The Teensy LC. LC Means Low Cost.

For one reason or another, we’ve been seeing a lot of builds featuring the Teensy 3.1 filtering in on the tip line recently. In retrospect, it’s somewhat obvious; it’s a good board that’s cheap and fast. Yes, somehow [Paul] hit all three in the good/cheap/fast mutually exclusive triumvirate.

Now, there’s a new Teensy. It’s the Teensy LC – Low Cost. It’s not as powerful as the Teensy 3.1, but it does give you the power of an ARM for something that’s just about as cheap as a board with an ATMega.

The chip [Paul] chose for the Teensy LC is the Freescale MKL26Z64 (datasheet here and 876-page reference manual here. PDFs of course). This is a 32-bit Cortex-M0+ running at 48 MHz with 64k of Flash and 8k of RAM. There are 27 digital I/O pins on this one, and the Teensy LC has been designed to be pin-compatible with the Teensy 3.0 and 3.1.

On board are 13 analog inputs, 8 PWM outputs, on 12-bit DAC output, three serial ports, two SPI ports, and two I2C ports. Most of the pins can drive 5mA with a few capable of driving 20mA, and there is a single 5v output pin for driving WS2812 Neopixel LEDs.

Since this is a cut-down version of the Teensy, everything available on the Teensy 3.1 just can’t fit into the BOM of the Teensy LC. The pins aren’t 5V tolerant, there’s no CAN bus, and there are only 4 DMA channels instead of 16 on the Teensy 3.1. Still, it’s a great ARM answer to the ATMega Trinket or other small dev boards.

50 thoughts on “The Teensy LC. LC Means Low Cost.

  1. I think the teensy range are great, they are small, powerful for their size and ideal in many situations. And compatible with arduino.
    And to have one that is even cheaper makes the whole thing even more universal and easier to turn to as a solution.

      1. That’s not really helpful. The boards you find that way just bring out the ESP8266 module pins on 0.1″ centers. To my knowledge there is no board that has another MCU and the ESP8266 hooked together. Great idea though, since the ESP8266 RAM is so limited.

    1. ST pretty much sells those at “cost” (i.e. around the retail price of the processor). They’re not in the business of making devboards, they’re in the business of selling large quantities of processors; the nucleo is a good way for potential large-quantity projects to try out their technology.

    2. In many cases, chip vendors that put out development boards to try to compete with the Arduino will subsidize the part costs. That’s why the TI Launchpad’s started out so cheap ($4.30 for the MSP430 board) and why this board is also priced similar to the Freescale Freedom boards that have similar processors (FRDM-KL26Z uses a different package of the same processor on the Teensy-LC). But all of the vendors lack the software support. This is why the Teensy is doing so well. It brings easy to use software to more powerful hardware.

    3. these things you are comparing, they are not the same

      teensy is designed to be embedded into products

      nucleo has express warnings against using it in any sort of product. nucleo is not an embedded product, it is an evaluation board. nucleo is like the freeware versions of fancy expensive software, you get to taste and feel but only for testing and evaluation.

      1. “teensy is designed to be embedded into products” while the manufacturer might be ok with that, it is hard to justify a $20 board for a $5 processor. Of course, it makes sense in a small batch of hand assembled units.

    1. If you are only making one of something, there isn’t much difference. But if you want to make something in any sort of quantity or if you want to publish your design for others to use, there is a MUCH better chance that the teensy will actually be available.

      The cheap chinese boards look interesting but they are constantly substituting parts and revising their boards and changing the firmware and there’s no assurance that the parts you get next week will bear any resemblance to the parts you get today.

    2. How Teensy compares to a Maple Mini clone depends on how you compare.

      If you compare price, Chinese clones are cheaper. Much cheaper.

      If you compare peripherals, they’re probably pretty similar. Maybe Teensy offers a little more. There’s a lot of finer details, so it really depends on which specific features you need.

      If you compare clock speed and memory, Maple Mini is faster and larger than Teensy-LC, smaller and slower than Teensy 3.1.

