Review of MSP-EXP430FR5739

Table of contents

RoadTest: MSP-EXP430FR5739

Author: brianonn

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?: 1. almost lost some parts that were small in small anti-static bags, as I didn't (at first) see them in the box. 2. Licensing Code Composer Studio was a hassle. I know there is a free and 30-day demo version, too.

Detailed Review:

The product came with a mini USB cable and a quickstart guide.  That was the obvious things I could see, but hidden deep underneath the packaging was three more little anti-static bags that I found 3 days later. These are small and easy to miss- a 6 pin right angle male connector, a bag with 2 12-pin SIP connectors  for your own add on board to use, and a 32.768 Khz micro crystal. These might have been better packaged as part of a larger bag, rather than strewn about the inside of the box in such a way that was easy to  miss.

 

I was very happy to see that TI included the 6-pin right angled male connector. This is intended for the end-user  to solder onto the board at J4, on the emulation side, and allows you to target other TI devices. More on that later.

 

The board is well constructed, and there's plenty of extra I/O ports to build your own attachments, making it much easier to work with then the MSP430 USB dongle that I am familiar with.  One more shoutout to TI engineering thoughtfulness: they also included space to attach an EZ-RF430 dev board, which I also have and will  try out some time in the future.

 

Software was not included in the box, but that's not really a problem. It's readily available online at the TI website and easy to download. I'm a linux user, so I was hoping the software would be available for linux, but I didn't have high-hopes here.

 

On the website, I easily found the User's Guide and Quickstart Guide, and demo software.  The Quickstart Guide is a copy of what's pre-printed and included with the product, so nothing to see there.  The User's Guide is typical of Texas Instruments' great documentation.  It's clear, well written and easy to follow along.  Alas, there was no software for Linux, so I downloaded the Windows software zip file and fired up Windows XP in VirtualBox to have a go at it there.  A few years ago I was unable to use the MSP430 dev tools in a virtual machine, so hopefully things have improved now.

 

So I plugged the device into my Linux PC ... wow.. really bright blinky blue lights.  Time for the sunglasses.  I think standard brightness red or green would have been just fine for this board. However, the blue does have it's "cool" factor.

 

VirtualBox saw the device right away, as Texas Instruments MSP-FET430UIF. I selected that device and gave it to Windows XP that was running, but I got an error "Failed to attach the USB device Texas Instruments MSP-FET430UIF the the virtual machine Windows XP"  and "Failed to create a proxy device ....".  I think this might be because a linux device driver has already grabbed the device, so I go looking in  /var/log/messages and see that the CDC/ACM driver has already grabbed the device in linux.  I wanted to prevent that from happening, so I set up a VirtualBox USB filter to always give the MSP-FET430UIF device to Windows XP. Unplugging and re-plugging the USB connector, the  Windows Found New Hardware Wizard popped up, and I pointed the wizard to the unzipped files. I just downloaded. Everything seemed good.

 

The User's Guide says to double click on the MSP-EXP430FR5739GUI.exe in the subdirectory "Graphical User Interface" however there was no such directory and no such file. I did see a FRAM_GUI  directory and an FRAM_GUI.exe file, so I clicked that one instead.  This file is also mentioned in the Quickstart Guide.  However, when I ran that file, there was a Windows error:  "Windows cannot find javaw.exe. Make sure that you typed the name correctly... blah blah blah". So it looks like I need to install Java to make it work. Off to download that......install.......see way too much Oracle Red...wax nostalgic wishing for Sun Purple again (*sigh*).

 

After installing Java, the GUI game up fine, a nice dashboard mockup with speedometers. I was able to play around with the modes built into the demo software, what Texas Instruments calls the "User Experience Demo". I could see the FRAM write speeds at up to 1481kB/s, significantly faster than flash writes typically are. In this mode, with the lights blinking and the board fully powered, it drew between 9 and 13.4 mA, with an average of about 11.2 mA.  While still in this FRAM fast write test, mode 1, and powering off the LEDs and USB debug interface,  the board consumed just 755 uA of current. The demo flash write emulation showed typical flash writes at only about 8kB/s, and the rate of wear significantly higher than the wear on the FRAM writes. While in this slower FRAM write mode, the device consumed just 14.5uA of current.  FRAM is quite slick, indeed!  It was interesting to discover that the accelerometer demo, mode 3, drew 967uA and the temperature demo, mode 4, drew 1.1mA.

 

So, given my success with the demo, I decided to try my hand at writing my own blinky light application and see if I would be successful under a Virtual Machine, using Code Composer. Off to download the development IDE....

 

I wasn't impressed with the Installation of Code Composer Studio.  I didn't want to download the entire package, so I downloaded the small package and the installer would download what it needed.  However, it downloaded MS VC++ 2005 and VC++ 2008 runtimes (12MB) and installed those, both of which I already had installed on my virtual machine. It also downloaded Sun JRE 1.6.0.13 (29MB) which I already just installed JRE 1.6.0.27 for the demo GUI use, as I wrote above.  It also downloaded and installed Eclipse (109MB), which I also installed just before CCS.  It seems the Code Composer Studio software pays little  attention to what I already had available on my machine.

 

After licensing the software, I thought I would first try to see if I could at least download the demo software from within Code Composer Studio, running on the virtual machine.  I followed the User's Guide to import the project, started it up in the debugger, and I was able to connect to the hardware and single step the demo software. So no problems under the virtual machine.  I also created a new project and made a simple blinky LED, which compiled, downloaded, and ran just fine, so I was quite happy with being able to at least run the development tools under Windows in a virtual machine.

 

About that 6-pin right angled connector... I soldered it onto the board at J4, and attached my MSP-EZ430D daughter card. After removing the jumpers at J3 marked TEST,RST,RXD,TXD, VCC I was able to target and program the MSP-430F2012 on that daughter card too. Kudos to TI engineers for having foresight to include this port and the connector. See the picture attached to this review.

 

As a final step in this review, I also downloaded and installed the latest  Code Composer Studio for Linux as well, but alas there was no MSP430 support in the Linux release.

 

All in all, I am happy with the product quality and Code Composer Studio seems much improved from when I last saw it a few years ago at version 3. At that time, only IAR Workbench was worth considering.  The newest version of CCS seems very mature and well designed, and I was actually enjoying it.   I look forward to more time playing with this development kit.

 

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