I definitely need more shelf space in the lab. Development kits are coming out of the woodwork. On the plus side, they are getting smaller and cheaper. They are also including top notch development tools. The next area to tackle is the quality of sample and training materials but that is another story.
Four tiny boxes that showed up recently include three microcontroller development kits and one add-on. Check out the Related Links for detailed coverage of each one of these.
- Silicon Labs Does It Again With New ToolStick
- QuickFilter Melds Its SavFIRe Digital Filter With Texas Instrument's MSP-eZ430U
- Luminary Micro Delivers Low Cost Kit To Match $1 ARM-based Microcontroller
- Microchip Delivers PIC Development Tool For $49
The trend of these small, USB-based development platforms started with the $11 Silicon Labs ToolStick (Fig. 1) (Sticking It To The Developer, ED Online ID 12142). The trend gained a split personality with Texas Instrument's MSP-eZ430U (Fig. 2) (EiED Online>> Mid-Range Micro Kits, ED Online ID 12991) that allows the target MSP430 microcontroller to be removed and plugged into a carrier board with additional peripherals.
QuickFilter doesn't sell microcontrollers. It sells chips that like its SavFIRe digital filter chip that can be used with microcontrollers like Texas Instruments' MSP430. The $20 MSP-eZ430U was an ideal target for a demo board. Just pop out the MSP430 target board and swap in the QuickFilter target board, complete with its own MSP430, and you have a new target platform.
Microchip's PICkit2 is a more conventional platform but it cuts the price of the debugging tool significantly. Luminary Micro uses a single board but takes the debugging tool a step further by allowing the USB-based JTAG debug unit to be used with external microcontrollers. Now it is no longer a matter of using one of these inexpensive kits to start with and then having to turn to a more expensive solution just to develop your own hardware.
As with the other mini reviews, these are short and to the point so check out the other links for more info on other development tools.