      If you compare speed in terms of benchmarks that depend on the efficiency of the core library, like USB throughput, speed of Arnet-based lighting over Ethernet, Color TFT displays based on the popular ILI9341 chip, etc, Teensy will usually outperform other boards with similar, somewhat faster hardware. A tremendous amount of work has gone into software optimization, relative to Maple and even Arduino.

      If you compare software maintenance, Teensy keeps up with the latest Arduino version. A good number of new Arduino features are developed first on Teensy (see the Arduino release notes… my name appears on at least 1 new feature on most versions). Teensyduino offers a lot of extra features, like elapsedMillis, IntervalTimer, analogWriteFrequency, USB MIDI, etc, and more are being developed all the time. Leaflabs discontinued Maple and the software is no longer updated. The Maple IDE is based on Arduino version 0018 from about 5 years ago. Perhaps more “community” development will form around Maple, but every indication is the platform development is essentially frozen.

      If you compare library compatibility, nearly all widely used Arduino libraries are ported to Teensy and actively maintained. PJRC actively maintains and fixes bugs in many of the Arduino libraries, in addition to merely porting. On Maple, some libraries work great, but many others do not. Few are being actively updated. Like peripherals, it really comes down to details and what specific stuff you want to use. Unlike peripherals, the comparison is not even close. Lots of widely used libraries and sketches simply don’t run on Maple.

      If you compare support, there’s zero support from the Chinese vendors. Teensy has pretty good support, as inexpensive dev boards go.

      So it really depends on how you compare and what you care about. If you want the most hardware specs for the least dollars, and you’ve an expert developer who writes all his own drivers and libraries, or if you’re using a software project that’s already written for Maple, then those cheap clones are probably a great deal for you.

      If you want a well supported platform that’s current with the latest Arduino software, where nearly all libraries “just work” and there’s a company willing to resolve compatibility issues, Teensy is probably a much better deal.

  2. Pretty cool for people already familiar with Teensy

    but cant compete with China, for example ~$5 free shipping
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/STM32F103C8T6-ARM-STM32-Minimum-System-Development-Board-Module-For-Arduino-DHUS-/321569700934
    M3, twice the mhz, 3 times the ram, half the price

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Hot-Sold-New-STM32-ARM-Cortex-M3-Leaflabs-Leaf-Maple-Mini-Module-For-Arduino-/311248450407
    M3, twice the mhz, twice the flash, 3 times the ram, half the price

    Makes arduino look very stupid.

    1. Yeah, there’s no way Teensy or Arduino or any other product that invests substantially in software development, and/or provides support, can ever compete with the cheapest unsupported stuff from no-name Chinese merchants.

      How are you going to actually use that cheap Maple clone? You’re almost certainly going to download the outdated, no-longer-supported Arduino fork for Maple (based on Arduino version 0018). You probably never give much though to the many hours the Leaflabs guys poured into developing their software, since you can just download it for free. I don’t know how many total hours they spent, but I’m sure it was in the many hundreds, since they were the very first to support a 32 bit chip on Arduino. Consider how much hiring a competent firmware+software developer would cost? They worked on it full time. All that work was funded by sales of the original Maple, at $45+.

      I’m not saying you should buy a $45 Maple, or $12 Teensy. If a $5 Chinese clone works for you, great. You (and Chinese merchants) get to reap a lot of benefit. Really, that’s perfectly fine. You really do not have any obligation to spend extra to fund any further development.

      I really only wish you consider those clones only exist because a lot of people worked full time, funded only by the sales of name-brand boards at much higher prices, to create the software that makes those clones possible. Those Chinese companies do zero work on developing the software. Saying a $5 clone “makes Arduino look very stupid” shows a profound lack of appreciation for the huge amount of work so many people invested and so generously made available to you for free.

      1. You are so right about this. I have many times pondered what is a good business model when selling hardware which works with software that you give for free. You profit from the hardware while building value from the free software, it’s all fine until somebody can copy the HW and sell cheaper.

