By Xiang-Yang Lu
When it comes to Arduino, the first thing that most people think of is the Arduino Uno development board. In fact, Arduino has made an official announcement that it hopes to bring the entire industry to a higher level that is more professional. For this reason, most of its newly launched development boards have become the Arm MCUs that are 32-bit, which are more compatible with the previous Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE). In this way, the vast majority of developers who are already familiar with the Arduino IDE can use better circuit boards without changing their habits of coding, where there can be better computing power and more complex applications applied.
The following is a brief overview of Arduino’s old and new development boards and their positioning.
Classic Arduino Boards
For starters, there are the Arduino Uno, the development boards with similar MCU setting, and the Arduino Zero that attempted using the 32-bit Cortex-M0+ core in the early days. These two are categorized as the classic boards today.
As of mid-April 2022, there are eight types of boards in the classic categories, 3 of which compatible to shields daughter cards, while the rest and their daughter cards decommissioned and will no longer be produced. The other decommissioned ones also include hardware kits and software function libraries. For more information, check out the following URL:https://docs.arduino.cc/retired/
MKR family & Nano family
There are two new families of development boards that Makers may find handy. One is the MKR family, which is mainly used for wireless communication, and the other is the Nano family that features small-sized boards. Both of them adopt the Arm MCUs that are 32-bit.
The MKR family features 9 boards, each of which is known for application of one wireless communication function. The MKR family is suitable for IoT applications in sensor nodes and gateways for light workloads. The MKR family has 9 daughter cards available for expansion in GPS positioning and IMU inertial measurement.
As for the Nano family, the past 8-bit AVR MCUs, such as Arduino Nano and Arduino Nano Every, were introduced used for small space applications, but most of the new boards coming out have been using 32-bit Arm MCUs. There is even the use of RP2040, an MCU chip launched by Raspberry Pi.
The Nano family is also compatible with the past Arduino IDE development methods, while it also supports the MicroPython programming language. Machine learning is also applicable due to increased computing power.
Arduino Pro series
In the hope of bringing various software and hardware technologies from educational learning and Maker’s interests to more practical applications in industries, Arduino launches the Arduino Pro series, which include four families: Portenta, Nicla, MKR, and Nano.
Since it is called the Pro series, in addition to better specifications and functions, they also feature more designs that facilitate practical applications.
In fact, there are some differences in the classification of boards launched by Arduino. The above overview is an abstract from the information found on the Arduino Hardware web page, while the information found on the Arduino Documentation web page suggests different.
In addition, the information on the number of boards in each family is also slightly different. The Arduino Documentation page only lists Portenta as the Arduino Pro series, along with other carrier boards, such as the Braccio Carrier for educational purpose, which are not categorized under any family. These, however, are not shown on the Arduino Hardware page.
Despite the information differences, it does not affect users’ choice of boards. It is hoped that the above information will be helpful to Makers, when it comes to choosing Arduino boards for their use.