, if you blow your chip up, you can simply buy a standard PIC chip and flash the bootloader on to it yourself. To me, this is a very nice idea.
The combination of Flowcode 6 and the ECIO28P board will work brilliantly in educational institutions. Matrix have set their educational pricing absolutely perfectly and we really hope that they do well with it. Unfortunately, we think that the price for home users is a little high for most hobbyists. We can fully understand why the price is as it is, seeing the amount of time and effort that must have gone in to it but it would be nice if it were priced a little lower for home users.
Going back to the educational side though, the price really is fantastic and we can see schools adopting it instead of some of the poorer offerings available on the market, especially because of the new changes to the UK curriculum.
Stay tuned for some more advanced uses of the ECIO28P in future articles. With a system as easy to develop for as this, I imagine we’ll be able to get some pretty good projects going.
Here is the picture of the LED flashing. I really don’t know why we’re posting these still images but trust us, it was flashing!