The microprocessor world seems to be going in ARM direction. And so seems to be microcontrollers. Cheap ARM based 32-bit micro-controllers are taking their place and trying to replace less powerful 8- and 16-bit micro-controllers.
I wrote earlier that Arduino Goes ARM. It took quite bit of time for Arduino to take that step and release ARM based product. After a years-long wait, an ARM powered Arduino is finally due. The long waited Arduino Due just hit the market on Monday yesterday.
The idea of Due is to replace the 8-bit, 16MHz brain of the popular Uno microcontroller prototyping platform with a 32-bit, 84MHz processor, while augmenting inputs and capabilities all around. The board is somewhat more expensive ($49 USD / €39.00), which will mean that there will be also place for the cheaper Arduino models as well.
On board the Arduino Due is an Atmel-sourced ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller running at 84 MHz. The Due has an impressive list of features including a USB 2.0 host, compatibility with the Android ADK (lest you still need an IOIO), 12 analog inputs with 12-bit resolution, 2 analog outputs running at 12 bits, a CAN interface, and more input pins than you can shake a stick at. The form factor is similar to Arduino Mega. Due is a very advanced high performance processor which has been added to the Arduino line up. RCArduino blog article Arduino Due has a nice compares several Arduino platforms.
|Arduino UNO||Arduino Mega||Arduino Due|
|MCU||ATMega 328||ATMega 2560||AT91SAM3X8E|
|Architecture||8 bit AVR||8 bit AVR||32 bit ARM Cortex M3|
|CPU Speed||16Mhz||16Mhz||84 Mhz|
Arduino Due is bound to give a boost to the Arduino platform. The Due will open up huge new range of applications that are simply not possible with the current generation Arduino. By using the same platform and development tools it is possible that you can learn the basics on a tough little Arduino Uno, and then later you transfer exactly the same skill set to the super performance Arduino Due.
There are also some other downsides on the new Due platform besides the besides the higher (but not unreasonable) price. Arduino Due will not be compatible with the vast number of extension shields that have been developed for the older 5V Arduino Mega. You need probably to be more careful with the new board than with the old one. However like anything high performance it needs to be treated a little more carefully.
Arduino Due is not the only one player on cheap ARM platforms game. There are several competing more powerful ARM based platforms on the same price range. And there are also cheaper ARM micro-controller platforms. Let’s start from more powerful ones.
For example Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a super high performance platform (8-12 times faster CPU clock), more memory, runs full Linux, and costs less (just $35). Raspberry Pi has also built-in features like video output (HDMI and composite video) and Ethernet interface. Arduino uses a microcontroller; Raspberry Pi uses an applications processor. The downside is that Raspberry Pi is not directly compatible with Arduino shields, but there is a project going to make Raspberry Pi and Arduino shield to work together. Arduino is a marvellous thing, and I don’t feel the two are directly comparable or competiting. You’ll be using them for different things.
And now I give you pointers to some very cheap and interesting ARM micro-controller platforms.
Teensy 3.0 that costs $19. Teensy 3.0 is an affordable 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 board, for development in Arduino or C/C++. Like the Due, the Teensy is based on an ARM Processor core the Teensy actually uses a Cortex M4 core which has advantages for digital signal processing applications over the Cortex M3 core offered by the Arduino Due. RCArduino blog article Arduino Due has a nice compares several Arduino platforms and Teensy 3.0.
If you wan to go to really low cost end on ARM micro-controllers, check out The Stellaris® LM4F120 LaunchPad. It costs less than 10 euros. The Stellaris LM4F120H5QR microcontroller offers an 80MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 CPU with floating point, 256Kbytes of 100,000 write-erase cycle FLASH and many peripherals such as 1MSPS ADCs, eight UARTs, four SPIs, four I2Cs, USB and up to 27 timers, some configurable up to 64 bits. The board also features on-board emulation, which means you can program and debug your projects without the need for additional tools. It looks as though Texas Instruments are really reaching out to the hacker community with their new ARM-powered Stellaris dev board.