Byte-Sized Introduction to Arduino Part 2: What are the Arduino Boards?

Byte-Sized Introduction to Arduino Part 2: What are the Arduino Boards?

Author's Note:

Hello! What lies below is the first post in our "Byte-Sized Introduction to Arduino" series -- what we hope becomes the de-facto introduction to Arduino and the Arduino ecosystem, for those taking their first steps.

Interested in skipping around? You can see the available articles below:

 

In the last post we discussed what a microcontroller is and how it differs from devices with more discrete chips (like your smart phone or personal computer). Then, we briefly touched on how microcontrollers differ from Arduino, and a high-level overview of the Arduino Ecosystem itself; giving us a little bit of context to move forward with.

Now, in this post, we're going to be discussing our three favorite Arduino Boards, and their purposes. Each microcontroller board released has a general niche that it fills, which brings with it varying levels of "power" (specs) and functionality.

As we did with the last article, we will focus on more high-level concepts, while throwing bits of lower-level concepts in here and there.

And, with that... Let's begin!

Arduino Uno

The Arduino Uno is one of the most general-purpose microcontroller boards that Arduino has to offer.

This board can handle nearly all small-to-medium DIY projects you throw at it, while being absolutely within a reasonable price range -- especially if you keep an eye out for Arduino-like Uno boards!

This amazing little board can even handle most homemade robotics projects you throw at it as well! Thinking of building your own Roomba-style Vacuum? It's definitely plausible with the Uno.

One thing to note is that the Uno cannot act as a USB communication device itself. Meaning, the Arduino Uno cannot, without an external component, send data/signals to devices connected via USB. For this, you'd need to search for a module, or look at the Arduino Leonardo (below).

Specs
On-Board Microcontroller ATmega328P
Operating Voltage 5V
Input Voltage (recommended) 7-12V
Input Voltage (limit) 6-20V
Digital I/O Pins 14 (6 capable of Pulse-Width Modulation)
Analog Pins 6
Flash Memory 32 KB (2 KB used by the bootloader)

 

How to buy?

The UNO Rev3 board can be purchased as Arduino-authentic or Arduino-like.

  Arduino-like Arduino
Price $18.99 $23.00
Link Buy Here Buy Here

 

Arduino Leonardo

The Arduino Leonardo is one of the classic Arduino boards, and holds a similar niche as the Uno.

When looking at the board at a high level, and ignoring more difficult/resource intensive projects, the core difference from the Uno is that the microcontroller embedded on the Leonardo enables for a plug-and-play style USB communication. What we mean by plug-and-play USB communication is the capability for you to program the board to act like a USB device -- meaning it can talk to a computer through USB communication.

With the enabled USB communication of the Leonardo, you can create anything from a USB file-sharing system, to a custom keyboard, mouse, and so much more!

Specs
On-Board Microcontroller ATmega32u
Operating Voltage 5V
Input Voltage (recommended) 7-12V
Input Voltage (limit) 6-20V
Digital I/O Pins 20 (7 capable of Pulse-Width Modulation, 12 capable of Analog)
Flash Memory 32 KB (4 KB used by the bootloader)

How to buy?

The Leonardo board can be purchased as Arduino-authentic or Arduino-like.

  Arduino-like Arduino
Price $16.99 $20.70
Link Buy Here Buy Here

 

Arduino Nano

The Arduino Nano is the go-to Arduino board for your size-matters project.  This tiny board packs a serious punch for its size, bringing near the same power as an Arduino Uno in its small form factor.

The Arduino Nano is packing a slightly less powerful microcontroller than the Uno (but still far capable enough for nearly all projects for its size!). And, the Nano drops the DC Power Jack in favor of a micro USB Type-B connector for power.

This is definitely the go-to microcontroller board for your next [physically] small idea!

Specs
On-Board Microcontroller ATmega328
Operating Voltage 5V
Input Voltage (recommended) 7-12V
Digital I/O Pins 22 (6 capable of Pulse-Width Modulation, 12 capable of Analog)
Analog IN Pins 8
Flash Memory 32 KB (4 KB used by the bootloader)

How to buy?

The Nano board can be purchased as Arduino-authentic or Arduino-like.

  Arduino-like Arduino
Price $11.99 $20.70
Link Buy Here Buy Here

Closing Thoughts

While we may have only introduced three of our go-to Arduino Boards, there are so many other niche boards available. So many in fact that one could maybe feel quite overwhelmed with the options.

Just remember, as with all things STEM -- keep it simple, think outside of the box (be creative!), be patient while learning, and have fun!

Author's Note:

Still a little unsure of where to start? If you're itching to dive into an Arduino-powered project, but still are unsure of which board to get, we absolutely recommend the affordable Arduino-like Uno board that we offer!

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