Espruino - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Espruino

Author: b4ux1t3

Creation date:

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?: Arduino Tiny, Mirco, various other very small prototyping boards

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Couldn't find female headers in my price range.

Detailed Review:

Quick Note: I finally ordered female headers to make testing this thing easier (and prettier than tying wires to the pin holes!). Look for a video soon!

 

The Espruino is a brilliant little board. That much is evident in its simplicity. Just a few little chips, a microSD slot, and two ports. Oh, I forgot to mention: It also has over 25 GPIO pins, a bunch of through-hole prototyping pins which are not connected to the board's etching, and a surface-mount device prototyping area, again not tied to the board's etching. And if all that wasn't enough, it has a nice big space dedicated to an attachable Bluetooth module.

 

The biggest of the "little chips" I mentioned (and the only chip that we really care about!) is a 32-bit 72MHz ARM Cortex M3, specifically the STM32F103RCT6. For those of us that aren't as well-versed in some of that tech jargon, the biggest interest, at least to me, is that "32-bit", er, bit. Whereas many microcontrollers are, to this day, 8-bit, this takes that up by a factor of 4. Now, obviously you probably won't be doing a lot of super hardcore calculations involving huge 32-bit numbers. The main reason that this chip is 32-bit is, I believe (I'm sure I will be corrected if I am wrong) to make it easier to run the Espruino Javascript interpreter. Yes, you read that right: This little microcontroller uses the object-oriented web language Javascript instead of the more traditional C (well, it isn't technically C, but it is directly based on C).

 

What that means is that this board is very easily programmed on a relatively high level. Instead of playing with specific hexadecimal values and memory addresses (though you can still use all that!), most functions of the Espruino can be controlled with human-readable Javascript code. Having come from a Python and HTML5 (which includes Javascript) background, I was easily ale to pick up the Espruino and start working right away.

 

So far, I have been able to control stepper motors, DC motors, servos, LED strips, and I even reinvented ASCII. The libraries are well documented, and the compatibility with "true" Javascript is excellent. According to Espruino's creator, only about 95% of Javascript is technically compatible with the Espruino, but I have yet to find something that I can't do.

 

If you're looking at getting into microcontrollers, and you want a nice, simple board with a simple web interface that uses an easy-to-learn web scripting language, Espruino is definitely a good choice. Even if you're an experienced microcontroller user, this board can work in place of many of the standard boards on the market. It is similarly priced to other boards of its kind, and offers a lot for that price.

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