        I have reached the conclusion that once sufficient value has been built though software and community, the best way is to team up with the micro manufacturer. Nobody can actually copy the micro, so the manufacturer always wins, while you get a share.

      2. Personally I couldnt care less about Arduino, Im a C kind of guy, with inlined assembly. Im happy with cheap chinese hardware, because hardware is all I want. Arduidiot people will want support anyway, and will steer towards adafruits and sparkfuns of the world (until they grow up).

        Teensy solved problem you describe, maybe accidentally, by going with higher tier microcontroller and targeting niche market, meaning their boards are less likely to be cloned in China. Doesnt mean there is no competition, mchck.org offers same platform, software support, and DIY $5 boards.

        1. mchck.org card do not have the bootstrap loader chip on the Teensy. Anyone doing serious software development would have a SWD debugging/flash tool. Not having an additional chip means your project can save some extra power in sleep mode too. Last time I read on the forum, Teensy 3.1 was in the hundred uA range vs a few uA. :)

          The Chinese clones are like uC catch of the day. They use whatever popular commodity chips that they happen to find in their parts market and pass on the savings. :) If I want long term stability in the supply, I would have make my own PCB.

  3. I’m a huge fan of Paul’s work (hardware and software!) and the Teensy series (and therefore the Freescale Corteses) have been my go-to for a while now. But at $20, the Teensy 3.1 was already pretty cheap! I can’t imagine there was a huge market demand for something just a few bucks cheaper?

    Paul if you read this, I’d be very interested to hear why you decided to design the LC. (Or just point me to somewhere you’ve already explained it.)

    1. There absolutely is demand for more affordable boards. The success of ATTINY-based products, like Digistump’s Digispark and Adafruit’s Trinket show this pretty well. The numerous comments above, regarding $5 Maple clones from China also show people want very cheap products, even if it means a peripheral-poor & memory-limited chip, or an outdated & unmaintained IDE with poor library compatibility.

      Teensy-LC can’t compete with ATTINY and Chinese clones on price, but it can get much closer, while offering good performance and powerful features and first-rate software support. Really, that’s the part I’m all about, creating a first-rate experience, and I really want to be able to bring it to more people who are on a tighter budget.

      1. Hi Paul, big fan of your work. :-)

        I am building/porting stuff to support the dime sized wireless IMU based on the ARM powered femtoUSB. I am revamping the IMU specific libraries.

        The base design (femtoUSB) works with ATMEL Studio 6.2, and uses the same family (SAM D21) as the upcoming Arduino Zero. If I’ve lined up my ducks correctly, the future examples for the due should work here too. (Though, that’s purely wishful thinking until I can try for myself)

        The SAM-BA boot loader is used by Arduino Due, and is supported in Arduino 1.5, so getting this Atmel chip to play w/ the Arduino IDE can’t be too hard.

        In any case, the ASF has examples work with the SAM D21 family of chips, and I am trying them out with the ATSAMD21E18A. I think Atmel hit a home run with these. I really like their support for open source, and interoperability with open source tool chains (though dongles are still pricey, their not as pricey as say, Freescale’s)

        Sincerely,

        Alex Albino
        http://www.femtoduino.com

        1. ARM certainly seems to have hit a home run with the Cortex-M0+. The long-predicted replacement of 8 bit microcontrollers looks like it’s finally going to happen, since Cortex-M0+ chips are now appearing at similar and lower prices.

          Atmel’s success with the D21, especially in the maker/hobbyist market, remains to be seen. You might imagine Arduino making an official board would guarantee widespread use, but then how many projects appear here on HaD using a Due board or a SAM3X chip?

          One unfortunate issue with D21 is all new peripherals that aren’t anything like the ones in AVR or SAM3. Atmel did the same with XMega, and it seems very few people have migrated from traditional AVR to XMega AVR, due to nothing working without rewriting all the low-level code on unfamiliar peripherals, even though the new chips offer a big step up in performance at similar and sometimes better prices. It’s entirely possible someone might pour a lot of serious development work into supporting every D21 feature very well in Arduino. But it’s also quite possible we’ll see a situation similar to Due, where software support develops very slowly.

