Factors to Look Out for Before Buying an Arduino Board

An Arduino board is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. These boards are an amazing product with infinite possibilities as these can interact with a number of inputs to perform a variety of functions.
They can read the light on a sensor or a finger on a button and produce a defined output such as turning on a motor, flashing an LED or activating an alarm. There is no end to the kind of projects you can create with Arduino boards once you have the right equipment and a good grip on your electronics.

Buying the Right Arduino Board Can Be Tough

There are good Arduino boards and there are bad ones. The bad ones are simply counterfeit products or cheaply produced replicas. You need to know how to spot them and then just simply steer away from them. The tougher part is choosing among the different kinds of good ones. There are quite a few and knowing which the right one for you is, is essential before you go out and spend your money.  You need to gain a basic understanding of the different kinds of Arduino boards there are and which ones are worth investing in.

An Overview of the Different Kinds of Arduino Boards

There are different kinds of Arduino boards and depending on your project requirements, budget and personal preferences, either of these may be the right choice for you. So let’s take a look at the options available -

Genuine or Official Boards

These are manufactured by authorized and licensed manufacturers, are properly documented on the official Arduino website and follow the standard IDE, layout, name and logo. These official manufacturers pay royalty to the original creators of Arduino.

Clones

Clones are exact replicas of an official Arduino board but with different branding. They are usually named as ‘something-uino’ or ‘ardu-something’. These products follow trademark laws and are a good option.

Derivatives

These boards follow the basic design of Arduino but add more features to enhance their functionality to suit a specific kind of project. Teensy by PJRC and Flora by Adafruit are a few examples. These are a good buy if you are looking for specific features.

Compatibles

There are some boards that call themselves Arduino-compatible and try to copy the brand name, logo and design but their true compatibility is questionable. It is better to steer clear of these in general as Arduino doesn’t quite endorse these boards.

Counterfeits

You’d think that no one would make cheap counterfeits of an Arduino board because it is an open-source technology after all, and the original owners of the technology greatly encourage legal reproductions.  However, there are those who will make duplicates, sub-par boards and non-trademarked products. Stay away from these as it’s not just your money but the performance of your Arduino project at stake here. Find out how you can spot a fake here.

Choose the One That Suits Your Project Needs

Now that you know the basic kinds, you may choose to buy an original, clone or derivative Arduino board depending on what works best for you. There are dozens of variants to choose from and you should do a thorough comparison of specs and features before buying an Arduino board.  Some of the factors that may affect your buying decision are -

Price

The price of a board is obviously an important factor. If you are a beginner, trying to design something as a hobby or a school projects, you probably don’t want to spend too much money. Clones give you all the benefits of an original, at a smaller price so you could choose a clone for your first project instead of spending more on a genuine Arduino.

Memory

How much memory you need to execute your project is another important factor. Choose an Arduino that has adequate RAM and Flash storage for your project. You can also choose one with extendable memory.

Speed

The speed requirement varies greatly by project and you must weigh out the different options based on their CPU clock rates to find one that will work for you. Most Arduino CPU clock rates tend to be between 8 MHz and 20 MHz.

Power

The amount of power input required is another crucial factor to consider before buying your Arduino board. Arduinos are essentially integrated circuits, powering a 3.3 Volt board with a 5V battery could just as easily smoke up the board and using a smaller battery might never get it to turn on.

USB

Some boards have regular USB ports, some have Micro USB ports and some don’t have a USB port at all, in which case you need an external USB connector. If you already have some parts of hardware and are adding an Arduino to your collection, you may want to consider buying one that matches the current USB you already have.

Number of Pins

The number of digital Input/Output (I/O) pins the board has directly determines how many functions you can get the board to execute. If you want to build a robot that senses the temperature, flashes an LED and also detects smoke, you will need a good number of pins to support all of that.

Conclusion

If done right, Arduino boards can help you build some impressive things. From the basic things like a home use alarm system or lightening detector to more advanced things like a drone, model aircrafts or automated electronic systems. Just be sure to do your research and choose the best Arduino board for your project and the above pointers should help guide you in the right direction.

About the Author

Millie Rainer is associated with Rantle East Electronic Trading Co. Limited & she is an editor there. She has a master degree in electrical engineering. She loves to share her thoughts and insights on manufacturing industries, business and entrepreneurship. When in leisure time, she prefers to spend time in traveling with friends and family.

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