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?: For simple items, this doesnt win me over from the Arduino Mega. However, as I get into more complex items, this would be a good second step.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Having a dedicated tool kit, like Arduino, is always nice for the newbie. But, as there are 4 possible IDEs - with free versions - its usable.
Thanks to element14 for allowing me to Road Test this product.
This board is much like the STM32F4 kit that I road tested 7 months ago. Much of what I stated then is still true. For a recap of that, read the bottom of this post.
The online resources are quite helpful for this product. They include the PCB layout and schematics which are helpful for making sure the signals you are connecting are the ones you want. This saves time as you don’t have to trace things out with a DMM.
Also online are a number of user manuals including the very helpful “UM1523: Getting started with software and firmware environments…” which helps the user get acquainted with the way this F0 operates with its firmware.
Lastly, there are examples of firmware for the development kit. Happily they have included examples for each of the 4 different IDEs. This allows a newbie to jump into code quickly. And other happy note, the example code is extremely well commented to help users guide through what is going on.
As an added bonus, the resources also include examples for Arduino and a few other kits as comparison. This is helpful to those who want to make the jump from the very beginner friendly (yet nicely loaded) Arduino to a higher end processor with a little more power and functionality.
The board itself has an excellent layout. Each signal is easily accessible for connection with jumper wires or solder. The included proto-board, while nothing overly special, is helpful in doing some simple proto work. The pin spacing of the headers matches my bread boards so that’s a nice plus – although the size of the dev. board does mean a lot of proto space used up.
The IO available gives the hobbyist and engineer a good list to choose from including 55 fast I/Os, 1 12-bit ADC and one 12-bit D/A. Granted, for larger project more ADC and D/A might be needed but given the small form factor of this chip it’s a nice start. Reading the list of key features let me know quickly that the chip has a lot of handy items, such as the timers and the number of communication interfaces – one being the HDMI CEC interface, which is nice to see.
The memory on the chip is more than enough for the beginner getting started, though it might limit out quickly for the engineer who plans to use a majority of the I/O on any one project.
Overall – Engineer
This kit will be very useful for small projects that I need to do at work; robotics control and even some low level data acquisition. I downloaded the free tool chain to start out and everything was straightforward. However, I’m not sure I will be up to the PRO version of any software as I can’t see a justification in price when compared to the tool kits that I use for other processors.
Overall – Home Hobbyist
This is a good second step from the Arduino, especially considering the examples that help to bridge the gap. You can begin with the free development tools and work up to those that cost if you need the extra bells and whistles. When Arduino starts to limit your projects (although the Mega is pretty powerful) this may be a good next step.
What I am using it for
One of the projects that I have started is upgrading an old Omni bot with a new brain. I think this dev. Kit may be a good choice given its simple setup but useful platform. Not to mention it won’t be a nightmare to wire into everything. The key features give me a plethora of things to play with in regards to interfacing with different sensors.
Recap from F4 road test:
Straight away, there is not much that comes with this kit. The board itself and “documentation” that is in the form of the cardboard insert to the packaging. However, on said packaging is the website (www.st.com/stm32f0discovery) and a “Getting Started” instruction set. Getting started was simple enough and within 30 seconds of opening the package I had LEDs blinking. From the engineer standpoint, this isn’t a problem. I have a lot of USB cables around and I can certainly navigate the web. Home hobbyists are probably in the same boat with cables and web savvy as well.
The development tool issue is the same as well:
The kit comes with no development tool chain. So, while the price of the board itself isn’t bad for the home hobbyist, the price of the developer chain might hurt. There are four different tool chains that are recommended:
Each can get pretty pricey if going in for a full version. However, many of them offer Lite versions for discounted prices, or free. However, functionality will be limited. From the engineer perspective, this is not helpful – but in a work environment I just buy the developer set I need. From the hobbyist perspective, however, this can be a limitation. The Lite versions, though, usually do have enough functionality for the at-home-hacker to be able to make just about anything they wish. The TrueSTUDIO Lite version, for example, has everything needed. However, it does come with some ads and only supports assembly and C, whereas the Pro version adds C++.
As you can see, you need to be comfortable with C - or assembly - in order to program with this developer kit.