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Topic: Please help me in buying an Arduino board/kit (Read 5875 times) previous topic - next topic

senthurbalan

Hello,
               I'm Senthur, a mechanical engineer, I'm more fascinated in automation and robotic control, after reading about Arduino on the internet I thought of making some nice robots/toys with the tool. Since I'm a mechanical engineer it would be interesting for me to automate some things as well.
                As a beginner I would be more interested in learning how to program, how to read signals from the sensors and how to actuate the motors and other stuffs connected to the board. After going through the kind of boards available in the website, I am quite confused on which board I should purchase and how to start using them.

                     I want to connect the board to my laptop and program through it, also I would like to connect the board to different actuators and sensors. I don't want to go for a very basic model, I'm not worried about spending for a few more pounds and getting a good board which will be having some good functionalities in them.
                   
                    If I'm building a robot definitely I should keep a controlling board on the robot as well, what kind of board should I purchase if I'm  building a remote controlled robot, how to program the board and integrate it in the toy ?
Thanks in advance, guys please help me if I haven't clearly stated the details, apologise since I'm very new to this microcontroller world. Waiting for your replies.

keeper63


If I'm building a robot definitely I should keep a controlling board on the robot as well, what kind of board should I purchase if I'm  building a remote controlled robot, how to program the board and integrate it in the toy ?


I know you said you didn't want to go for the "most basic model" - but I can assure you that if you are just starting out, that is -exactly- what you should do.

The most basic "standard" model of the Arduino today is the Arduino Uno, which uses the ATMega328 microcontroller:

http://arduino.cc/en/Main/arduinoBoardUno

You want to obtain one -exactly- like the one pictured, with a socketed DIP ATMega328 on it. Ideally, you should purchase this board from a reputable and legitimate supplier of official Arduino boards (if you are in the US - I'd recommend SparkFun or Adafruit); you will pay more going this route, but you will be assured of getting a first-rate product. There are cheaper methods to getting an Arduino, but unless you know what you are looking for, you will likely get a knockoff that is violating the copyrights of Arduino. That isn't to say you can't get a good quality Arduino clone that doesn't violate the Arduino copyright (there are plenty of them out there, some of them quite good) - just that you need to gain some experience (or do your research) before going this route.

One of the reasons I suggest this particular Uno for a beginner is the fact that you can easily change out the microcontroller if you need to (because you fried it or something - happens to all of us, not just beginners!); you can purchase "bare" ATMega328 chips (without a bootloader) - or pre-programmed chips (that have a bootloader on them) to replace your damaged chip if needed. The cost of the chip is much less than the cost of the entire board (think of the Arduino board as a "carrier board" with a simple programming interface and interface pins for the outside world, that the ATMega microcontroller is plugged into). In fact, when you get some experience, you can later take out the chip from the board, and put it in your own projects (known as a "standalone" setup here). You need only a few extra parts to do this.

There do exist alternative Arduino-compatible boards out there that use a different packaging of the chip to make the board lower cost, or to make it "lower profile" for shields or such; the problem with these boards for a beginner is that, since they typically use a surface-mount version of the chip - if you fry the chip or such, they are very difficult for a beginner to repair.

There are other Arduino-compatible boards out there as well that look nothing like an Arduino; they are designed to be as small as possible while retaining all of the functionality of a regular Arduino, and are more meant for easier "embedding" of the board into your projects, as well as prototyping (an example is the RBBB).

If you are willing to spend a bit more money, but have a much more rugged Arduino (so you don't blow the chip as easily) - the Ruggeduino might be something to look into; it is a clone Arduino, but designed to be more forgiving of beginner mistakes, as well as hold up to use in more demanding environments. The manufacturer of this bit of kit is a regular poster here on the board, too:

http://ruggedcircuits.com/html/ruggeduino.html

The chip isn't a DIP version of the microcontroller, but all of the extra protection circuitry means that replacement in the future isn't likely.

