Last week we posted an image of Digilent’s new 100% Arduino Mega Compatible dev board dubbed Max32. Normally a new Arduino board would not be news worthy, but this one is based around a Microchip Pic32 instead of one of Atmel’s AVR Chips. I won’t lie, we have known about this board for a couple of weeks now. In fact Microchip’s PR department contacted us about receiving a sample board along with an invite to attend their official online launch and press conference which was held about 2 hours ago. Keep reading to find out some interesting facts about Digilent’s new MCU boards the MAX32 and Uno32. The Testing Samples
Yesterday we received a package from Microchip that contained not one, but three boards. They were kind enough to send us two Max32, and one Uno32 boards. I immediately tore into the package and began familiarizing myself with both boards. The first thing any of us will notice is that Digilent packages each board in a small colorful box. Both boards are indeed in compliance with the standard Arduino Uno and Arduino Mega form factors, including the non standard pin spacing. I was a bit disappointed to see jumpers instead of switches, but that is something I can forgive. The next thing I noticed was that Digilent chose to stick with the FTDI USB-Serial chip instead of using one of Microchip’s competing ICs. I am unsure of the reason behind this, but I think it may have something to do with the way the Arduino IDE communicates with the MCU. Digilent was already busy porting over the IDE along with the full Arduini Library so why make things more complicated right?
The red solder mask is a nice change from the blue that has become standard on official Arduino boards. I am quite use to this though as all of my MCU boards have red solder mask. Digilent also chose to relocate the reset button from the standard location to the top left corner. This was of course to aid in resetting the MCU when using shields that do not have a built in reset button. Digilent also decided to forgo the bulky USB B connector, instead opting for a mini USB connection. They did keep with the standard barrel jack connector, so no special connector is needed like is with the seeeduino.
There has been much speculation floating around various maker and hacker sites as to whether or not the claim of being 100% Arduino compatible is true. Well today I can put those questions to rest. Both the Uno32 and Max32 are 100% Arduino compatible from the form factors down to the Librarys and IDE. This is made possible by a modified version of the Arduino IDE that is compatible with both AVR, and PIC32 based boards. Mark Sproul and Rick Anderson are hoping this new IDE is adopted by the Arduino Steering Committe. So you will not need to run the official Arduino IDE if you wish to program your AVR based Arduino board.
Microchip and Digilent teamed up on this because they saw a need in the Hobbiest, Academic and Professional communities for a platform that would enable hardware and software education from a single platform, while at the same time keeping the cost and complexity down. True to the Arduino philosphy the chipKIT Uno32 and Max32 are both open source hardware, and the IDE retooled by Mark Sproul and Rick Anderson is open source as well. We were told the same is true for the new compiler. As of right now Digilent Inc is the only site selling the chipKIT Uno32 and Max32, but we have it under good authority that NKC Electronics will be carrying the boards soon.
I would love to be able to post some screen captures and information on the IDE, but while we do have the hardware in hand the IDE will not be avaliable for download until 21 May 2011 from here. There are a few things we did learn about the IDE today during the press conference though:
|chipKIT Uno32||chipKIT Max32||Arduino Uno||Arduino Mega|
|Open Source Hardware||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Open Source Software||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can be priogrammed with alternate IDE||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Digital I/O||28 (5 PWM)||58 (5 PWM)||14 (6 PWM)||54 (14 PWM)|
|Internal USB 2||N/A||USB 2.0 OTG Controller||N/A||N/A|
|UART||2x with IrDA||6x with IrDA||1x||4x|
chipKIT Uno32 Specs
chipKIT Max32 Specs
We would like to thank Michelle and Mark from Microchip and Alex at Digilent for giving us the opportunity to be part of this product launch and for the awesome new MCU boards we have to play with!