Review of MSP-EXP430FR5739

Table of contents

RoadTest: MSP-EXP430FR5739

Author: icserny

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?: MSP 430 Launchpad, Microchip Microstick

What were the biggest problems encountered?: - It was difficult to find the relevant webpage (the link was hidden) - It is a bit difficult to find out the role and occupancy of the I/O pins. - The figures in the earlier version of the user guide were almost unreadable (the upadte on Oct 11 solved this problem) THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS, HOWEVER, THAT MY DETAILED REVIEW DOESN'T SHOW UP!!!

Detailed Review:

Foreword

Posessing a couple of Launchpad boards I already had some knoledge about the MSP430 microcontrollers and the relevant software development tools before starting this roadtest. Therefore my point of view is naturally different from those who had never met the TI MSP430 series microcontrollers before.

 

It is difficult to decide about scoring in the case of evaluation of  a product, which  - according to the manufacturer - is still in experimental phase, and the related materials are updated during the evaluation period. To be honest I will give scores according the present state of the product, but in the text below I give information about the earlier problems, and about  the further possibilities to improve the documents.

 

Package content

The MSP-EXP430FR5739 kit came in a small black carton box, very similar to that of the Launchpad Starter Kit. (I think, however,  the little rocket - the logo of the Launchpad board - was a bit nicer than the logo of the FRAM board). The box contained the following items:

  • MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board
  • USB mini-B  cable - to debug and powering the board
  • couple of 12 pin female headers
  • small bended 6 pin male header
  • 32.768kHz  SMT micro crystal.
  • Quick Start Guide
  • a declaration about the experimental status of the board

 

Hardware

The MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board is a compact development platform for the  new generation of MSP430 microcontroller devices with integrated Ferroelectric Random Access Memory (FRAM). The board contains an MSP430FR5739 16-bit microcontroller (16KB FRAM / 1KB SRAM), an on-board programmer/debugger, 3 axis accelerometer, NTC Thermistor, 8 LED's, 2 user input pushbuttons, connectors for the MCU's I/O pins and for  Wireless Daughter Cards (CCxxxx RF).

Software installation

The kit does not contain any software or detailed documentation. Development software, USB driver, example programs, the source of the "user experience" demo and the User Guide should be downloaded from the Internet. However, it was a bit difficult to find the relevant information. The Quick Start Guide directs to the web address http://ti.com/FRAM which is easy to remember. However, this is not the page you need. You mast click to step further, in order to reach the "homepage" of the MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board. Alas, the relevant link is hidden, so it may take some time until one detects, that the "Buy now" link doesn't guide to the webshop but to the other page mentioned above.

 

Suggestion:  I think this situation should be made clear. It would be nice to see two links here: one link that guides to the "homepage of the board", and says something like "Further info", and another link which guides direction to the TI E-store, and says "Buy now".

There are several possibilities for the software development:

IAR Embedded Workbench for MSP430 (IDE, assembler, C/C++ compiler, Simulator, debugger). The free version (Kickstart Edition) is size limited: 8 kB code can be produced for the MSP430-X cores (the MSP430FR5739 falls into this category).

 

Code Composer Studio (Eclipse based IDE, assembeler, C/C++ compiler, debugger). The free version is size limited (16 kB code can be generated), but this doesn't limits the development in our case, since the MSP430FR5739 has 16 kB program memory.

 

CrossWorks for MSP430 (IDE, assembler, C/C++ compiler, simulator, debugger). The free version is time limited (30 days evaluation).

 

MSPGCC - the GCC toolchain for the Texas Instruments MSP430 MCUs (command line tools, C compiler, file format conversion etc.). I have tried it under Windows, combinig the GCC tools with the MSP430Flash.exe command line tool.

 

I already had installed all of the software packages mentioned above, and the USB driver (which installs itself automaticly together with the IDEs IAR or CCS), so I could start the factory demo immediately.

 

Playing with the preprogrammed demo

The MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board comes preprogrammed with a demo application (FRAM User Experience Demo). It can be used in two modes:

  • Demo as a standalone application (here the LEDs and swiches are used for user interaction, and the USB cable is used only to supply the power
  • Demo communicates also with the PC. This mode needs the USB driver and the GUI program installed. The GUI program was developed by using the free Processing development platform, therefore the Java run time environment (JRE) should be installed too. You need the 32-bit version of the JRE even if you use a 64-bit operating system, or you should install Processing to recompile the demo GUI application in 64-bit mode.

