MCU Development Kits
This micro-controller development boards list does not intend to be exhaustive. On the contrary, I only plan to list the boards that I find remarkable either by the level of community support, price or features, and I plan to keep the list shorter than 10 boards.
The Arduino boards are little development boards usually based on AVR MCUs, but a new version will also support ARM based ATMEL SAM3U micro-controller. What’s great about the Arduino is the low price (Starting at around 10 Euros), the huge community behind, the tutorials and the “shields“, some extension boards to add features to the basic boards.
There are too many boards and versions to list here, so check out the list on Arduino website. The most commonly used boards appear to be Arduino Uno and Arduino Mega.
- 16 Euros Arduino Leonardo Board is Now Available
- First ARM-Based Arduino Board with Atmel SAM3U
- Posts with Arduino tag.
Official URL: http://arduino.cc
Price: Starting just below $12 US and up to more than $100 US including shield.
Where to Buy:
TI Launchpad (MSP-EXP430G2) is a $4.30 development kit based on MSP430 micro-controller.The kit includes a development board, 2 programmable MSP430 micro-controllers, a mini-USB cable, PCB connectors for expandability, a external crystal for increased clock accuracy, and free & downloadable software integrated development environments (IDEs). It can be expanded using BoosterPacks which bring features such as temperature sensors, capacitive touch, Wireless connectivity and more. There are plenty of example projects to get started.
Official URL: http://www.ti.com/launchpad
Price: $4.30 + shipping
Where to Buy:
This $14.90 development kit is probably the cheapest ARM Cortex M4 devkit around. STM32F4-Discovery devkit includes an STM32F4 MCU (Cortex-M4F), an On-board ST-LINK/V2, several sensors (accelerometer, audio..), an Audio DAC, LEDs, push buttons, a USB OTG FS port and extension header for prototyping. ST Micro provides a number of free ready-to-run application firmware examples which are available in the STM32F4-Discovery board firmware package.
Official URL: http://www.st.com/internet/evalboard/product/252419.jsp
Price: $14.90 + shipping
mbed is an online tool (mbed Compiler) for rapid prototyping with micro-controller, and the people behind mbed also provide “mbed Microcontrollers”, a series of MCU development boards designed for rapid prototyping based on NXP LPC MCUs. Those boards are packaged as a small 40-pin 0.1″ DIP form-factor so that they can be inserted into breadboard, stripboard, and through-hole PCBs. They include a built-in USB programming interface and come in 2 variants:
- mbed NXP LPC11U24 (Cortex M0) – USB devices, battery powered, low cost
- mbed NXP LPC1768 (Cortex M3) – Ethernet, USB Host, more powerful
- Blog posts with “mbed” tag
Official URL: http://mbed.org/
- mbed NXP LPC11U24 – $59 + shipping
- mbed NXP LPC1768 – $64 + shipping
Where to Buy:
The Freescale Freedom development platform is a development board based on Kinetis L2 MCU (Cortex M0+) in an Arduino like form factor for application prototyping and demonstration. This board features an integrated USB debug interface offering a mass-storage device mode flash programmer, a virtual serial port and programming and run-control capabilities. It will be ship by the end of September 2012, costs only $12.90 and allows you to develop applications with the latest ARM Cortex M0+ ultra lower power MCU core.
Official URL: There is no page for the freedom board, but you can check Kinetis L Series MCUs page for details about Cortex M0+ MCU and the Freedom board.
Price: $12.90 + shipping
Where to Buy: The board is only available on Newark/Element14.
This development board is based on EFM32 Tiny Gecko Cortex-M3 MCU and comes with a 8×20 LCD, a light sensor, a touch slider, a battery compartment, SEGGER J-Link mini USB port, 2 Button + 1 reset button, 1 User LED, 2 expansion ports and lots of through holes to access the different pins of the MCU. With all those features, this Cortex M3 kit remains low cost (about $74) and comes with good documentation and development tools, but there is no real community as for most of the boards mentioned above.
- Energy Micro EFM32 Tiny Gecko (Cortex-M3) Starter Kit Unboxing
- Blog post tagged with “Energy Micro” for new about Energy Micro micro-controllers and devkit.
Price: ~$74 + shipping
Where to Buy: See list of distributors.
Emcraft K70 (Cortex M4) system-on-module is interesting because this is one of the rare Cortex M3/M4 solution that can support uCLinux, and the starter kit (SoM + baseboard) costs only $148 US. This price may not seem low in the ARM space, but in the ARM MCU space supporting uClinux this is – AFAIK – the cheapest solution available. The starter kit comes with one Kinetis K70 SOM @ 120MHz with 64MB RAM and 128MB Flash, a K70 SOM development baseboard, a uClinux BSP, and good documentation. Although there is no real community around this board, you can still get plenty of information for development as it can run uCLinux, and you may also get some support via Freescale Kinetis forums.
- uClinux Running on Freescale Kinetis K70 MCU (Cortex-M4) Module
- Getting Started with Emcraft Systems Cortex M3/M4 Starter Kits Running uCLinux
- Blog posts tagged with “emcraft“
Price: $148.00 + shipping. The module itself cost $49 in 500-unit quantities.
Where to Buy: Emcraft Systems online store.
Procyon is the cheapest Cortex M3 board I’ve found with enough memory to be able (in theory) to run uCLinux. It features TI Stellaris LM3S9B90 MCU @ 80 MHz, and comes with 16 MB SDRAM, a USB Host/Device/OTG port, Ethernet, a microSD card slot, and several I/O header. I said in theory above, because uClinux has not been ported, so even though the hardware should support it, you’d have to port it yourself. Well, that would be a good exercise!
There is some documentation to get started with the board, as well a code examples. I would not necessarily recommend this board to beginners, but if you know what you’re doing, and need a cheap solution with lots of RAM, this may be for you.
Official URL: http://teholabs.com/products/procyon.html
Price: $72 + shipping.
Where to Buy: Directly from Teho Labs, see official URL above.
For 10 Euros, this Cortex M4 boards competes directly with ST Micro STM32F4-Discovery both in terms of price and features. XMC4500 Relax Lite Kit comes with an XMC4500 MCU (ARM Cortex-M4F), a detachable on-board JLink debugger, 2x micro USB ports for power and debugging, user buttons & LEDs, and extension headers for access all signals. Infineon provides DAVE 3 IDE (Windows only) for development purpose. There’s no real community around it, but technical support is available via Infineon’s Microcontroller forum, or Infineon website.
- Infineon Unveils Low Cost XMC4500 Relax & Relax Lite Kits For Cortex M4XMC4500 MCUs
- Getting Started with Infineon XMC4500 Relax Lite Kit and DAVE 3 IDE
Official URL: www.infineon.com/microcontroller
Price: Starts from $13 + shipping.
Where to Buy: See Infineon Distribution Partners and Sales Offices.