Which Arduino micro controller board/starter kit to use?

Hello every one,

I'm Josip from Croatia and i want to join this awesome community and play with Arduino. I want to say thanks to all people here that gave me motivation and purpose (those cool LED projects got me).

I saw many micro controller boards and i don't quite understand the difference?

Project i work on includes many relays, high power light sources, dimmers, thermo/hygro/lux/Ph meters, sensors, electric motors. Final product should be completely automatized, meaning every component is connected and starts/stops/adjusts using other components.

Anyone here can recommend me micro controller board/starter kit for my project?

Start with a bog-standard Uno. Most projects and examples are built around this, so you'll find it easy to learn. Once you are very comfortable with it, then likely your project could work best using a Mega as the controller.

A Mega, however, has some (minor) differences that - when you put a project designed for an Uno on it - that might trip you up. Mainly things like certain pin assignments are -slightly- different; also on a standard Mega, there is a particular pin that isn't properly brought out like it is on an Uno (see why something like the Nootropic Video Experimenter won't work on a standard Mega).

There is a possibility that your entire project could work fine with an Uno - depending on the number and type of I/O pins needed for all of the peripheral components - but you'll be able to figure this out best once you learn how the Arduino works with such parts. Take it one step at a time - learn how to get an LED to blink/dim first, then how to control it with a switch, then with a potentiometer, then with an LDR, then with other components - don't try to jump in all at once, and you'll have an easier time of it.

Also - as you learn with the Uno - you might think about the possibility of using port expander ICs or similar devices; these can allow you to gain more I/O pins (depending on what you need them for) at the expense of only a few pins on the Arduino (for the interface to the ICs - most use SPI) - but with the need for a custom interface library (which you may have to write yourself). This would allow you to use the simpler Uno - provided your memory requirements aren't too heavy.

Think of the Mega as something like a hammer - everything looks like a nail - whereas with a bit of thought and creativity, you can shoehorn in a smaller controller like that on the Uno, and it will meet your needs fine, and the possible expense of slightly more complex code and the need for more external interface hardware.

As far as kits go, I don't have a specific one in mind for use; if you understand electronics well enough (to know what the parts are, their values, etc) - I would look over each and every potential kit out there, make a list of what common parts between the kits are, then see if you can put together your own kit of parts for less money than buying the kit (sometimes you can - sometimes you can't). At a minimum, it would familiarize yourself with the kits, and give you an idea of what's available - some may have certain parts that are more applicable to the learning you need for your project than others.

Also - regarding a certain kit - I like the book for the Earthshine "Arduino Starter Kit" - which is available for free:

http://thearduinoguy.org/?page_id=100

There used to be a complete kit available, but it doesn't look like it is available any longer (which is a pity); you might try to find a kit that has the same parts as listed in that book - that way, you could do the projects in the book with the parts.

I hope this helps. Good luck! :)

Bog-standard Uno for learning, later Mega (if necessary) but, not standard - Seeeduino Mega is good?
Break one big problem into few smaller ones - ok.
Smaller controller => more complex code and more hardware - ok.
Starter kits are good for practice but can be waste of money - ok.
Thank you!

RajoAlfa,

Yes, the Seeeduino Mega is fine. It is compatible with the Arduino IDE.

If you know what sort of systems you want to make, a "starter kit" is probably not what you want, just the basic microcontroller boards and buy other parts directed at your intended use.

Now this could get controversial, but you may want to work with "breadboards", in which case you want the Arduino Nano rather than the UNO, as this has the same functionality but (is smaller and) mounts directly to a breadboard. Some people will tell you that breadboards are unreliable in the contacts, but in general and with caution, they are a practical way to prototype.

The UNO is not really designed to be used this way - you need more "jumpers" and you have to arrange your breadboard somewhere and perhaps secure it - but it is designed to be used with "shields". If there are shields to perform the interface functions you need, that will be the way to go. And there is no obvious "mini" version of the Mega (or will someone come up with an example?) so you are committed to a separate breadboard and/ or shields.

goodinventor: Yes, the Seeeduino Mega is fine. It is compatible with the Arduino IDE.

Yes - but there are -minor- vagaries between Uno code (which is the majority of code out there) and code for the Mega (certain pin differences, for one).

Furthermore - while the Seeed Mega is a great device - one needs to be aware that it isn't an official Mega - it actually brings out several more pins than the official Mega (yes, the official Mega doesn't break out all of the pins of the 2560).

These are the minor things that can turn into a nightmare of debugging for those who don't know them, or are unaware of them - especially "newbies". Which is why it is my opinion that starting with the smaller board, understanding it, then learning about the larger boards on an as-needed basis is the better way to approach things, so as not to be disappointed or frustrated.

Arduino Nano over Arduino Uno if using breadbords for compatibility - ok.

Arduino Uno if using shields and jumpers - ok.

I dont get this part : "And there is no obvious "mini" version of the Mega (or will someone come up with an example?) so you are committed to a separate breadboard and/ or shields." ?

Arduino Seeed Mega require some experience - ok.

Thanks again

cr0sh:
Furthermore - while the Seeed Mega is a great device - one needs to be aware that it isn’t an official Mega - it actually brings out several more pins than the official Mega (yes, the official Mega doesn’t break out all of the pins of the 2560).

I’d love to see the reset/auto-reset and 3.3V/5V switches brought to the official Uno. That feature is highly underrated.

RajoAlfa:
I dont get this part : “And there is no obvious “mini” version of the Mega (or will someone come up with an example?) so you are committed to a separate breadboard and/ or shields.” ?

The Mega chips are big and have a lot of pins. It’s impractical to build a small board, or the minor decrease in size you would get wouldn’t be worth the cost of not being able to use shields.

Chagrin: The Mega chips are big and have a lot of pins. It's impractical to build a small board, or the minor decrease in size you would get wouldn't be worth the cost of not being able to use shields.

Meaning that Mega can use shields but smaller boards can't?