You should find that using a standard Arduino with the ATMega328 will easily meet your immediate needs and learning requirements, while still allowing you immense possibilities. Most of the time, when people think they have reached the limits of the Arduino, they really have reached a limit with their programming ability or knowledge about what is available to interface with the system. While there are practical limits on code and variable use on the Arduino that may mean you need to move to a better Arduino platform - or some other platform entirely - initially for learning (and many practical projects) they shouldn't be a concern.

Finally - with all of that said, and taking into account that you didn't want to use a "basic" version - there is the other "standard" Arduino - the Arduino Mega:

http://arduino.cc/en/Main/arduinoBoardMega

This Arduino offers a ton of possibilities - but again, it is much more expensive than an Uno, and if you damage the microcontroller on board, you likely -won't- be replacing it.

Finally - here is the list of all the "standard" Arduino boards (and "extras"):

http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Products

...you may also be tempted by the Arduino Due; while it certainly seems to offer a lot of extra capabilities over any other standard Arduino, please recognize that this board is still in it's "infancy" as far as widespread adoption of use by the greater Arduino community members. Not many have played around with it, and those that have tend to remark on certain aspects of it which make it's use by a beginner fraught with problems (most notably the fact that it's outputs are only rated at a few milliamps of output current and a 3.3 volt logic system - which makes interfacing with certain TTL logic problematic unless you are experienced). Maybe in the future it will become more popular, but for now, I would not consider it "beginner friendly".

So, again, my recommendation for you is to start out with the Uno, and once you get more experience with it, you might want to move on to the Mega for larger projects. I'm sure that by the time you find yourself wanting or needing a better platform, you will have a better idea and confidence to ask the proper questions and do the right research to know what to choose for your needs.

Good luck, and I hope this helps! :D
I will not respond to Arduino help PM's from random forum users; if you have such a question, start a new topic thread.

senthurbalan

Many thanks Crosh,
                      Your reply was very detailed and was very helpful as well. Many thanks for that once again. I have decided to go to Arduino UNO, is it the R3 board ? How about the different sensors I can connect to them ? I should be purchasing them separately, right ? Btw I have planned to buy them from ebay UK, since I'm in UK now. Will the products be original products or the ones from Arduino stores only will be original ? Sorry for pestering you with questions again, but it would be really helpful for me.


Thanks and regards
Senthur

AWOL

Maplin carry the Arduino Uno.
Prices aren't great, but easy to find.

senthurbalan

Many thanks for your suggestion mate.
I'm looking for building a rc car kinda robot, so can I build one rc car and control it through the uno board ?

Thanks and regards
senthur

keeper63


I have decided to go to Arduino UNO, is it the R3 board ?


R3 is the latest revision - should be OK.


How about the different sensors I can connect to them ? I should be purchasing them separately, right ?


Well - I don't know what you want to use exactly, but unless you plan to buy a kit, you will be purchasing them separately.


Btw I have planned to buy them from ebay UK, since I'm in UK now. Will the products be original products or the ones from Arduino stores only will be original ?


That depends on the seller. Likely, if you see that the product is coming from China or Hong Kong, then that means the board is likely a clone. At that point, it comes down to "do you trust the seller", how the product is labelled/advertised, and your own conscience.

Trusting the seller is just that - if you have experience using Ebay, then you should know what to look for, and how to look for any "warning signs" that maybe you should not use the seller or something. If you don't have experience, there are tons of better resources out there (it's a whole 'nother topic!).

How the product is labelled/advertised will have a bearing on the third item; if you want to be good to the community, you would purchase through a place like Maplin or such only. However, if you insist on going the less expensive route, try and find a seller that -doesn't- use the word "Arduino" on their product or advertisement (the only reasonable thing would be if they claim "Arduino-compatible" or "compatible with the Arduino" or similar). If you see something that looks like a "real Arduino" (ie - all the silkscreen and such on the PCB is the same or very similar, parts are placed the same/similar, etc) - but isn't priced anywhere near what a "real Arduino" costs from a place like Maplin - then it is likely a clone that is ripping off the copyrights of the Arduino.

