Every year, companies big and small release scores of new microcontrollers, increasing the processing power and features we have access to.
Sorting through the options can be the hardest part of a project, so we’ve selected our hot new board highlights in four key categories: Education, Robotics, IoT, and Art.
These stand out for their advanced specs, built-in offerings, and in some cases, for their innovative interface options.
Robotics is a field that encompasses a lot of different skill sets — to make a great bot you need to work with mechanical engineering, electronics, and programming. This can be quite a task for a team, let alone a single developer trying to make his or her own concept come to life. One way to make your development processes easier is to start with a board that is designed to help you build a robot. Any microcontroller can be a start, but having a board that has built-in features like motor controllers and sensors can get your bot rolling, walking, or wiggling with less development time.
Check out our reviews for the Beaglebone Blue and the NVIDIA Jetson TX2.
While any board on the market — especially some of the venerable classics — is going to be a learning experience, these two boards have a step up on the game. When picking educational boards, we looked at the curriculum and guides available for the platforms, along with how they could be best used in an educational setting. If you are a teacher, we think these have something to offer you and your students.
Read the reviews for the Arduino 101 and the BBC Micro:bit.
For better or worse, we are connecting everything to the internet. Startups are racing to connect our coffee pots, cars, doors, and even our pets. Some makers are just going to connect things to the internet for their own enjoyment. Whatever your interest, a good internet-connected board will help immensely — getting an IoT prototype to work quickly can be the key to winning a hackathon or even getting the VC
money. Our IoT picks both come with wireless connectivity that will help you create your own platform or put your device on an existing one.
Our top picks for IoT boards are the Raspberry Pi Zero W and the Adafruit Feather Huzzah.
Wearables, art installations, and other creative projects all come with their own challenges. Boards with unique features out of the box can bring useful solutions to these types of endeavors. Boards that also offer well-documented libraries for these features save the user programming time, which can be even more important. Our art board picks have sensors and outputs that help make interesting projects easy and fun, and that make programming with them as simple as possible.
For art boards, we like the Adafruit Circuit Playground and the Sparkfun Microview.