Devboard Deal: TI Experimenter Board For $15 (50% Off)

Cheap things come to those who wait. If you’ve had your eye on a TI Experimenters Board (MSP-EXP430FR5739) now’s the time to pull the trigger. You can use the coupon code MSP430_FRAM to get 50% off. This pulls the total price down to $14.50 plus shipping with several readers reporting free shipping.

The board features an upgraded MSP430. Instead of using flash memory, it’s got  ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) which boots the power savings of these aready lean-mean chips.

We’ve posted a few deals from Texas Instruments before, like the announcement of the Launchpad which was just $4.30, as well as a coupon-deal gone awry with the evalBot. There were huge threads in those posts reporting back how long shipping took, as well as how well the codes worked. So feel free to share your thoughts on this deal by leaving a polite comment.

Of course if you get one, we want to see what you do with it. Don’t forget to write up your projects and send in a tip.

77 thoughts on “Devboard Deal: TI Experimenter Board For $15 (50% Off)

  1. I ordered mine just now. Free shipping as well. Can only put one coupon code in per order though so will have to place multiple orders for multiple units but thats ok.
    Website said it will ship in 24-48 hours.
    Gonna go order some more now!

  2. @mickeyd:
    Yes, it does have the accelerometer, as well as:
    16KB of FRAM
    1KB of SRAM
    16-bit RISC running at 8MHz
    NTC Thermistor
    8 LED’s, 2 switches
    mini-USB (probably converted to serial)
    Consumes a measly 800uA (!)

  3. Im a uni student & only have experience in AVR’s. I dont know anything about any TI uC’s. Can someone please answer these questions for me?

    Would this be any use to me? Are these uC’s any better than the AVR’s? I don’t think I have any use for 16 bits atm. Should I buy one of these just for screwing around? What do I need to have in order to implement a design once I have it down pat on this experiment board? Thanks.

  4. GoBO, the purpose of near loss leader deals like this is to make it cheap enough for you to get one and screw around with it. It’s very hard to know whether a particular CPU family will do what you need for a project if you’ve never worked with one in hand. TI is trying to make it as cheap as possible for you to find out whether this uC can do something you need cheaper or better than their competition.

  5. Just wanted to comment in case any other Canadians are considering picking one up but worry of the shipping costs — I just checked out, and shipping to Canada is also free.

  6. GoBO, MSP430 is pretty easy to use. If you’re unsure about forking over the $14.50, I would recommend buying a Launchpad first. They’re only $4.30 for the usb dev board with integrated debugger, 2 chips, and a pretty nice free IDE (Code Composer Studio.)

  7. @GoBO,

    Better, worse, who’s to say. They’re different. The MSPs don’t separate program memory from data memory the way AVRs do, can’t remember which is princeton/harvard architecture. AVR is one, MSP430 is the other.
    AVR microcontrollers are what, $2.00 on up, plus 15-40$ for a programmer (usbtinyisp, avrisp, etc.), while the TI micros start at 20-25 cents, up to ~5$.
    You can get the MSP430 launchpad for $4.30& free shipping, which is a programmer and a serial connection and dev board all in one, plus comes with 2 micros, although pretty “small” ones. Or, you can get the FRAM board, the subject of this HaD post, for $15, about he price of even the cheapest AVR programmer, or of 1/2 of an arduino, but it’s much more capable than an arduino. (built in accelerometer?awesome!)
    The MSP430s target low price and energy efficiency as main design goals, thus (i think) most have fewer built in peripherals and less memory than AVR micros, but are way cheaper and very miserly power-wise.
    You are already familiar with AVR, so grab yourself a launchpad and compare! Maybe you could port an old AVR project of yours over to the MSP, and compare side-to-side, speed, ease, power consumption, and cost. I’d sure like to see a few people do that.

    There’s a lot of info about the MSPs, the Launchpad, and the FRAM devices on TI’s site, and there is a great group at, who can surely correct any inaccuracies in my comment here, or expand on it greatly.

