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?: MSP430 "Launchpad"
What were the biggest problems encountered?:
This is my first "roadtest" here at element14 and I was lucky to be chosen for this kit.
The shipping arrived a couple of days after order from the US and - as usual with TI - free of charge! (A big plus for TI!)
The box looked very similar to the "Launchpad" that I also own and also here a separate 32kHz crystal needs to be soldered to the board by the user.
As it is a 0.5mil part, it is not very easy to solder this cleanly but it also not to hard if your hand is not shaking to much (I advise to fix the crystal with some scotch tape before soldering). You do not absolutely need to solder the crystal, but for applications that use a precise timer, the crystal is a must as an external clock source
In contrast to the MSP430 Launchpad, this part also includes a RF connector where the various RF eval kits from TI (Chipcon modules CC1100, CC2420, (868 MHz, 433 MHz, 2.4 GHz...)) can be connected. In addition this board also has a 3-axis accelerometer where you can play with and can be a good basis for a fun application project.
One of the best benefits of these boards is that the kit includes an integrated debugger that you can use with IAR workbench or Code Composer Studio from TI. So you don't have to buy an extra 430UIF FET debugger which is needed for other boards to program or debug applications.
Many of the pins of the MC are routed to external connectors where you can easily connect jumperwires to attach the board to a separate breadboard where you can build bigger experiments or sensors. The MC has 16K of FRAM, 1K of SRAM, multiple 16 bit timers, 1 USCI/UART and a 12 bit ADC.
Further peripherals include eight LEDs and two push buttons.
Code Composer, TI's development tool, is based on Eclipse and is a well thought-through application. A small drawback is, that you cannot reuse an existing Eclipse application but need to install the whole overhead again. Code Composer can be used for _free_ when you restrict your code to 32KB at max. Bigger applications need the commercial license of CCS which costs several hundred dollars.
The integrated samples are very good and show the benefits of the new FRAM technology. FRAM is over 100 times faster than flash based memory and consumes less power, too. FRAM memory cells can also be overwritten magnitudes more often than traditional flash chips. As you need very little energy for FRAM, this technology in combination with the low-power MCU MSP430 is an ideal combination for energy-constrained devices like wireless sensor networks.
The MSP430 is often seen as a direct competing product to Atmel's AVR MCs and Atmel challenges TI with its Xplain kits at the moment. The MSP430 is a very sophisticated 16 bit MCU with a huge community in the net and very good components.
I'm looking forward to more examples on the TI page like for example for the MSP430 Launchpad.