Tell us what development board you love

Back in 2011 we did a short roundup of some popular development boards.  We promised a follow up at some point, and that time is near.  We would really like to make this a fairly comprehensive list and there are always suggestions sent in after the article that we overlooked.

This time, we’re asking that you tell us what dev boards you prefer and why. Either reply in the comments or email us directly at boards@hackaday.com. We’ll round up all of your suggestions and bring you the “development board brakedown for 4th quarter 2012″.

Please keep in mind that we can’t possibly know everything about every single board out there, so if there’s some special feature of a board that you love, be sure to let us know!

194 thoughts on “Tell us what development board you love

    1. I heard of energia before! does it really work as advertised ? ie. can I just use cheapo TI boards instead of arduino for some simple projects ?

      1. A few commands are missing, but other than that I’ve been able to run almost anything I’ve done for Arduino on it with minimal changes. It is picky about which chips you use though, and not all of the ones supported by launchpad are supported by energia.

    2. ^ this!
      I’m putting together a robot class for high schoolers. The Arduino libraries make things so much easier to help people get into micros, and the Launchpads are crazy cheap compared to actual Arduinos. I’ve been very impressed by Energia so far, and haven’t had any issues converting code (which is basically changing the pin names in your existing sketches).
      If you bought a Launchpad when it first came out, you should know that the newer generation comes with much better micros that have hardware Serial and many times the code space.

    3. Large Soviet rockets managed by TI microcontroller?

      While the TI cards are cheaper than Arduino cards, you can make a Really Barebones Arduino or equivalent almost as cheaply; the AVR chip is a couple of bucks, and you were probably going to need a power supply and breadboard anyway.

    4. Energia makes the Launchpad a very useful tool.

      Having developed a larger MSP430 with the IAR IDE in the past I really appreciate how much capability Energia brings with so little effort.

      Of the 4 launchpad boards I bought when Energia came out, 1 is in a little RC car, 1 is sitting on a breadboard, and 2 have come to the lab at work with me to solve lab test problems.

      I’m very hopeful about the work that is being done to support the Stellaris Launchpad in Energia.

  1. Arduino Leonardo – If you ignore the Arduino stuff it’s a great ATmega USB development board especially with LUFA.

  2. This might look bad here: http://www.r3cube.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=85

    I’ve been using these cheap babies for a while now! I love the fact that for each port, there is a male and female socket to plug to!

    Also in the middle where the UNO logo normally resides, they added 5v, 3.3v, and gnd breakouts for those who need more than one 5v! Did I mention they’re less than $16 on ebay, and here at this link you get them at ~$13 each!

    There IS A CATCH! You must install the drivers for an FTDI-like device, as they don’t use FTDI chips or a 16u2, instead the PL2303 is used. Once the PL2303 driver is installed, it works like any Arduino Uno Rev 3 out of the box!

  3. My criteria for a development board are: useable on a solderless breadboard, cheap (e.g. less than $10), supports debugging with breakpoints, and programmable in C++.

    Nothing I’ve found fits that, so I made my own (the Black Knight board (http://www.galacticstudios.org/blackknight/). It costs me about $8 to make one. Admittedly, I couldn’t sell it at that price and make a profit, so I can understand why there’s nothing like it on the market.

    Still, if ST Microelectronics were to change the form factor of their Discovery boards, they would fit the bill.

  4. I prefer the Propeller Proto Board from Parallax. I’ve been developing on the platform since its inception, and the proto board is small, cheap, and easy to use. The Propeller community (although not as large as Arduino) is also very helpful.

    Here are some specs on the board:

    http://goo.gl/hYfDq

    1. Haven’t used the protoboard, but I love my propeller; its cheap, insanely powerful, well supported, and works pretty much plug and play under linux. Biggest drawback for me is the language, not that it is bad, but being a c++ coder makes me less comfortable in other languages. But what other chip can support a soft USB host alongside TV out, all at an under $10 price point?!

