Even you’re a beginner or an advanced user in electronics, Arduino is the most common word when DIY hardware project involving robotics is underway. Why? There are many reasons and the whole community behind the Arduino work for simplicity and to offer advantages when this open-source electronics platform is used in education or by hobbyists to electronics projects.
Depending on project requirements, an Arduino alternative may be a good choice to simplify and finish the project with less resource. From simple to complex, on the market are available a long list with alternatives for Arduino platform.
Arduino is a cross-platform compatible with Windows, OS X, and Linux. Not all Arduino alternatives have this feature, and this could be a disadvantage when the software application has to run on different platforms. Most of these microcontroller based boards are limited to one operating system.
A friendly programming environment, the software and extensible hardware are important features of an integrated system. While Arduino has a friendly programming environment, an extensible software based on C++ libraries, and extensible hardware based on Atmel architecture, some of the Arduino alternatives could be a good choice while some of these are not as flexible on the hardware or software.
Alternative Arduino Boards
Based on 16 MHz AVR processor, the Teensy board is an alternative for Arduino with a small footprint and a number of 25 I/O pins for the cheapest version while the most expensive version has 46 I/O pins. Compatible with Mac OS X, Linux or Windows, Teensy has the features opened via USB port and comes with friendly software development tools.
02. Beagle Bone A6
With 256 MB DDR2 and based on ARM Cortex-A8 processor with a frequency of 700 MHz, Beagle is one of the most powerful boards used for embedded systems. Beagle Bone is shipped with 4GB MicroSD card and comes with preloaded Angstrom Linux. The latest version is A6, has a compact design, and has the necessary power to run vision software like OpenCV designed to be used in robotics application for objects recognition or to interpret the gesture.
03. chipKIT Uno32
An impressive number of 42 I/O pins are available on Uno32 while a PIC32MX320F128 processor control all the I/O signals. The board is very friendly with Arduino code as well as compatible with many types of Arduino shields.
04. chipKIT Max32
If Uno32 board comes with 42 I/O pins, Max32 is much more equipped and comes with 83 available I/O pins ready to control any sensor for your robotic project. The brain is a PIC32MX795F512 processor and is compatible with Arduino code.
Diavolino is powered by ATmega328P microcontroller and is a low-cost alternative board for Arduino. It has available on a side 12 I/O pin while the other side another 16 I/O pin.
Based on 32-bit architecture for microcontrollers, STM32 is a budget alternative for Arduino boards with a long list of development tools.
Romeo interface with many robotic parts like sensors and actuators through 14 digital I/O and 8 analog I/O pins. The brain of the board is an ATMega 328 microcontroller and has three different possibilities for powering the sensors or electric motors. The board already has integrated wireless module interface for data transmission as well as a Bluetooth module for the interface.
08. MEGA 2560
Compatible with Google’s ADK, the MEGA 2560 board is perfect for integration with Arduino accessories to control robots. Like many other boards, MEGA is based on Atmel microcontroller and uses 16 analog input pins to interface with hardware parts. It is not the cheapest Arduino alternative, but certainly is the best board that can be used to interface with Android accessories.
With an integrated native USB module, the Pinguino is one of the best integrated IDE compatible with OS X, Linux, and Windows. The Pinguino is based on PIC microcontroller and is built with Python. Compared with Arduino, Pinguino has in addition features like native USB interface and a preprocessor designed to reduce the code length and the time of execution.
Designed for beginners as well as experienced users, MSP430 is a cheap alternative to Arduino development tool and is based on microcontroller. The board can be used in robotic microcontroller-based applications and offer all necessary systems to start a project. The LaunchPad has available 14 and 20 I/O pins and a user-friendly interface for programming, debugging, and monitoring the applications.
Designed for small robotic projects, Botboarduino has available 20 I/O pins for digital inputs or outputs, and can control up to 18 servos.
Based on ATmega328, DFRduino offers 30 I/O pins for robotic sensors and actuators. The board has integrated library for robotic applications and is a good alternative for Arduino in robotics projects intended for beginners.
Boarduino is an ATmega168 based Arduino clone with small dimensions for small robotic projects. Up to 6 standard I/O pins are available for embedding robotic parts like sensors and actuators.
Theoretical Netduino is an alternative for Arduino, practical is maybe the best alternative for Arduino. Based on STMicro STM32F2, the board runs .NET Micro Framework 4.2 and offer 22 digital I/O pins for interfacing with robotic parts.
Based on a 32-bit ARM chip, Galapo started as a kickstarter project and integrate incredible electronics features. The board has available 25 digital I/O pins and as a development environment is C and C++ compatible. It has small dimensions and offer free tools for debugging and monitoring the applications.
Funnel and the ATmega168 microcontroller does a good job for interfacing sensors or actuators while Action Script 3, Processing, or Ruby programming language is used.