The demo has four parts:

  1. Max write speed demonstration
  2. Flash write speed emulation
  3. Fast sampling with writes using the accelerometer
  4. Fast sampling with writes using Thermistor

 

All of these worked well int he standalone mode, but there were some minor problems int the GUI (PC communication) mode: the status of the LEDs were not displayed ont he screen at all! I tried to find the source of the problem: installed the Processing development platform, and checked the data received. It turned out that tho GUI receives garbage (or unusable data) in the position of the LED status information. Then I've checked the source of the firmware but could not see any error. Finally it turned out that the downloaded source was correct, but the original firmware burned into my card was wrong (or an earlier, uncompatible version from a previous stage of the development). After downloading the recompiled source into the MCU, everything worked as expected.

 

Suggestion:  It would be nice to see a warning message on the "homeppage of the board" saying that You may have recompile the demo if it doesn't show the status of the LEDs.

Benefits of embedded FRAM

  • Ultra-low-power Read/Write With Increased Throughput - Read and writes require just 1.5V unlike Flash and EEPROM. FRAM consumes 250x less power than Flash-based devices when running at equal speed (12kB/s).
  • True Unified Memory - FRAM allows developers to use the same memory block to function as program memory or data memory.
  • Unmatched data throughput - MSP430 with embedded FRAM speeds up to 1400 kB/s. FRAM can write more than 100x faster than flash, while consuming less power.
  • Virtually Unlimited Write Endurance - 10^14 cycles, this is 10,000,000,000 times better than Flash!
  • Inherently Secure and Radiation-Resistant - Since FRAM is crystal-based, rather than charge-based, its Terrestrial Soft Error Rate is below detection limits and is not susceptible to radiation.

 

Most of the embedded application can benefit from the above listed properties, however the ara applications which would not be possible (or would be very complicated) without the possibileties provided by the embedded FRAM memory of the MSP430FR5739 microcontroller.

 

I am thinking about the reconstruction of my old FORTH-like interpreter which was developed in the early 80-ies by using an Intel 8085 microprocessor. The benefit of the FRAM here would be the possibility to store the user defined commands is the non-volatile FRAM memory, turning the MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board into an interactive development platform which would be quite useful in the education (in a course about the MSP430 MCUs).

 

To be continued...

Anonymous
  • Nice review

    Thanks! But the most interestin parts are still missing, since I have to fight with the forum motor of the Element14 website. ( I can't understad why the detailed review is not shown).

    Who would have thought that the "buy it now" link would take you to the board info page and not to the store xD

    Exactly! That's why I suggested the clarification of these links.

  • Nice review

    Seems like you found the same issues I had with the documentation and supporting software. Who would have thought that the "buy it now" link would take you to the board info page and not to the store xD

  • Unfortunately my detailed review doesn't show up in the above windows so I try to publish it here:Foreword
    Posessing  a couple of Launchpad boards I already had some knowledge about the  MSP430 microcontrollers and the relevant software development tools  before starting this roadtest. Therefore my point of view is naturally  different from those who had never met the TI MSP430 series  microcontrollers before.
     
    It  is difficult to decide about scoring in the case of evaluation of  a  product, which  - according to the manufacturer - is still in  experimental phase, and the related materials are updated during the  evaluation period. To be honest I will give scores according the present state of the product, but in the text below I give information about the  earlier problems, and about  the further possibilities to improve the  documents.
     
    Package content
    The MSP-EXP430FR5739 kit came in a small black carton box, very similar to that of the  Launchpad Starter Kit. (I think, however,  the little rocket – the logo  of the Launchpad board – was a bit nicer than the logo of the FRAM  board). The box contained the following items:
    • MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board
    • USB mini-B  cable - to debug and powering the board
    • couple of 12 pin female headers
    • small bended 6 pin male header
    • 32.768kHz  SMT micro crystal.
    • Quick Start Guide
    • a declaration about the experimental status of the board

     

    Hardware
    The  MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board is a compact development platform  for the  new generation of MSP430 microcontroller devices with  integrated Ferroelectric Random Access Memory (FRAM). The board contains  an MSP430FR5739 16-bit microcontroller (16KB FRAM / 1KB SRAM), an  on-board programmer/debugger, 3 axis accelerometer, NTC Thermistor, 8  LED's, 2 user input pushbuttons, connectors for the MCU’s I/O pins and  for  Wireless Daughter Cards (CCxxxx RF).
    Software installation
    The  kit does not contain any software or detailed documentation.  Development software, USB driver, example programs, the source of the  „user experience” demo and the User Guide should be downloaded from the  Internet. However, it was a bit difficult to find the relevant  information. The Quick Start Guide directs to the web address http://ti.com/FRAM which is easy to remember. However, this is not the page you need. You  mast click to step further, in order to reach the „homepage” of the  MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board. Alas, the relevant link is hidden,  so it may take some time until one detects, that the „Buy now” link  doesn’t guide to the webshop but to the other page mentioned above.
     