  5. I actually don’t use a dev board at all. Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, or I’m too cheap, or I’m a perfectionist, but when I have a project, I program an AVR in C or assembly, and get a PCB fabricated for it. Sure, it probably takes longer, but I hate to use a $30 arduino to do what a $0.50 ATTiny25 can do.

    1. I think alike. I usually use a PIC on a breadboard. Then throw the schematic in Eagle, and get a board. A PicKit2 works great with breadboards….

    2. Who uses dev boards for their final project? That wouldn’t make sense. You are right get a PCB made for the final design.

      1. but if you are building off of an arduino (and using more than just the onboard interface) you will likely need some sort of pcb or prototype board either way, so might as well make it look nice, and then give 1 to your mom.

      2. Making your own PCB’s is really cheap, and very feasible, as long as the circuit is not too complex (An Arduino compatible board is not too complex).

        I make PCB’s for something around $1-$2.

    3. Same here, but these dev boards are called that for a reason. They’re great to get going quickly, and allow me to quickly and safely develop whatever my application is. Then, once the design is all fleshed out, and it works, I design a custom PCB. The dev board gets reused in the next project.

    4. I roll my own too. Usually atmega8(TQFP) on toner transfer board. I also put all stuff that I am prototyping to same board, so basically a custom board to all projects.
      Now I started thinking maybe I do ‘standard’ board for myself. PL2303 ($3.82/5), atmega8 ($8.20/10), LM1117 ($1.19/10), USB connector ($1.99/15), Crystal ($0.99/10), pin header (£3.99/40), PCB 100x160mm Photosensitive (5 EUR/6). So board with parts costs something around $3. Not bad for atmega with USB? All parts from ebay, except PCB from local store.

    5. I work with PIC MCU but do the same, I design the circuit assemble it on solderless breadboard connect de programmer to this. When the project is debugged I do a final assembly.

    1. GHI FEZ Spider and FEZ Cerbuino Bee. The Spider is a fast .NET Gadgeteer board with loads of RAM, and both managed and native code ability.

      The Cerbuino Bee is fast, provides both Gadgeteer sockets and Arduino-style headers, very flexible, low-cost board, with on-board micro SD, USB Host, XBee headers, all running on a 168mhz Cortex M4 mCu.

  6. Over the last year I’ve fallen in love with the BeagleBone for things that don’t need to be real time. It’s relatively cheap, has a ton of IO with good driver support, and can host its own tools.

    1. This. I love my bone, more so than the BeagleBoard. It doesn’t have the extras I don’t need like video/media making for tons of freed GPIO. Full ARM computer otherwise and I can just power it up and log in+develop via a single USB cable. The Bboard can’t do that exactly without a host system or secondary serial cable.

      1. I like to like the bone, but documentation and information is a pain.

        i bought it thinking all my problems with arduino and launchpads would be gone by using a shotgun to kill a fly, but i often spend a lot of time just to try to find out basic info on the board pins. it’s crazy.

    2. If you can get access, the QNX RTOS board-support package for the Beaglebone makes it great for real-time applications. It’s a relatively low-power solution considering what the board offers.

    1. I second the MikroE range to tools. I started out with the EasyPIC 4 and learned how to use all of their libraries and the on board components and to step it up to the next level I then wrote my own libraries.

      Now I use Cortex-M3 and FPGA and build my own boards with the Fab-In-A-Box kit and Cupric Chloride.

      http://www.pcbfx.com/main_site/pages/start_here/overview.html

      http://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!–A-better-etc/

  7. I use Arduino a lot, but I sometimes find myself doing things there and then moving on to using it just as a power supply. Just depends on what I’m doing and how much I’ve learned.

    I do have a RasPi and a Launchpad, but I haven’t use either that much… yet.

  8. At the moment I like MSP430 Launchpad a lot because I can use it to program MSP430F5 series chips and it’s practically free :>

    1. I have to agree, development boards are great when you’re dealing with fine-pitch SMD’s, but when the parts come in DIP package and you have it working on the dev board it’s very nice to be able to solder a spare chip and a resistor on some perf and transfer everything over. €4 + €1 per additional microcontroller is a steal.