    The only real negative I’ve found about the MSPs is that there are fewer published projects online based on it than for AVR (or arduino). That situation is improving rapidly, however. Maybe someone (i’m broke) will buy one of these FRAM kits and a launchpad or 2, and send them to Limor(LadyAda at Adafruit), Jeri Ellsworth, and/or the folks at EvilMadScientistLabs. Then maybe we’ll really see some growth in the MSP codebase!

    Oh yes, also, TI has sent me about $50 worth of free samples of many MSP430s, LDO v regs, led driver chips, etc. in about 6 months. They are pretty liberal with samples, even for us hobbyists. Obviously, don’t abuse it, I’d hate to see it disappear, but I can’t think of a cheaper way to get started with microcontrollers than the MSP430 line. That’s why my usbtinyisp kit is yet to be assembled, 9 months after getting it.

  8. @localroger, @NatureTM, @Hiatus138

    Thanks for your reply guys, I just ordered a launchpad and the experimenter board mentioned in this post. We will see how it goes.

    The problem is, with my AVR projects I just get an AVR for $6 and plug my ISP into it. What happens when I have an MSP430 project I want to implement on a PCB? How do you program these things outside of the Dev board? Thanks for the informative responses.

  9. @jack
    I think I read about fram several years ago on slash dot, but I’m having trouble finding the article. If I remember correctly (I think it was posted about 5+ years ago) It uses some crystal type element that changes its characteristics when a current is passed through it. Wish I could remember more details. I’ll keep searching for the article.

  10. @Jack,

    I’m pretty sure that the TI devices we’re discussing are the very firstest commercially available FRAM. They’ve only been on the market a month or 2. Makes it feel kinda new and exciting. That’s why I ordered, even though some of it’s features, like the accelerometer, are way above my skill level.


    Just pop the chip outta the launchpad and stick it in your circuit. I’m about to replace the socket on one of my LPs with a ZIF, to make it way easier & faster.
    As far as the FRAM devices, im not sure but I’m guessing you can get a FET from TI for the various form factors. I don’t know if the FRAMs have spi-by-wire (TI’s 2 wire version of ISP, or is it JTAG?) The folks on 43oh! will know. If they have SBW, then the LP should be able program them too. But that’s just my guess.

    BTW, regarding the shipping and delivery problems surrounding the launch of the launchpad, I’ve ordered launchpads 3 different times over the past 9 months, the capacitive touch shield twice, and several rounds of free samples, and every one of those orders took less than 4 days to get to me! Apparently, that free shipping is fedex next day delivery!

  11. I used FRAM in a DSP project almost two years ago, and while it was pretty expensive, it worked as advertised. It’s fast, non-volatile, easy to implement, and available in many size and configuration combinations; in theory, yes, this is the cat’s ass.

    I think the reason it’s not displacing other types of memory, such as EEPROMs and (S)RAM, is its cost. For example, a single Ramtron 1Mbit I2C FRAM chip in an SOIC-8 package is almost $9.00 (US) at Future Electronics. Compare that to an STmicro EEPROM part with similar specs, at the same retailer: $1.65. A Microchip SST49LF 8Mbit serial flash PLCC is only $2.50 or so. Eight times the storage for a third of the price; it’s a similar story for RAM, many ICs costing only cents. I’ve not built many projects that have needed additional RAM, though.

    Despite its cost, there are specific applications where FRAM is a good choice; if the memory must be written and read zillions of times, yet retain its data if power fails, it’s awesome. Ramtron even has “processor companion” chips now, with onboard power monitors, watchdogs, etc.

    Many thanks to Mike for posting this great offering!

  12. I have a total of 5 LP’s. This new one well be added to the stable of my TI uC’s. Before the TI’s I never really used mcus. Now I can’t stop playing with them.
    TI ftw!

  13. FRAM is relatively new, especially at prices and densities comparable to flash. TI is pretty enthusiastic about it, and has indicated they might be adding FRAM devices to several of their MCU lines. For the MSP430 low power market, it offers the possibility of turning off more of the circuitry during idle times (since FRAM is non-volatile.)

