We’ve never actually played with one of these before but added it to the list as a suggestion from Alex Bradbury on Twitter. Once the board arrived, we opened up the packaging and were pleasantly surprised. Inside we found of shiny new dev board with an M430G2553 chip installed along with an M430G2452 chip, a 32khz crystal and a set of female headers in case you want to swap the factory installed male headers (or maybe to build your own shield). At first I couldn’t work out the difference between the two chips but going back and reading the quick start guide which was supplied with the board, it turns out that the pre-installed M430G2553 includes a USCI module which is capable of hardware UART.
The next Microcontroller we’re going to look at is the Arduino Uno R3 – This is a open source and low cost development board that has an ATmega328 and 14 digital input/output pins (6 can be used as PWM outputs) it also has 6 analog inputs. There is also a USB connection for uploading sketches (programs) from your computer and a ICSP header so you can program it directly if you wish.
We’ll mention it again; this isn’t being directly compared to the other development boards we’re reviewing and hopefully you can make your own mind up regarding what to use after this shootout series. We’ll be doing a summary of all microcontrollers when we come to the end of the Shootout.
There are various types of Arduino available; we chose the Arduino Uno due to the fact that we believe it’s the easiest to get started with and is also the lowest cost of the Arduino family – If you’re just getting started with programming microcontrollers then this would be an entry level product for learning and prototyping.
We’ll be running the same example as we did with the Parallax Propeller, by setting up the board and development environment and flashing an LED with code. Pin 13 is by default an LED actually on the board it’s self, so we’ll be flashing an external LED hooked up to a small breadboard.
The Parallax Propeller (P8X32A) is a 32bit microcontroller with a difference. It contains 8 cores (called cogs) and can run different routines simultaneously. The propeller doesn’t seem as popular in the UK as it does in the USA but that’s probably because there are only a few places that stock it and it’s more expensive that the Arduino. It’s a shame really because it really is a great little chip. One other thing that may have caused the lack of adoption was the fact that it had to be programmed in a language called SPIN. Over the past couple of years however, Parallax have listened to the masses and have now provided a C programming environment for use with the Propeller.