Comparing Microcontrollers: Arduino Mega vs. Uno

Although Arduino is the Apple of the microcontrollers industry, it shares more similarities with Samsung than Apple due to the multiple products it releases into the market at the same time. Unlike the mobile giants, Apple—who release a flagship device annually—, the Arduino brand is known for its multiple product options which you can choose from when seeking to develop electronics/computing hardware.

The number of products from the Arduino brand means budding developers, as well as professionals when they have to choose among them when in need of a microcontroller. This is why in this post, two Arduino products—the Mega2560 and Uno R3—will be compared to help you make an educated choice whenever the need arises.  To provide a level playing field, the comparison will be done using a set of criteria that both of our candidates will have to go up against. The criteria are:

  • Technical Features: this criterion focuses on the features that make a board tick. This means we will be taking a look at a system voltage, clock speed, Wi-Fi capabilities, input voltage, Pulse-width modulation (PWM), etc.
  • Physical Features: this focuses on other features that can be seen by simply observing the physical board. These features consist of items such as; flash space, USB, programming interface, etc.
  • Cost: the cost of purchasing any of these boards also play a part in deciding which you intend to use. Most hobbyists generally go for microcontrollers that are cheap and obviously reusable.

The Arduino Uno

The Arduino Uno is universally known as the ‘stock Arduino’ due to its status as the most popular offering Arduino has offered its teeming users. Its well-known capabilities generally serve as the base features which other boards are compared to. It is important to note that the Uno comes in two types; through-hole and the SMD version—which uses either a through-hole or a surface-mount ATmega328.

The Arduino Mega 2560

The Arduino Mega2560 should be viewed as one of Arduino’s flagship microcontrollers which spot a whole lot of features and more processing power than more traditional boards like the Uno. The brain of the Meg 2560 is ATMega 328 which will be discussed as a criterion under technical features.

The Arduino Uno vs. The Arduino Mega 2560

Now, we are at the main course of this article; the comparison between the Arduino options introduced above. And we intend to kick-start this by:

Comparing Technical Features—the first feature to be compared is the microcontroller which is basically the brain of every board. Taking a look at the Arduino Uno, this most popular of boards are powered by the ATMega328 while for the Mega2560, its name connotes the microcontroller that powers it; the ATMega2560. This is a massive upgrade to the Uno’s Mega328 making it approximately four times more powerful than the Uno.

  • Power and Digital Pins: In terms of how to power both boards, the Uno and Mega share some common features. Both boards can be powered via USB and their USBs can also be converted to serial thereby making USB programming possible. Talking about inputting information, the Arduino Mega is equipped with 54 input and output pins with 16 of them serving as analog inputs while the Uno spots 14 I/O pins and 6 analog pins.
  • Voltage, Program space and Clock Speed: Both the Arduino Uno can be powered with a voltage output of 5 volts and they share a similar clock speed of 16MHz. But in terms of programming space, huge differences abound; the Uno is equipped with a programming space of 32kB while its colleague the Mega2560, is four-time its size at 256kB. This makes the Mega more compatible with projects that require more programming space.

Physical Features: not surprisingly, both microcontroller boards look quite similar but the Mega2560 digital pin superiority is also evident. Also, on looking at the Mega, you will quickly note that it has extra LEDs, four serial ports compared to the Uno’s one. You can also pot its 14 PWM outputs and 16 analog inputs.

Cost:  generally, Arduino microcontrollers are quite affordable hardware pieces for your electronics project but the different prices of its products deserve to be mentioned. The Arduino Uno costs approximately $29 which marks it affordable when compared to other competing brands in the market. The Arduino Mega2560, on the other hand, costs approximately $50, which makes it a high-end Arduino product to make use of. But its’ flash space and the power of its microprocessor, makes the Arduino Mega a product what purchasing for larger projects.

As you can see, both boards—Mega2560 and Uno—share a couple of things in common as well as have their fair share of differences which raises the question of their usage. So when should either be used you may ask? Basically, the Arduino Uno was designed for beginners in the field of designing or developing hardware electronics. Therefore when saddled with creating small electronic products that do not require too many digital pins and bigger memory space, the Arduino Uno is a perfect choice or decision to make. On the other hand, if you find that your Arduino Uno is hitting a wall due to its limited digital pins or input/output, then taking the leap to use the much more powerful Arduino Mega is required. Also, if you end up running out of programming space when programming actions on your microcontroller, this means it is also high time to take that leap of faith to use the Arduino Mega2560.

So here we come to the end of this comparing exercise between the Arduino Uno and Arduino Mega2560. And for those who still find setting technical terms confusing, we leave you with this; simply use the Arduino Uno when starting out and as you garner some experience, you will know when it’s time to move over to the Mega 2560.

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