Soapbox: My Top 10 Favorite Arduino-Compatible “Clones” and Derivatives

Soapbox: My Top 10 Favorite Arduino-Compatible “Clones” and Derivatives

My article last week about Arduino counterfeits (as in companies actually using the Arduino name, logo, and trademark) and selling them as real Arduinos had some lively debate. Opinion articles are always interesting, because you get a huge spectrum of comments. A variety of opinions were represented for sure: there are folks who think it’s OK to counterfeit because trademarks can’t be enforced all the time around the world. It was also suggested we can’t have or promote open source values like sharing our code and designs and still value intellectually property like trademarks, patents, and copyrights. I don’t see these as incompatible thing: open source works because it’s built on copyright as just one example. This is completely compatible with running a successful business, too, and Red Hat is a good example.

I also heard a few “open source hardware is doomed” comments because we cannot protect our IP. Maybe that will eventually be true for all hardware, but I never met anyone doing really great OSHW who assumed there was any protection possible for the physical bits. Nothing is slowing down the innovation in open source hardware. There are plenty of industries that are basically “open source,” like fashion and food, that are thriving without protection besides trademarks and copyrights (maybe patents, but not really). I think we’ll be OK :)

Anyway, instead of letting a few commenters imply I was down on Arduino “clones,” I’m going to do a top-10 list. A “clone” is sometimes called counterfeit and vice versa, but since the two words are sometimes interchanged I’m going to call any “clone” an “Arduino-compatible” just to be super clear. I make a living co-designing, developing, shipping, and supporting Arduino accessories as well as Arduino-compatibles with Limor “Ladyada” Fried and have a nice collection, including an original Arduino I’m trying to get the Computer History Museum to display.

Why are these compatibles on this list? I really like Arduino-compatibles that add value; that’s my opinion and I think that’s what most OSHW makers are doing. By “add value” I mean it’s not just a straight-up identical copy of something or using a trademark from someone else, but instead the creator has actually added something more and shared their design. Maybe it’s lower cost, maybe it’s a new feature, but there’s actual real value added. At the end of the top-10 list I have compatibles that MAKE sells or ones that Adafruit or myself have worked on; I didn’t think it would be fair to put them in a top-10 list, but they’re part of my favorites — skip those if you believe they’re only there for any other reason. Don’t forget to add yours in the comments too.

Here we go!

Pt 948
Diavolino from Evil Mad Science: Super low-cost Arduino-compatible. It’s $13.

The LilyPad Arduino by Leah Buechley: A microcontroller board designed for wearables and e-textiles. It can be sewn to fabric and similarly mounted power supplies, sensors, and actuators with conductive thread. I liked this so much, but wanted more features, so I’m co-designing a wearable Arduino-compatible called the Flora.

Freeduino5 750Px
Freeduino is a collaborative open source project to replicate and publish Arduino-compatible hardware files. The Freeduino Eagle SCH, BRD, and Gerber production files allow users to create boards that are 100% functionally, electrically, and physically compatible with Arduino hardware. One of the first efforts to have an Arduino-compatible.

Nanode Ethernet Enabled Arduino Board
Nanode is an open source Arduino-like board that has built-in web connectivity. It’s a low-cost platform for creative development of web-connected ideas. The Nanode was developed in the U.K. by Ken Boak in cooperation with London Hackerspace.

The FreakLabs Freakduino-Chibi is designed for rapid prototyping, experimentation, and deployment of wireless designs at low cost. It has an integrated wireless radio for an inexpensive wireless prototyping system.

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Seeeduino Film is an Arduino-compatible development platform for space-sensitive projects. It’s flexible and super slim. Maybe my #1 favorite.

The Teensy is a complete USB-based microcontroller development system, in a very small footprint, capable of implementing many types of projects. It’s super small, and the support from the maker is legendary.

ProtoSnap series from Sparkfun: This is a clever why-didn’t-I-think-of-that design. Each ProtoSnap device comes shipped pre-wired and ready to use — all you have to do is program them.

Sanguino: A red-colored microcontroller board based on the ATmega644P. Handy when you need more horsepower.

Illuminato::Genesis by Liquidware: Arduino-compatible, 42 I/O pins, and 64K code space for bigger DIY projects. Liquidware, in my opinion, makes the most beautiful, dark, gothy boards out there.

Photo Zoom1-3
Not in the list because I’m connected to them in some way, but they’re in my favorites. Boarduino: one of the first Arduino-compatibles made to fit on a breadboard, designed by Ladyada. And the new Menta that Ladyada, myself, and MAKE developed together. It fits in a mint tin with a huge prototyping area.

OK, post up YOUR favorite clones, er, Arduino-compatibles in the comments!

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