    Suggestion:   I think this situation should be made clear. It would be nice to see  two links here: one link that guides to the „homepage of the board”, and  says something like „Further info”, and another link which guides  directio to the TI E-store, and says „Buy now”.
    There are several possibilities for the software development:
    IAR Embedded Workbench for MSP430 (IDE, assembler, C/C++ compiler, Simulator, debugger). The  free version (Kickstart Edition) is size limited: 8 kB code can be  produced for the MSP430-X cores (the MSP430FR5739 falls into this  category).
     
    Code Composer Studio (Eclipse based IDE, assembeler, C/C++ compiler, debugger). The free  version is size limited (16 kB code can be generated), but this doesn’t  limits the development in our case, since the MSP430FR5739 has 16 kB  program memory.
     
    CrossWorks for MSP430 (IDE, assembler, C/C++ compiler, simulator, debugger). The free version is time limited (30 days evaluation).
     
    MSPGCC - the GCC toolchain for the Texas Instruments MSP430 MCUs (command line  tools, C compiler, file format conversion etc.). I have tried it under  Windows, combinig the GCC tools with the MSP430Flash.exe command line  tool.
     
    I  already had installed all of the software packages mentioned above, and  the USB driver (which installs itself automaticly together with the  IDEs IAR or CCS), so I could start the factory demo immediately.
     
    Playing with the preprogrammed demo
    The MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board comes preprogrammed with a demo application (FRAM User Experience Demo). It can be used in two modes:
    • Demo as a standalone application (here the LEDs and swiches are used  for user interaction, and the USB cable is used only to supply the  power
    • Demo communicates also with the PC. This mode needs the USB driver  and the GUI program installed. The GUI program was developed by using  the free Processing development platform, therefore the Java run time  environment (JRE) should be installed too. You need the 32-bit version  of the JRE even if you use a 64-bit operating system, or you should  install Processing to recompile the demo GUI application in 64-bit mode.
    The demo has four parts:
    1. Max write speed demonstration
    2. Flash write speed emulation
    3. Fast sampling with writes using the accelerometer
    4. Fast sampling with writes using Thermistor
     
    All  of these worked well int he standalone mode, but there were some minor  problems int the GUI (PC communication) mode: the status of the LEDs  were not displayed ont he screen at all! I tried to find the source of  the problem: installed the Processing development platform, and checked  the data received. It turned out that tho GUI receives garbage (or  unusable data) in the position of the LED status information. Then I’ve  checked the source of the firmware but could not see any error. Finally  it turned out that the downloaded source was correct, but the original  firmware burned into my card was wrong (or an earlier, uncompatible  version from a previous stage of the development). After downloading the  recompiled source into the MCU, everything worked as expected.
     
    Suggestion:  It would be nice to see a warning message ont he „homeppage of the board” saying that You may have recompile the demo if it doesn’t show the status of the LEDs.
     
    Benefits of embedded FRAM
    • Ultra-low-power Read/Write With Increased Throughput – Read and  writes require just 1.5V unlike Flash and EEPROM. FRAM consumes 250x  less power than Flash-based devices when running at equal speed  (12kB/s).
    • True Unified Memory – FRAM allows developers to use the same memory block to function as program memory or data memory.
    • Unmatched data throughput – MSP430 with embedded FRAM speeds up to  1400 kB/s. FRAM can write more than 100x faster than flash, while  consuming less power.
    • Virtually Unlimited Write Endurance – 10^14 cycles, this is 10,000,000,000 times better than Flash!
    • Inherently Secure and Radiation-Resistant – Since FRAM is crystal-based, rather than charge-based, its Terrestrial Soft Error Rate is below detection limits and is not susceptible to radiation.
     
    Most  of the embedded application can benefit from the above listed  properties, however the ara applications which would not be possible (or  would be very complicated) without the possibileties provided by the  embedded FRAM memory of the MSP430FR5739 microcontroller.
     
    I  am thinking about the reconstruction of my old FORTH-like interpreter  which was developed in the early 80-ies by using an Intel 8085  microprocessor. The benefit of the FRAM here would be the possibility to  store the user defined commands is the non-volatile FRAM memory,  turning the MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenter Board into an interactive  development platform which would be quite useful in the education (in a  course about the MSP430 MCUs).
     
    To be continued...