RoadTest: Anaren AIR CC2530 BoosterPack Kit
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?:
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Considering how well documented the product is, a slightly more user friendly and visual demo would seem appropriate.
My first impression of this pack is that it's a very professionally produced piece of kit. It's been manufactured by a 3rd party (Anaren, obviously) but is exactly like a TI produced kit, from the look of the box to the quality of the boards. In fact I had to double check that it wasn't a partnership arrangement and available from TI's eStore.
I'll keep this review as exactly that. I'll review what you get and how to get started. I'm sure if you're reading this then you'll have a vague plan for what you might use these for - or a search for ZigBee will give you some ideas. I won't go off track trying to impress you with an odd creation of my own. They're designed to let you quickly and easily form a ZigBee mesh network. What data you transmit over the network is up to you, so I'll stick to the demo for simplicity.
I'll cover using the pack with the MSP430 Launchpad and also the Stellaris Launchpad. I'll see if there are any issues with a mix of the two. I was hoping to test it with the Stellaris replacement Tiva Launchpad, but that's been delayed and they're not available yet. To be honest the Tiva looks like a straight replacement for the Stellaris (which never officially made it out of pre-production status) so I'm fairly sure it'll work fine.
I noticed that the will also fit on a MSP-EXP430FR5739 board (aka "Fraunchpad") but I see no mention of this in the documentation and I haven't been able to find any information on this. If I get a chance I'll try this too.
There's also a C2000 Launchpad and in theory this should also be compatible, but as I don't have one then I'm afraid I can confirm that. Quoting the C2000 Launchpad's designer Trey German "you should be able to use the C2k LaunchPad with the Anaren BoosterPacks. All our serial peripherals (SPI, I2c, UART/SCI) are on the same pins as the 430 LaunchPad".
Hardware wise the box contains 3 identical boster boards and a battery pack for 2 x AA batteries (not included). There's also some getting started guides and a CD containing documentation, firmware, etc. I found it odd (but good) that each board also contained a pre-programmed MSP430G2553 microcontroller too. It sits right in the middle above where it would sit on the MSP430 launchpad, looking like a slice from the Launchpad itself. This means you have a few options for getting started with each of the 3 boards.
So that means that the minimum you need is two empty MSP430 Lauchpads and a PC. To run just the demo software you could even get away with just one Launchpad (used to connect to the PC over USB) and one some more batteries.
The included guides are clear and thorough. There's one for using the MSP430 and one for the Stellaris.
The MSP430 one is the simplest as there's no programming involved. You already have three devices programmed and ready to go. You could just power all three up - via battery or using the Launchpad as essentially a USB to 3.3v regulator. The 3 devices will form a mesh with network IDs assigned by the single coordinator. (Think of it as a DHCP server and you won't be too far off.)
For the Stellaris there's one more step - using TI's LM Flash programmer utility to flash the appropriate firmware (coordinator, router or endpoint) to the Stellaris IC. This is the one area where I felt the Quick Start Guide was lacking. Rather than telling you where on the CD the firmware is, you have to hunt through the full User Guide as there's too many folders for it to be obvious. Not a biggie, but rather unnecessary. All the Quick Start guide needed to say was "Firmware\FactoryDefault\Stellaris"
So what did I go for - MSP430 or Stellaris? This mainly came down to the fact that when I went to look for them I could only find one MSP430 and two Stellaris launchpads. My other boards are embedded in projects or lent out to friends. I decided to jump in and test the user friendliness of the package by going for a complicated non-standard setup from the start. I powered the endpoint from the AA batteries. I stuck the router on an MSP430 Lauchpad. I flash the coordinator firmware on a Stellaris. And I'm glad to say that to give credit to Anaren it worked straight away without a hitch.
The guide mentions installing the Lauchpad USB drivers but if you've used them before (and you probably have) then they'll already be installed and you can skip this.
I fired up the terminal as instructed and lots of text messages streamed by. To be honest this "debug output" might be useful but doesn't show the product in a great light. A simple GUI would make everything seem a little more friendly.
One the coordinator device itself you can press S2 (either on the booster or the launchpad) to toggle an onboard demo. Press it once and the amber LED is illuminated. It will now show the temperate from the router's IR sensor. It will most likely be green. Hold your finger over the sensor and it'll go red. Press again and you'll be monitoring the endpoint's colour sensor. Hide it under the desk and it will darken. Hold it near a bright light and the LED will go white. Both of these are only sent every few seconds so don't expect an immediate change.
This kit really does seem just like the TI kit. Everything is open and well explained. Sample code to get you started sending your own data over the wire is right there for you on the included CD. It even gives a full schematic and layout for the booster board (as Eagle SCH and BRD files and gerbers). If you felt like pushing ahead with your own A2530-based design then everything you need is available. You couldn't really ask for more.
Over 3 years since my review and I've just got a Phillips Hue lighting system. Time to see if these CC2530 devices can be used to do some more complicated Zigbee work and join a Home Automation or Light Link network!
It looks like this will be far more difficult and will involve using IAR as an IDE and a CCDebugger to flash new firmware to the on board CC2350 devices.
Now of course there's the CC2650 as an option - a far more capable ARM microcontroller rather than the 8051 in the CC2530. I have a CC2650 Launchpad, but the Hue uses the CC2530 internally and most of the documentation and source code seems to be for the older device.