Best low-cost development boards for building DIY projects
Building DIY projects are not only fun but it brings a lot of learning and improves our creativity. These days we hardly get time for interacting with the physical world and making fun projects with a friend. Most of us are more tech-savvy today than ever before, but all that screen time (an average of five to seven hours a day) may mean less time spent interacting with physical objects, creating, designing, and developing important coordination skills.
In this post, I am going to list down the best electronic development boards that you can buy for your self or your kids for making awesome DIY projects and improve your programming skills and creativity. There are plenty of development boards available in the market and some of them also come with complete kit. We will write about development kits in our future blogs. For now, below are some of the low cost (under 10$) and best development board to get started with and improve your electronics and coding skills.
Arduino Uno R3 – 5$-10$
The Arduino UNO is the best board to get started with electronics and coding. If this is your first experience tinkering with the platform, the UNO is the most robust board you can start playing with. The UNO is the most used and documented board of the whole Arduino family. Arduino Uno is an 8bit AVR based board that has ATmega328P microcontroller, 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16 MHz ceramic resonator (CSTCE16M0V53-R0), a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button.
Arduino Uno contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started. You can tinker with your Uno without worrying too much about doing something wrong, worst case scenario you can replace the chip for a few dollars and start over again. The Getting Started with Arduino Uno page contains all the information you need to configure your board, use the Arduino Software (IDE), and start tinkering with coding and electronics.
From the Tutorials section, you can find examples from libraries and built-in sketches as well as other useful information to expand your knowledge of the Arduino hardware and software. Find inspiration for your Uno projects from our tutorial platform Project Hub.
Although the official Arduino Uno R3 will cost you 23$ you can easily find a clone version at around $10 price tag from a local shop. There is no difference in functionality really and since Arduino is an open-source board with all the source code and design file readily available, you can get your PCB and assembly done if you want.
Arduino Nano Every – 10$
Arduino Nano Every is a new series of Arduino board which costs less than 10$ comes in a bundle of 3 or 6 boards is an upgraded version of famous Arduino Nano board. The Arduino Nano Every is Arduino’s 5V compatible board in the smallest available form factor: 45x18mm!. The Arduino Nano is the preferred board for many projects requiring a small and easy to use microcontroller board.
The Arduino Nano Every is an evolution of the traditional Arduino Nano, but featuring a lot more powerful processor, the ATMega4809. This will allow you making larger programs than with the Arduino Uno (it has 50% more program memory), and with a lot more variables (the RAM is 200% bigger).
You can follow The Getting Started section contains all the information you need to configure your board, use the Arduino Software (IDE), and start tinkering with coding and electronics.
ESP32 Pico Kit – 10$
Espressif is well known for its revolutionary low-cost ESP wifi module. ESP32 Pico Kit is a System-on-Chip (SoC) integrating an ESP32 chip together with a 4 MB SPI flash memory that costs less than 10$. The ESP32-PICO-KIT is a breakout board for this SoC with an on-board USB-to-serial converter for easy programming and debugging.
Like the ESP8266 the ESP32 has Wi-Fi but adds Bluetooth. It also has two 32-bit cores inside, making it extremely powerful, and providing all the ports and interfaces that the ESP8266 is lacking.
Oversimplifying things, one might say that the ESP8266 is a Wi-Fi controller that provides some I/O, whereas the ESP32 is a full-fledged controller that also has Wi-Fi.
The ESP32 exposes an ADC & DAC, touch sensor circuitry, an SD/SDIO/MMC host controller, an SDIO/SPI slave controller, an EMAC, PWM to control LEDs and motors, UART, SPI, I²C, I²S, infrared remote controller, and, of course, GPIO. The ESP32-PICO-D4 is a System-on-Chip (SoC) integrating an ESP32 chip together with a 4 MB SPI flash memory in a tiny 7 x 7 mm package. The ESP32-PICO-KIT is a breakout board for this SoC with an onboard USB-to-serial converter for easy programming and debugging.
Follow the getting started guide to learn more about ESP32 and the Pico kit.
Raspberry Pi Zero W – 10$
Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W are perfect development board for building any DIY project. Raspberry Pi Zero W has additional wireless LAN and Bluetooth connectivity options on top of all existing features of Raspberry Pi Zero. This $10 development board has everything you will need for your DIY project like –
- 802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- 1GHz, single-core CPU
- 512MB RAM
- Mini HDMI and USB On-The-Go ports
- Micro USB power
- HAT-compatible 40-pin header
- Composite video and reset headers
- CSI camera connector
Raspberry Pi is on a mission is to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world. They believe that more people should be able to harness the power of computing and digital technologies for work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively.
Teensy LC – 10$
Teensy-LC is a powerful 32-bit microcontroller board, with a rich set of hardware peripherals, at a very affordable price! It features an ARM Cortex-M0+ processor at 48 MHz, 62K Flash, 8K RAM, 12-bit analog input & output, hardware Serial, SPI & I2C, USB, and a total of 27 I/O pins. See the technical specifications and pinouts below for details.
Teensy is much more than mere hardware. Teensy represents PJRC’s ongoing commitment to developing more hardware powerful together with easy-to-use software support for microcontroller programming. Sales of Teensy fund substantial engineering work to develop and support open-source software.
There are two more DIY development board that is over 10$ but brought our attention and deserves a mention here –
Onion Omega2 – 11$
Priced at a little over 10$, Omega2 is a simple and affordable board for anyone. The Omega2 IoT computer is Onion’s Linux-based, WiFi development board designed to enable makers of all skill levels to build connected hardware applications. You can plugin your Omega2 and it will boot the operating system right away, allowing you to develop in your favorite programming language, create web applications, and interface with a variety of hardware with minimal time and effort spent getting started.
At the Omega2’s core is the MT7688 SoC that features a 580 MHz MIPS CPU, supports 2.4 GHz IEEE 802.11 b/g/n WiFi as well as 10M/100M wired Ethernet network connectivity, and operates at 3.3V. The Omega2 comes with 64MB of DDR2 DRAM memory and 16MB of onboard flash storage.
The Omega was built to interact with other hardware, so it has a wide variety of hardware interfaces. It has dedicated pins for USB2.0 and Ethernet as well as 12 GPIO pins that can be controlled by the user. These GPIOs can support the I2C, UART, and SPI serial communication protocols.
The best part is that it’s tiny, measuring 1.7″ by 1″ it takes up minimal space in the project.
Micro:Bit – 15$
Micro:Bit is an open-source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK. It has now gained significant popularity across the works for its simple to use interface and easy to configure modules. Micro:Bit can be a good starter for learning computers.
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