          Either way, I’m sure your FemtoUSB board will be good hardware. I’ll probably pick one up to take a look, when you’re selling them.

          1. There is always a fear of the unknown. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

            I picked these up with Arduino compatability as an afterthought. I wanted to have something ARM powered, tiny, wireless, and capable of 3D data measurements – A dime sized wireless 3D beacon. This chip passes with flying colors. Teensy does a great job of being another Arduino board… but our goal is different. (Not to gloat, but soon after we released the IMUduino, it seems TI and Intel started to release similar devices)

            My main goal is to provide the tiniest prototyping platforms in the world, with easy to follow guides for Windows, Mac, and Linux*. The hardware prototype using the ATMEL SAMD21E chip works beautifully. Arduino’s pin out should not be considered the ‘right way’… Just another way of defining pins.

            Regardless of what Arduino does, this chip is a wonderful replacement for 8-Bit AVRs, and it’s success isn’t tied to Arduino. Coincidentally, if Arduino Zero does become a thing, it will only add to an already successful chip. ARM M0+ chips with 256KB, at 48MHz, at this size, are not bountiful at the moment. The ATMEL SAMD21 family of chips should be welcomed by the Maker community, both for their ease of use and support for open source hardware, especially given that so many other ARM chip makers lock up their stuff behind overpriced programmers and tool chains.

            * Easy to follow guides are admittedly, a work in progress.

  4. It isn’t so much the hardware cost as the exorbitant cost charged for international shipping. Most US vendors are guilty of this.

    I’d really like to get my hands on a Teensy but when the postage is often more than double the cost the product for something that can be shipped in an international flat rate envelope, and usually arrives in one anyway, you feel like you are being gouged.

    For products that are probably manufactured in China anyway… why oh! why can’t advantage be taken of their cheap shipping options as well!

    1. Postage rates charged by the USPS for international mail skyrocketed a few years ago. Conservative politicians who wish the see government postal service replaced by private sector companies passed laws that placed huge financial burden on the US postal service, while also blocking other bills that would allow the postal service to close unnecessary facilities and make other cuts that any private company would pursue while running in the red. Here in the USA, our postal service legally limited by how much USA domestic rates can increase, but international rates apparently can be raised on a whim. As a result, companies in the USA now face international postage rates FAR higher than the rest of the world.

      Those “international flat rate” envelopes now cost $24 to mail from the USA, more than DOUBLE the price of a Teensy-LC. You can go to http://www.usps.com to verify this fact.

      I can assure you, the situation is not that all American merchants are greedy bastards. Some, maybe, but most are simply passing on the exorbitant rates they’re now changed by the postal service. It’s a terribly unfortunate situation, all the fault of the recent dysfunction in the US national-level political system.

      Recently, the traditional private sector carriers are starting to offer a service where they transport packages to other countries, and then the packges enter that country’s postal system, which bypasses the outrageous USA postal prices. However, these services are currently quite difficult to use, requiring special background and security checks, high minimum quantities, only allowed shipping from certain locations, and other restrictions. The few USA vendors with low postal shipping prices are almost certainly using these new services.

      Your best bet is to try buying Teensy from a distributor outside the USA. Many places carry it, Hobbytronics, Watterott, EXP Tech, etc.

      Also, FWIW, Teensy is made in Oregon, USA. It’s absolutely not made in China!!!

  5. I was using the Arduino 8-bit line micros till now, but wanted to step into the 32-bit world, enjoying more CPU speed.
    So I decided to try out Teensy.
    I just received my Teensy-LC.
    Paul, you did a wonderful job, the board looks super and works like a charm due to Arduino IDE!
    I am looking forward to explore all the HW features T-LC offers.
    But despite the high quality and easy usage the board offers, the hobby programmers (like me and most probably many others) are always looking for cheep HW solutions. That’s why I think the new T-LC can have more success if it would get a bit more cheaper, especially when compared to chinese maple mini clones.
    Anyway, I have huge respect for you, Paul, wish all the best.

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