Welcome to the 2021 Boards Guide! It’s often said, when you’re looking to make a project, be sure to use the right tool for the job - in this case, the right board for your electronics endeavor. With that in mind, this guide is designed to help you find the perfect brain for your creation. We’ve gathered the latest and greatest boards available including microcontrollers, single board computers and FPGAs for all your Robotics, AI and IoT needs. So don't be BORED, find a BOARD and Start Making!
A Chip is Born – Read about the all-new amazing RP2040 chip and how it is reshaping the development board market. This new chip was designed for ease of development and low cost. Within the first few months of the chip launch, there were over 60 distinct boards that have been created by multiple different companies and makers alike.
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Designed by Raspberry Pi, RP2040 features a dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ processor with 264KB internal RAM and support for up to 16MB of off-chip Flash. A wide range of flexible I/O options includes I2C, SPI, and — uniquely — Programmable I/O (PIO). These support endless possible applications for this small form factor.
The micro:bit V2 is designed around the Nordic Semiconductor nRF52833 Bluetooth LE microcontroller. The board includes an accelerometer, magnetometer / compass, two user configurable buttons, a 5x5 LED matrix that can also serve as a light sensor, and a capacitive touch logo. The micro:bit measures 4 cm by 5 cm, is available in a range of colors, and is designed to be fun and easy to use. Built-in Bluetooth 5.1 for easy connection to numerous devices. The bottom of the board has a card-edge style connector with five large contacts for expansion via alligator clips and additional contacts provide a total of 19 GPIO.
This tiny little board is part USB key, part microcontroller, emphasis on the micro. Coming in just slightly longer than a quarter, but even thinner, this board is perfect for simple tasks such as notifications or hot keys. The M0 processor can more than handle the four built-in RGB NeoPixel LEDs and two capacitive touch pads. The Neo Trinkey is one of many Trinkeys in a new line from Adafruit.
The diminutive Nano Connect RP2040’s wireless connectivity (both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth/BLE) provide compatibility to the Arduino Cloud for IoT endeavors. A built-in microphone input and the 6-axis inertial sensor allows for onboard environmental awareness. Its 133MHz RP2040 chip offers speeds beyond those of the other Arduino Nano variants, and the 16MB of processor-external memory is enough for advanced tasks.
The MicroMod system puts interchangeable processors onto M.2-socket-laden boards, allowing users to jump between platforms by simply swapping the modules on the carrier board, of which there are many options. The Teensy MicroMod puts the ridiculously fast (up to 600MHz!) Teensy processor into numerous scenarios. If you need speed, this is worth a look.
This postage stamp-sized board really brings the micro to microcontroller. It’s tiny enough to fit anywhere, but, powered by the RP2040 chip, still offers 4 ADCs, a debug port, an RGB LED, and 8 Megs of storage. Pimoroni even set it up to allow the boot button to double as a user input — a surprisingly handy feature.
The Stamp Pico is an incredibly compact controller, even with its heat-resistant plastic front cover installed. Based on the ESP32-PICO-D4, it offers wireless integration with the UIFlow programming software, allowing for simple and fast application development. Compatibility with other M5Stack components will let you build almost any project idea, quick and easy.
Debugging a microcontroller project can be a specialized skill. The new AVR-based Curiosity Nano board from Microchip makes that a lot less painful by including a hardware debugger directly on the board itself. Program in Atmel Studio 7 or MPLAB X IDE. Compatible with growing list of adapters and sensors for evaluation and full project making.
The Jetson Xavier NX offers seriously impressive performance. Where other devices may allow you to handle one AI task at a time, the Xavier NX is powerful enough to run multiple such tasks. This makes it a great device for robotics projects that navigate around a room while also identifying humans and responding to their commands.
Most maker-focused SBCs run Linux, while only a few offer Windows support. New to the scene, Hackboard 2 goes all in on that with Windows 10 running on a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N4020. Configurable options allow for up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. It’s capable of being a desktop computer, but the 40-pin GPIO still let you tinker away. (And don’t worry, it’ll do Linux too.)
Use the “Boards Guide” augmented reality app to watch the pros weigh in on their favorite boards, what they’ve been working on, and surprises they have seen.