      Also, you can’t argue with the Launchpad Stellaris’ price, but I have yet to receive mine… Has anyone else tried it?

      1. My Stellaris arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I think TI spent more than $5 shipping their $5 board :-) The blinky-light demo worked just fine, out of the box.

        I had trouble downloading the development software (apparently IE8 wasn’t getting along well with TI’s website, but once I decided it was a browser problem and not just an “Everybody downloading a gigabyte of CCS at once” problem, Chrome worked just fine.) One of the things I really like about Arduino is their “Here, download this, it has everything you need and friendly help so you can Just Get Started” approach to software. TI CCS and Stellarisware want to install themselves in bizarre places on my Windows box (really, do you need two different directories off of C:\, and can’t you agree on putting all the things in a TI directory, or whether the programs can work in Program Files or not, or put it in the same directory the software from the previous Launchpad is in?) so I don’t know if I have it all working yet.

      2. actually i tried to order like 200pcs to singapore but couldnt get it thru, I am sure there are other ways to abuse this service but I am just too lazy

        $5bux/board is just too reasonably priced!! hehe

  9. GHI’s Fez Hydra – easy to build and deploy custom .NET Micro Framework firmware.

    STM32F4Discovery board, can’t beat the price/capabilities ratio.

    1. sounds cool, practical and at a nice price, but from what i gather, it’s out of stock pretty much anywhere, and does not play too nice without the windows software.

  10. I keep going back to the mBed, FAST, I know it, and there’s a ton of code for it. Not as much as the Duinos but enough to do whatever you want it to do. I’ve got a Discovery board, but I never get around to playing with it. There is just too much stuff out there now that you don’t have to configure an IDE around to use.

      1. I don’t know exactly what you mean, but there’s a socket for the crystal, and when you order you may specify the crystal you need with it. I always use the 16MHz so I can clock it to 32MHz easily with the built-in PLL.

  11. Arduino for it’s speed and simplicity. I don’t think you’ll find a chip that has been documented more than the 328P. And someone somewhere has posted coded on how to interface with almost anything. It also comes in a million different formats, so if I’m doing a 1-off project I’ll choose the one that fits rather than roll my own board.

    mBed is still my go-to ARM dev board. I dont loooove it, but it works well enough and is pretty well supported.

  12. I got the TI LP (first edition), never really used it until Energia came out, but it doesn’t support the early chips. TI should pay those people for their work !
    Then Arduinos, lots of them, especially the mini pros.
    And now teensies, I love my new Teensy 3, even if the software is still in beta, I converted all the project I cared about in no time.

    1. Teensies are great. Tiny, functional and cheap, plus you can use the Arduino IDE if you want (I use Eclipse, which also works fine). My Teensy 3.0 arrived yesterday so I’ve still to try it out, but the blinky led works.
      I use an ATTiny on a perf board for simple stuff, but anything more serious gets a Teensy.

      1. The teensy platform has it all for me. Cheap, small, breadboard compatible, arduino compatible and very well built.

        As an artist Im always interested in the shortest possible solution to a particular challenge Im facing. I love reading about the latest ARM boards and the best of the best. But when I want to get an idea out of my head and into the real world there is nothing that beats the teensy with the full arduino support. There is always someone on the web that has faced a particular problem before and I have always found a solution to any problem.

        And a big plus for me is that the teensy has built in midi over usb and functions as a HID class device. I managed that with a regular arduino and some external hardware but with the teensy it’s a breeze and gives me more time to experiment.

  13. I like the Mizar32 a lot. Especially because it runs Elua. This makes it possible to connect it using a serial connection and use a interpreter for changing code in real time.

  14. arduino is useful for prototyping, raspberry pi seems to be maturing and ironing out bugs but really any board that can do the job.

