Gravitech has now released a new Arduino board, the Nano ($49.99), which I think is the best one yet. I just got one, and have had a chance to compare it with the two other breadboardable Arduino options: the Stamp (AKA Mini) ($37.95--also requires a $20.99 USB board for most programming applications) and the Boarduino ($17.50 for kit, requires soldering and a $20 FTDI cable for programming).

First, the headline news: the Nano pretty much blows the Arduino Stamp/Mini away, and I would expect it to replace the Stamp in the marketplace. In most prototyping applications, a Stamp by itself is not enough--you also need the USB board, and together they are about $10 more expensive and 30% larger than the Nano (which has USB built in). The Nano also has a physical reset button and automatic hardware reset when uploading new code, while on the Stamp you have to connect another wire to get that and there is no reset button. Here are all of the Nano's technical specs and features.

The Nano also has a number of advantages compared to the Boarduino, although it's more expensive. Aside from being about half the size, it has the aforementioned automatic reset when uploading code, while the Boarduino, which uses the FTDI cable instead, requires a manual reset [UPDATE: see comments for some clarification on this]. It's also got two more analog input pins, thanks the surface-mount ATMega168 chip having more pins than Boarduino's DIP version.

As it happens, we still prefer the Boarduino in a few cases (and not just because we use its parts to make our ArduPilot and BlimpDuino kits). For certain low-power applications, such as our BlimpDuino, you want to run the ATMega at a lower clock speed than the usual 16Mhz, so in those cases you'll want to make the crystal removable. (Typically we'll put the crystal in to program the chip, then remove it to run at the lower speed). That's not possible with either the Nano or the Stamp.

Here they are all together on a breadboard for size comparison (click for larger version):


Finally, a point about breadboardable Arduino boards vs. stand-alone dev boards like the Decimila and its mini "proto shield" breadboard. The Decimila is a nice and compact combination of an Arduino, power supply and breakout connectors for the pins, but the tiny breadboard that fits on the proto shield is too small but all but the simplest projects.

For most projects I prefer to use a breadboardable Arduino with a proper full-size dev breadboard (I use a Parallax professional development board, which has loads of useful features and goodies but is too expensive if you're not planning to use Basic Stamps, too). The one shown above, for instance, is being used to prototype RC mode for our blimp controller, which is way too many wires for the little Decimila breadboard. My advice is to get a full-sized breadboard and power supply and use the Arduino Nano. I think it's the best version of the Arduino currently available.

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Comment by Jack Crossfire on June 22, 2008 at 2:15pm
The more popular Atmel becomes, the more free samples Microchip needs to offer.
Comment by ladyada on July 3, 2008 at 4:31pm
hi, just minor corrections
both the DC & USB boarduino's have 'auto-reset' which works just like an Arduino, it is described here: http://ladyada.net/make/boarduino/use.html
Also, you can use large breadboards with adafruit protoshields
http://www.ladyada.net/images/pshield/breadproto2_t.jpg

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on July 3, 2008 at 5:13pm
Hi Ladyada,

Thanks for the clarification. For those who haven't followed the link, it shows a way to change the Windows serial port settings to let the DC board auto reset over the FTDI cable, although then your code won't autorun. Point taken, although it's still not quite as easy as the USB method.

The USB Boarduino does have native autoreset (but doesn't have DC power in, so you'll need an external power supply, as with the Nano). Although it's a bit more expensive at $25 I think the addition of the USB is well worth it, and that's become one of my favorite prototyping boards.

As just one note on her example on using the protoshield with a larger breadboard: it requires that you not solder on some of the protoshield parts so as to make room for the breadboard. Totally doable, but it requires that you decide ahead of time that that's what you want to do, since the protoshield as designed can only accommodate the smaller breadboard.

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Comment by Brian on July 3, 2008 at 10:58pm
To other DIYDRONE Newbs... I totally suggest poking around ladyada's web http://www.ladyada.net It's full of very usefull details on connecting the dots. I found the boarduino tutorial very helpfull. Plus there are lots of other "projects" that help to build your skills and get ready for that big ArduPilot assembly project.

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