BoardX Review - from Upgrade Industries
Many of us sit and complain about how well products work, point out there issues and bad point but few spend time doing something about it. In this review I look at just such a product, designed by engineers because they were not happy with what had gone before - that product is BoardX from Upgrade Industries.
Many development kits are based around just one manufacture, or chip. BoardX takes a new approach to this by supplying a building block system that allow you to select what parts will be part of your development board, down to what chip or micro you want to use.
Now having said that Upgrade Industries are still new kids on the block and have just got their funding though Kickstart. So at this early point there are not tons of kit to choice from, but enough to get you started.
I got my kit of boards just before Christmas and includes the main Motherboard, an AVR microcontroller, EEPROM and 8 channel ADC. The motherboard is designed with a number or areas to allow for your development. This first is the power supplies. The board can be supplied via a DC jack plug or via its USB connector. The on board regulators will generate both 5 volts and 3.3 volts. If the regulators are not giving you enough current then there is connections allowing you to connect a off-board regulator. The only thing I did not like was the selection of USB connector. They have opted to use the micro-B that you normally see on a mobile phone and not what i would call the more common Mini-B that you will see on board like a mbed. The USB connector also allows for the standard dev kit tool - access to a serial port via a FT232. Were would we be with out a serial port!
The next area is the microcontroller Main Port plug in area. This allows you to plug in a micro and connect up to the other areas of the board. The connector runs out the 2xUART, I2C and a SPI bus and a few I/O. However getting direct I/O off your board will come from the Micros board its self.
The Add-on area contains two smaller areas that are called PORT1 and PORT2. These connect up to the Main Port’s SPI and I2C. The last area is a standard break-out area. This is a nice touch and not something I’ve done a lot before. Its quite a nice idea and means you can connect up a few bits like LEDs and switches.
After plugging in all the bit I had it was quite quick to get it going. At first I did think the AVR came blank from what I read on the site. However its actually got the Arduino boot-loader on it and so I could download Blinky and get the on-board LED flashing.
Once I got this far I started looking at what else I could do - No BoardX is not designed as a Arduino clone however I did find it hard at first to find out which I/O pins on the Arduino mapping went where on the AVR board. I think making this clearer would help new people.
In all its not a bad design and once I had found a USB cable and blindly connected to the Arduino IDE all went well. However the AVR is currently the only bard available and with few other add-on’s at this time it may be sometime - lets hope not - till you can expand it past its current form. I think with a good getting started guide on the site for new users to electronics is a must. However I think the one thing that would hold me back is the price. The boards are a good price its just you need a few of them - however the idea is that this is a modular design, and that always costs a little more.
Lets hope that with the addition of new add-on boards that this is the start of something new and give people a chance of going in a slightly different direction with regards to project design.
Thanks Paul (@monpjc)
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