Open-Source fight for 32-bit micros: Arduino Due vs. chipKit Max32
Casey Hare- December 12, 2012Open source hardware just keeps getting better and better. With open source taking over the low-end, closed-source players jump into the game to try to hold onto the entry market and then open-source hits back. It feels like the bad-old days of the late 90s internet era, we're all saying to ourselves, “this is big; it's going to change everything... we're just not sure how, yet.”
When Arduino first arrived on the scene with open-source hardware no one noticed. Times have changed. The latest small platform offering, the Uno, is a huge hit and costs just $25.
Score 1 for open-source.
As Arduino took off Microchip, an 800 pound gorilla of a micro-controller company, jumped into the game with their own 32-bit versions of the Uno and the Mega. These are called the chipkit Uno32 and the chipkit Max32. They offer faster clock speeds, 32-bit rather than 8-bit processors and comparable prices to their Arduino counterparts. The Uno32 costs $27 and the Max32 costs $50.
Figure 1: Arduino Uno
MicroChip enthusiasts rejoiced. Chipkit is not open source, but MicroChip hosted a number of contests to encourage the open-source community to build the needed tools. A number of issues prevented the Chipkit from mass adoption by hobbyists, but it was and still is, an excellent choice for Test and Measurement professionals.
Score 1 for closed-source.
But open-source just answered back. Arduino now adds the Arduino Due. The Due is 32-bit, boasts the 80MHz speeds of the Chipkit and adds even more functionality to Arduino, such as digital to analog converters. The Due costs $50.
Figure 2: Arduino Due
Score 2 for open-source.
These small microcontrollers were once lame toys for hobbyists. That time has passed. These are incredibly powerful platforms all for under $50. Of course, for your test and measurement application you'll need to do a bit of research to find out which one is best for your application. Then again, with such low prices, it might just be better to buy them first and let your prototyping be the research.
For more on the MicroChip chipkit, see http://www.chipkit.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page. For more on the Arduino Due, see http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardDue. All prices are from Amazon, but you can sometimes get them cheaper from your favorite supplier.
This is big; it's going to change everything... it's already changing the way I prototype basic embedded systems.