That brings us to the third item - how that weighs on your conscience and such. So - if you want to do right, look for a good seller that is trying to play "right" by the copyright rules and such, and is selling an honest product but at a lower price. Such sellers do exist out there in the China/HK marketplace (most of the places selling are all out of Shenzhen) - but you have to look carefully. Their product may be slightly higher priced than other less-scrupulous sellers, but they will typically be lower priced than a "real" Arduino. As an example - here is a "copyright-bad clone":

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Latest-Version-Original-Arduino-Uno-R3-MEGA328P-ATMEGA16U2-USB-Cable-BID-/261224650034?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cd233d532

Notice the blatant use of the logo, etc on the silkscreen, and advertisement labelling.

Now - let's look at something a bit better:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/UNO-R3-development-board-microcontroller-2012-MEGA328P-ATMEGA16U2-Arduino-Compat-/181126265581?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&var=&hash=item2a2bf77aed

Note that it doesn't troll on the word "Arduino" - but it still does on the "UNO" - not sure there; anything better?

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Funduino-UNO-R3-2012-development-board-MEGA328P-ATMEGA16U2-Arduino-Compat-USB-/330933817224?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4d0d314f88

Ok - here's something called a "funduino" - but still has the UNO moniker...hmm.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/SainSmart-UNO-R3-Starter-Board-2013-Version-MEGA328P-AU-ATMEGA16U2-For-Arduino-/281074993843?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4171600ab3

Still another different one - but again the UNO moniker...

(note that I don't know -anything- about these sellers on Ebay - I have not shopped with them or such, and I know nothing about their products - I am just using them as examples ONLY)

You can see how this can be difficult via Ebay. The stupid thing it, had any of these sellers just labelled their devices as "compatible with the Arduino Uno", then called them something like "ChinaDuino One" or something (ok, maybe something a littler better, but you get what I mean) - they would all be mainly "legal" (especially SainSmart, which if you notice tries to differentiate their boards by adding extras like the easy-access servo pins).

Something I did notice though, as I was looking up those links - is that it does seem like a lot of the sellers are trying to get away from the "perfect copy" model, and are trying to do something that, while a clone, has their own "branding" of sorts (still, though - I am sure the word "Uno" is a copyrighted thing for the Arduino group, so if they could just get away from that - it would all be much better).

The really good ones (and they do exist) don't even follow the layout of the Arduino, and instead make something completely different, but Arduino-compatible - and advertise it as such. Most of these boards have extras like built-in speakers, LEDs, and LCDs (and buttons) - and are geared toward robotics controller applications. Something else to look out for.

Finally - sometimes these clones may be poorly built (but most of the time they are fairly good quality) - and you may or may not get good (or any) "customer support" after the purchase. Also, some people here on these forums don't look kindly on people who purchase clones (and they look especially poorly on those who purchase the "ripoff" clones - perhaps rightfully). All of these are good reasons to purchase an actual Arduino from a place like Maplin or the like. You have somebody to go back to or return the product if it doesn't work properly when you get it, plus your interactions on this forum may be better (and you'll have a clear conscience about your purchase - if that matters to you).
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I will not respond to Arduino help PM's from random forum users; if you have such a question, start a new topic thread.

keeper63

I also want to point out - in regards to my earlier remarks about the Arduino naming legality - some more information may be found in the FAQ:

http://arduino.cc/en/Main/FAQ

Also - I may have inadvertently mixed things up a bit - rather than a "copyright" on the name - it is actually "trademarked" - something that is different. The logo style and such, though - may be copyrighted (or trademarked as well), plus certain other things. Let's just say it is all really complicated; there's been a ton of discussion on it over the years, so you may want to review that as well.
I will not respond to Arduino help PM's from random forum users; if you have such a question, start a new topic thread.

StevenN

Yep the Uno board is a good one to start with. It's inexpensive and well supported. An excellent companion to any Arduino board is The Arduino Cookbook. It will save you a lot of time searching for software solutions to darn near everything you can do with an Arduino.

http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920022244.do

Plus all of the code from the book can be downloaded for free...
http://examples.oreilly.com/0636920022244/

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