As with SBCs (single board computers), CPUs, GPUs, and other electronics on the market, microcontroller production has been impacted by the pandemic, leaving manufacturers with limited resources. That being said, the chip shortage is expected to end in the coming months, with replenished supplies following shortly after. Regardless of said shortage, manufacturers have released many new microcontrollers before the pandemic, along with some new revisions to popular platforms. In this roundup, we will take a look at some of the best microcontrollers and microcontroller boards for 2021.
1: Groboards Giant Board
(Image credit: Grobaords)
Groboards’ Giant Board is a tiny microcontroller based on the Adafruit Feather form factor with FeatherWing support. It packs a Microchip SAMA5D2 ARM Cortex-A5 processor with 128Mb of DDR2 RAM and a micro-SD card slot. The microcontroller also comes equipped with 6X 12-bit ADC with 3.3V reference and external trigger, 4X 16-bit PWM with an external trigger and I2C, SPI, and UART. Moreover, it’s powered via USB, offers support for LiPo batteries, and can run full Debian and take advantage of Adafruit Blinka (CircuitPython for Linux).
2: Seeeduino XIAO
(Image credit: Seeed Studio)
Seeed Studio’s XIAO is one of the most miniature boards to support the Arduino architecture and comes embedded with a SAMD21G18 chip, which packs an ARM Cortex-M0+, 32Kb of SRAM, and 256Kb of Flash. I/O includes 14X GPIO, 11 analog, 11 digital, a single DAC output pin, and I2C, SPI, and UART. Power and programming are handled by a USB Type-C connection and features a series of LEDs for status and user programming. The XIAO Seeeduino also comes equipped with a pair of reset buttons (short connect to reset) and is fully compatible with the Arduino IDE.
3: The BBC micro:bit V2
(Image credit: micro:bit)
The BBC micro:bit V2 is an improved version of the original microcontroller, which now includes a speaker and microphone, as well as several other enhanced features. The V2 packs a Nordic nRF52833 processor, 512Kb of Flash, 32Kb of RAM, and an NXP KL27Z interface chip. The tiny board also packs a 5 X 5 LED matrix, status LEDs, MEMS-based microphone/speaker, touch-sensitive logo, and user-programmable buttons. The V2 also features a 25-pin edge connector, 4X GPIO, PWM, I2C, SPI, and several ring pins for connecting alligator clips and holes for banana plugs. Wireless includes 2.4GHz RF and Bluetooth 5.1/BLE. The board also comes equipped with several sensors, including an accelerometer, thermometer, and electronic compass.
4: Adafruit Gemma M0
(Image credit: Adafruit Industries)
Adafruit’s Gemma M0 is about the size of a quarter and is designed as a wearable electronics platform that can be utilized for everything from cosplay to biomonitor. The tiny microcontroller is outfitted with an ATSAMD21E18 32-bit Cortex M0+, with 256Kb of Flash and 32Kb of RAM. The board also comes equipped with a DotStar RGB LED and several large sew-holes, which can be used with conductive thread or alligator clips, depending on the project. Each I/O pad can also be used as a 12-bit analog input or digital input/output and can even be used as hardware-capacitive touch sensors. According to Adafruit, the Gemma M0 can drive NeoPixels or DotStars and has enough memory to power over 8,000 pixels.
5: Arduino Uno Rev3
(Image credit: Arduino)
The Arduino Uno has been around for the better part of a decade in one form or another and is used as the foundation for many great projects. The latest board, Arduino Rev3, uses an ATMega328p microcontroller, with 32Kb of Flash, 2K of SRAM, and 1K of EEPROM. The board packs 14X digital input/output pins (6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6X analog inputs, a 16 MHz ceramic resonator (CSTCE16M0V53-R0), a USB connecter, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; users connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it via an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to begin building their projects.
Next page: The Best Microcontrollers Available #6-10
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