Are microcontrollers expensive? The little research we conducted put the average price for microcontrollers at $30, which should not be considered as too expensive to the average person. But in terms of features and capabilities, microcontrollers differ according to their brands as well as the firm behind their development. And in the world of Microcontrollers, Arduino still remains the undisputed king due to its market size and widespread availability of its products.
This does not mean other worthy competitors do not have a stay in the discussion of which microcontroller you should consider using. Therefore, this post will focus on some of the top brands you can explore when searching for alternatives to Arduino for your projects.
The Top 6 Alternatives to Arduino
Particle Photon—the first development kit on the list, is the Photon developed by Particle. This kit was developed with the necessary features needed to make your IoT projects tick. It is also quite affordable and can be shipped to a majority of western nations. The Photon’s features include:
- Integrates a Cypress Wi-Fi chip which gives it its cloud/connectivity attributes.
- An STM32 ARM Cortex M3 Microcontroller gives it enough power to carry your devices.
- Access to the Particle app as well as web IDEs, desktop IDEs, and other development tools.
- Access to the Particle community were projects and ideas are shared.
The Photon can be used for your DIY projects in fields such as robotics, computing, interconnected devices etc. And its features make it an alternative to the Arduino Uno and Yun but for the more affordable price of $19.
Espressif Systems’ ESP8266—here we have another alternative to Arduino which is becoming quite popular in the electronics community due to the high level of functionality it provides. It was built specifically for DIY projects and actually succeeds in doing a good job. The features of the ESP8266 include;
- Integrated Wi-Fi with TCP/IP protocol which gives you access to the cloud and other interconnected devices.
- An integrated space for USBs to be connected as well as for powering and programming the kit.
- UART or Serial Interface functions
- 16 GPIO pins for both input and outputs
- It is powered by the L 106 32-bit RISC microprocessor
- 1MB flash memory
The microprocessor is a great alternative to a range of products Arduino has to offer. The ESP8266 can serve as a replacement for the Uno, Mega and Yun. This microprocessor was developed solely for use with electrical projects but would also work on robots and computing DIY plans. It costs approximately $15.
The Pinguino 45K50—the 45K50 built by Pinguino was developed to provide students and designers from the art community with a powerful microprocessor that has the capacity to bring your ideas to life. It carries out the following functions with these features:
- An 8-bit 12 MIPS processor core running at 48MHz powers this processor
- 17 digital input/output with 5 shared analog inputs
- 2 PWM outputs
- UART for serial communication etc.
The 45K50 comes as a kit which you will need to assemble before use. It is predominantly used in art projects and can stand in for the Arduino Uno. At $25 for the microprocessor, you will be getting exactly the quality you have paid for.
STM32 Discovery—this development kit is from the staples of STMicroelectronics and packs enough power and features needed to get the job of designing your robots or computing projects with ease. The STM32 is also quite cheap and must be considered as a great alternative to Arduino. The features of the STM32 discovery are as follows:
- 15 digital input/output with shared analog inputs
- UART for serial communications etc.
The STM32 is quite cheap and is built for use in the electronics and tech sector. This means you can employ them in your robotics projects, IoT devices or computing tasks and you would have a controller which can be tweaked to meet your expectations. The STM32 costs approximately $15 which makes it very affordable for students as well as hobbyists looking to take advantage of the rise of IoT. It is important to note that it is an alternative to the Arduino Uno with the capacity to deliver on the job.
Teensy 2.0—the Teensy 2.0 was developed for the sole reason of becoming a great alternative to Arduino, which makes it one of the microcontrollers one must consider. This alternative offers Arduino-like features and can run the Arduino software which in turn means access to Arduino’s extensive library. The feature of the microcontroller includes:
- It spots 25 input and output pins
- It features a 16 MHz AVR processor
- It also works with Mac OS X, Linux and Windows
- It is equipped with a USB space which aids it programming
The Teensy can adequately replace both the Arduino Uno and Mega with little or no difficulties and at the affordable price of $25 dollars, it is something to have.
Nanode—Nanode like Arduino, offers a wide range of microcontrollers which you can take advantage of when developing electrical projects, robots, and IoT devices. It comes as a development kit, which means you must be ready to do some assembling and soldering before starting out with the board. The features of the Nanode include:
- ATMega328P microcontroller running at 16MHz
- Red and green LEDs for better program diagnostics
- A mini USB power connector
- ENC28J60 Ethernet controller with 25MHz crystal and Ethernet connector
The Nanode microcontroller can serve as an alternative to the Arduino Uno, Mega and Yun. Although it is a great alternative in terms of its features and capabilities, it is quite expensive and its price of approximately $50 may set some limit to its wide-spread use among students and hobbyists.
Here we come to the end of our list off the top 6 microcontroller kits anyone can consider making use of if the need to replace your Arduino ever come up. Here, we have touched on the cheap, the affordable and the quite expensive options out there in today’s market. And this leaves the power of making a choice entirely in your hands.