RoadTest: NXP LPC4330-Xplorer Board
Evaluation Type: Independent Products
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?: I use NI products at work and compared this to them.
What were the biggest problems encountered?:
First of all, I wish to thank Element 14 and NXP for the opportunity to review this product.
This review has a secondary, more focused, aspect than my previous reviews. While I will still provide an overall review of the kit itself, its setup, and startup, I will also endeavor to focus in on one of the requests NXP made in the RoadTest advert:
Machine vision using either the SCT or SGPIO as a camera interface (code available from NXP)
But first, the startup….
I received the LPC4330-Xplorer board in the mail and it came with all the necessary parts to begin working right away. Upon first look, everything looked nice and tidy. The system is setup in an extremely compact package, given that it has a dual-core processor and a lot of I/O possibilities.
I started up my IDE, plugged the board in, loaded necessary drivers and was off and programming. The online support for this product is extensive – and extremely helpful, that in and of itself is a high selling point for this development kit. A user can begin with any of the many examples and modify the code as needed for their application.
The hardware used for the board is nicely laid out, except for some of the connection points being so close to other components that soldering can be tricky if you’re not practiced enough. The spacing of the through-hole connection points for I/O was such that I was able to place pin headers on the board that would go directly into my bread-board, this made it easy to connect to any sensor or other device that I needed.
I wasn’t a fan of the USB connection onto the ULINK-ME board as it was rather stiff to use and I was afraid of breaking it. However, I understand from a space saving perspective why such a connector is used.
What I’m really impressed with are the amounts of inputs and outputs on the board itself. The Audio in/out and two USB connections add a lot of functionality and give the user a wide variety of things to play with. Add that with the general IO around the entire board - and test points to easily get to them - this board provides a plethora of signal opportunities. While the ADC doesn’t have a blazing speed by some of today’s standards, it is actually very nice for the size of development board we are talking about here.
The last bit of goodness was the included SD card. This gives the developer the opportunity to log data or even run code that is swappable. This gives me a lot of flexibility in how I use this development board.
Since the KEIL ULINK-ME was provided, it was an easy choice to go with the Keil-MDK for the IDE; even though it will work with other IDEs, the integration at this point is simple. This worked out nicely as the NXP folks provided a license to use a full scale version for a short time. Getting started right out of the package was simple. In a relatively short amount of time I had the hardware version of “Hello World”, aka “Blinky”, working nicely. From there I did some simple input reading of some of the GPIO while providing some analog values. I used some of the example code on the web site to write this data to the SD card.
Machine Vision Test
One of the primary testing criteria was that of the machine vision capabilities. My premise was to compare this product with a product that I often use for machine vision – the National Instruments (NI) line of machine vision products. Currently I utilize NI for many machine vision projects. Their hardware is fast and solid on this type of data gathering and manipulation. And, as a long time NI user, the software is simple for me to get going.
This NXP is not NI caliber. And…that is a very good thing. Sometimes too much is too much.
The web site gave a direct example of how to setup a SGPIO for machine vision activities. I worked from the application Note AN11196 – Camera interface design using SPGIO. While the setup was a bit more difficult with that of NI (no plug and play here – a bit more involved) the software gave me the ability to modify analyzing routines in a more direct way.
Granted, you will be used to the programming style you use a lot of. I am very versed in the graphical programming language that NI uses, so doing work in that environment comes naturally. However, I had no problem jumping to the text based programming in the Keil system and getting this board to do what I needed.
The dual-core processor holds up nicely to the rigors of video work. While it won’t be doing the sample rates of some NI items, it still has enough muscle to do relatively well. While you won’t get HD video, you can do some image capture and analysis without any trouble. Once such possible item I may try to work it into at home is a security camera system with some analysis to try and differentiate human from animal. Simple measurement stuff, noting fancy, and it should be just fine in doing it.
For the Engineer:
If you need a simple to use, though flexible, hardware development kit – this one would do well. Its wide range of inputs and outputs gives lots of room for different projects. In range of complexity and ability it ranks between the Arduino and the Freescale Tower systems; closer to the tower systems in its ability and complexity. This development kit would especially be useful in smaller form factor projects due to its size. Its power requirements are also nice if running on battery for your project.
For the home hobbyist:
Like other items I have reviewed, this might not be what a home tinkerer starts out with if all they will work on is simple stuff. But, if you really want to cut your teeth on something that is both not too bad to set up and something that can really do some fantastic stuff – this is a good choice. A big plus for this model of hardware is all the online help available. Start there, get a feel for what it can do, and then start working your own projects.
The USB interface to the web cam is possible, as long as you can code the system to receive it and use it correctly. Hopefully there are examples out there to use.
I use NI primarily at work. They are engineered well and I like the environment. As far as the price issue...I believe you get what you pay for. (Though, at times, I do believe NI to be too high in certain areas.) Also, these companies design specifically for that application. So, their focus is there when they fine tune the design. A Pi would be good for something like this, but you would be "rolling your own" or using other user examples which means it might be less robust. In effect, Im paying for their testing to make sure it works every time.
Thanks for liking the review!
Nice review I am also intrested in machine vision, I missed this Road test so I signed up for the atmel sam4, which seems to be a blunder, hoping I could use the USB to interface with a web cam, does that sound feasible to you? I have a fe ST boards but there is no documentation on the things so I have given up on them. What NI products do you use? Why do you feel these pricey dev board are a better option than something like a PI for machine vision?