Review of STMicroelectronics STM32F0DISCOVERY for STM32F0 Cortex M0 MCU

Table of contents

RoadTest: STMicroelectronics STM32F0DISCOVERY for STM32F0 Cortex M0 MCU

Author: gordonmx

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?: TI & Renesas

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Aside from what is shown in the detailed review, the time to say all that I wanted to say.

Detailed Review:

RATING – 4.5 Out of 5 Stars imageimage



Once again I’ve been given the privilege and opportunity to evaluate and review a development kit (DK) through Element 14 (Thank you).  But wait a second, just because the manufacturer (STM) said it’s a DK doesn’t make it so.  Remember a DK allows the “developer” to develop his or her application with the flexibility needed to construct a working prototype of their project.  Like all the previous STM32 Discovery kits (F4, VLD, etc.) the STM32F0 falls short of this goal.  Not that the STM32F0 doesn’t come close by allowing easy access to all I/O pins or minimizing the number of dedicated pins to be tied up, but in reality it is closer to a evaluation or “hobbyist” board.  With this in mind, a number of reviewers have already given fair comparisons to hobbyist board, such as Arduino and Mbed.  It was nice to see STM include some Arduino projects porting in their example zip file, as well as an example of using the blank proto board to wire up a shield PCB.



But I’m getting ahead of myself.






As it has already been pointed by other reviewers, the content of the DK is minimal, including only the main evaluation and proto boards.  The only documentation included is an 8 step “Getting started” description, a little over 100 words, on the back of the package.  All other documentation and tools must be downloaded.  A little more detailed quick start guide would have been helpful, with an explanation as to what to look for in demo mode, along with some useful web links. 






Why Cortex M0 and not M0+?  But that is STM’s choice.  As pointed out earlier, it is nice that only a few MCU pins are dedicated to “demoing” the board, giving the developer more freedom in his design.  One useful hardware feature of the board is the inclusion of the ST-Link/V2 single wire debug (SWD), which like so many EVKs and DKs today allow for MCU debugging through a serial/USB port.  Alas, the ST-Link/V2 hardware only supports the STM32 family devices.  Cheaper than JTAG, I wish everyone would settle on a standard.



Back to the proto board (PB), another reason to believe this kit is geared more to the hobbyist.  At first I thought it purpose was to add protection for the board’s long pins, but not all discovery boards come with a proto board.  At the same time, if it was intended to interface with the main card, why didn’t STM add mating connectors, aside from the cost?  I don’t believe they intended the developer to solder the proto board to the main card.  The UM1525 User Manual shows how you can wire the PB for STM’s DIL24 family of MEMS adapters, Arduino R3 shield and Mikroektronica accessory boards.  Maybe in the future, STM or a third party vendors, will offer PCBs for these boards (I noticed STM has a expansion board for the STM32F4).






Again no software is included with the DK.  The UM1525 HW user manual lists 4 IDE/Compiler manufacturers that support the STM32 family, but shows no preference.  The UM1523 User Manual, “Getting started with software and firmware environments for the STM32F0DISCOVERY kit”, gives examples using each IDE, but lists no download sites or troubleshooting guide.  Ported coded examples for Arduino shields can also be downloaded. 



“The Claims”



All vendors make claims about their products and STM is no different.



#1)  “The STM32F0DISCOVERY helps you to discover the STM32F0 Cortex-M0 features and to develop your applications easily.  It includes everything required for beginners and experienced users to get started quickly.”



Although all the pieces may be in place to evaluate the STM32F0Discovery board, it is not always “easily” found, including tools and documentation, and may not be best suited for beginners.



#2)  “Arduino accessory boards … can be easily connected …”



As seen from figures 10 through 12 of the UM1525 HW User Manual, the wiring of the proto board is more than a few connections.  The diagrams are referenced for installing the accessory board under the main board facing upside down.  This may not be the best orientation for debugging.



“Q & A” (To answer Christian’s website questions)


We would like to learn the following from your RoadTest experience:

·        -  What applications are you working on?

            Remote industrial monitors

·        -  What is your experience with STM32F0DISCOVERY in terms of hardware, software, speed, programming, peripherals and etc? 

            Once you find all the pieces, things went fairly smooth.  Coming up to speed with any unfamiliar IDE can always be a challenge.

·        -  How does it compare to other ARM core MCUs?

            Comparable, but I would have like to see a Cortex M0+

·        -  How does it compare to non-ARM MCUs? 

            If you are use to ARM MCUs, they can be easier to learn.  Again given the challenge of finding everything, the fact that the STM32F0 is an ARM MCU made some things easier.


“Closing Comments”


In general the STM32F0 Discovery board worked well.  The price is comparable with other manufacturer’s evaluation boards but cheaper than Arduino.  My biggest frustration was finding all the pieces.  I still haven’t decided which IDE I liked best.


I hope this is useful feedback and I thank Christian again for the opportunity to evaluate this product!