    I have a ramtron FRAM 8051-based eval board from several years ago, so it’s not THAT new. I believe the stumbling block has been fabrication process; FRAM takes extra steps, and getting the cost down requires a BIG manufacturer willing to add those steps to their fab. (whereas many microcontroller companies are going “fabless” and relying on “standard” processes available from “anywhere.”)

  14. @Hiatus138

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen FRAM memory chips before, as well as an 8051 with FRAM built in.
    I can’t remember what company it was from – I ordered samples but they never sent any :)
    It might have been Ramtron.

  15. @ Hiatus138

    Ramtron has been manufacturing FRAM memory chips for many years now. There was one inside the Sega video game cartridge ” Sonic the Hedgehog 3 ” released in 1994 to cite just one example.

  16. Just wanted to confirm – free shipping for the FRAM Experimenter Board featured in this article, as well as the LaunchPad.

    This board does have an on-board ADXL335 3-axis accelerometer as well as an NTC temp sensor.

  17. Just ordered mine. I’m very content with TI MSP430 stuff. Already have some launchpads and pretty much abandoned AVR’s. The packaging for the Launchpad was really over-complete: two microcontrollers, a crystal, cd and micro usb cable. All that for just $4.30. Let’s see the arduino compete with that.

    If you’re new to the MSP430. There’s a great book by John H Davies – MSP430 Microcontroller Basics.

    Another nice TI MSP430 product just to have some fun with is the eZ430-Chronos Development Tool.

  18. I have to say their eStore is a lot more responsive than ever! It was total hell trying to get the EvalBot when that coupon code went amok — but this time it was a smooth and painless affair. I think TI was just not expecting the response they got for EvalBot, and it was a very friendly thing they still respected the coupon code even though they could have just said NO and cancelled orders for people not attending the conference where it was handed out.

    Yay! A TI experimenter board with accelerometer? I’m game!

  19. A few people here have mentioned that they send for free samples. Is this available to general consumers or do you need to be a business to achieve this?

    Is there certain components in particular they are just handing out? I would love to get my hands on some free stuff. :)

  20. +1 @TheCreator asked.

    I’m curious about ordering samples. Seems they have no issues (so far) with UK shipping, so if someone could explain a bit, I might even go as far as Google it, but feeling especially lazy today.

  21. @TheCreato, @tehgringe

    TI – how to order samples

    At the top of the TI estore page. in the black bar, you can click on “Sample & Buy”, or there is a drop down with “how to order samples”
    They will ask you for company info, but you can just fill in those fields with “hobbyist”, or like someone on 43oh! once said, use the name your company _would_ have if these samples turned into a viable product. :-)
    one thing that tripped me up is that the field for “company url” has to be filled in. just put “none” in there. works fine!

    On any item’s main product page, there is a whole section, samples, where it lists the different packages available. in the rightmost field of the list, some packeges have “contact distributor”, others will say “add to cart” The “add to cart” ones are sampleable. Once you add the item, your sample @ purchase cart comes up, with all the distributors listed. under Texas Instruments, check the free samples box, and click free samples.
    some items limit samples to 1 piece, some 3 or 5, some don’t offer samples at all. your cart is limited to 5 different sample items at a time.

    If you order too many times in a time period (I did it 4 or 5 times) you will get an inquiry email as to why you need so much, and if you want a call from a distributor. I told them that I was building 20 units of test equipment, and trying out different LDO regulators and MCUs in each one. they were satisfied and I have not been “blacklisted”, although some people apparently have been. I have, however, spent money with TI several times. Not a lot of money, mind you, but I think it may make a difference.

    It’s actually really easy, to order samples, but you have to follow all the many steps, and there are a few confusing bits.

    You will of course have to register. but you don’t have to fake a business.

  22. Oh, about the “newness” of FRAM, my bad. I must have read something a while ago about how it was the first cheap enough, or dense enough, or easy enough to fab, or something like that. Sorry if I confused anyone :-)

  23. May as well give this a go. I’ve been playing around with AVRs for a while now.

    Just ordered this, and a launchpad.

    Free shipping all the way to New Zealand :D

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