    I recently got one of these:

    http://www.andahammer.com/mini210s-sdk4/

    Not going to be to everyones liking and it’s got a little way to go but it’s a really neatly designed board, there are loads of different options for OS (ubuntu, linux+qt, android gb+ics and wince) plenty of peripherals out for it too, numerous lcd touchscreens (res and cap) wifi cards, camera and loads of interfaces broken out to headers.

  15. I am really fond of the Nanode family of Arduino clones. This is an Arduino compatible board which has an ethernet port and RFB12 wireless module. It comes disassembled, but only uses through-hole parts, so it’s easy to assemble yourself if you have even basic soldering skills/equipment. They also have a stripped down version (no ethernet), which is cheaper, and can be used as a basis for building a wireless mesh network.

    Great stuff!

  16. I like my own board. http://slashhome.se/p/projects/id/at90usb1625by5/#project

    I built ten of them and i find them the most practical for my builds because:
    - Small size: About 50x50mm (~2×2″).
    - Low price: Cost me about 40SEK(~6USD)/pcs (for materials).
    - Native USB: No separate programmer needed.
    - Chip comes preprogrammed with boot-loader: Solves the chicken and egg problem.
    - Easy to expand using 10-pin IDC connector.
    - Works great with Linux.
    - Built in RGB-LED, one software usable button and a reset button.

    1. I’ll second that one! Glad to see another Zilog user.

      I’ve worked with PICs, MSP430s and Arduinos, and I keep coming back to Zilog. Just can’t beat their hardware setup, in my experience. Tons of hardware modules(Typically two USARTS including SPI, I2C, serial and sometimes a few extras, multiple 16-bit timers, comparators, ADC, and more), interrupts galore, and they’re cheap.

      Though I am looking at an ARM chip for my next project, Zilog is my go-to brand for chips.

    1. I have a bunch of arduinos and seeduinos, handfuls of cheap pics(<3 12f508), a discovery board (gnuk anyone?), amicus18, uno32, teensy, a few others. In short, I've tried them all.

      I only ever have three goals, is this possible? I'll try an Arduino since I can make a PoC in a few minutes minimal wiring and there's probably a board for it.

      I actually want this thing, I'll breadboard a PIC then actually make something.

      Oh, that's a cool architecture once I play with it for a few minutes, AKA ARM, propella, I'll just get board with it and not bother until it's actually nessesary.

      Though, I love my DE1, loads of peripherals plenty of FPGA power in that cyclone II, VGA out, Serial out, loads of toggles, smitt triggered inputs, 7segs, a wolfson DAC, and audio ins and outs, EEPROMS, SDRAMS, buttloads of GPIOs, It's just an adventure to use.

      Apart from that my projects are all on PICs cause I enjoy coding in ASM with free tools. I'll never use the cripple-ware crap some companies push on their users. Hacking is a thing I love the same way an artists paints with his favourite paints and his favourite brushes I don't want my hobby taken over by the crappy IDEs that came with the ez430, or SMTL[sic?] discovery (thankfully mspcgcc and mspdebug exist).

      Arduino gets the job done but that's no fun. Sitting down one night with a datasheet, a bare mcu, a few wires, gpasm and a 6 pack of your favourite beers. That's how I enjoy hacking. So what if it takes me a a few days or hell a week to workout some subtle bugs and a lot of thinking to optimise the ASM. It's not all about getting there, the journey is what matters to me.

    2. Came here to post the Altera DE-1. Defintely my favorite fpga dev board I’ve used. All the Altera tools work out of the box in Linux.

    1. i clicked around that site, and only found marketing shenanigans that make the whole platform sound lamer and more expensive than the LEGO stuff

      :(

  17. This is one, I recently stumbled across the Arndale Board on liliputing.

    http://www.howchip.com/shop/content.php?co_id=ArndaleBoard_en

    Too bad the price is still a little steep.
    But it does have a Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Cortex-A15 core running @ 1.7 GHz

    Funny thing is, that it is the same price as a Google Chromebook with the same processor, minus the screen, lcd and laptop shell.

    I figure these processors will soon drop in price as they become more popular.
    Maybe we will start to see some hackable tv boxes/hdmi mini computers pop up soon.

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