EFM32™ Zero Gecko Starter Kit w/ Sensor Card - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: EFM32™ Zero Gecko Starter Kit w/ Sensor Card

Author: konorengineer

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, eRIC Development Kit

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Too slow online install.

Detailed Review:

Attention! Supplement and grammatical check in progress!


First of all, thank element14 and Silicon Labs for this great opportunity to I can test Zero Gecko Starter Kit with Sensor Card. In addition, thank Christian DeFeo to solved the administration problem with the customs.

 

 

I. The box

 

There is a main board (EFM32ZG-STK3200 Zero Gecko) inside the anti static bag, an expansion board (Humidity/Temperature/Optical Expansion Board - BRD8001A) inside the anti static bag, a USB - miniUSB cable and a paper card in the tiny paper box. The following picture is showing the each parts and the scale for the 1 euro coin.

 

 

Zero Gecko is seen on the following picture. It can be powered by mini USB-B connector, CR2032 battery or external power source. If choose the DBG position in the switch, there are a 3,3V LDO (Low Dropout) and the Advanced Energy Monitoring in series between the USB connector and the switch. Because of this, the energyAware Profilier (see below) is available only for the USB supply. There are 2 pushbuttons, 2 capacitive touch pads and a reset button. There is a 1,28" Sharp memory LCD-TFT with resolution of 128*128 pixels. It is monochrome display. What does it mean? There are 2 states for the pixel: light or dark. As a consequence, the low power consumption is guaranteed. But what about the visibility? In normal (daily) conditions, the screen is visible. Because of no backlighting, the illumination is needed for the nightly conditions. There is not problem with it, because the screen does not reflect, easy to read.

 

 

The expansion board (next picture) is consist of Si1147 and Si7013 sensors. The Si1147 measures the UV and ambient light and the proximity. It works with infrared LEDs to detects objects. The Si7013 is a humidity and temperature sensor. The connection between the main and expansion board is provided by the expansion header.

 

What are the ones I am missing? The following picture can be illustrated these.

It would have been useful if the CR2032 battery have been attached to the kit. This is not a large cost, but it can be comfortable for the users. (Comment: the LPRS attached two 9V battery for eRIC). The second remark relates to the breakout pads. In my opinion the soldered header/socket would be better for the use (like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, eRIC etc). These missing things are not big problems, but these improve the user's comfort.

 

II. Software

 

The Simplicity Studio is the development platform, which is created by Silicon Labs. The attached paper card has a QR code to the link for download. The Simplicity Studio is available for Windows 7/8.1, Mac OSX and Linux Ubuntu (the last two are beta versions). I have Windows 7, so I have experience in this software environment. There are two ways to install: online or offline installer. The online installer was sooo slow, therefore I recommend the offline install. Keep in mind: the offline installer is a more then 2 GBs file. I think it would have been better to  attach a USB stick with Simplicity Studio and other documents. (Comment: the LPRS attached a Lego USB stick for eRIC, which is very funny and imaginative. I think the gecko-shaped USB stick would be useful and related for the design of MCU's brand.)


Let's see the program! On the left side, we see the main parameters about the connected device, and there are some technical document for the device such as Reference Manual, Data Sheet, Errata and User Guide for Cortex-M microprocessor. On the top right corner there are the icons of manage the package, the update and settings.

 

There are three big group on the center of the screen in the Simplicity Studio:

  • Tools

Simplicity IDE: The Integrated Development Environment for the designing.

Energy Profiler: Tool for the real-time profiling of current and voltage.

energyAware Designer: Pin configuration tool for the MCUs.

Demos: There are 16 demo application. See below.

Flash Programmer: Utility to flash.

Kit Manager: Information about kit and update the firmware

SWO Terminal: Serial Wire Output Terminal.

energyAware Battery: Battery estimator tool.

  • Software and Kits

Software Documentation: Very detailed help for everything.

Software Examples: 16 example projects. See below.

Application Notes: Notes with projects for many topics.

Kit Documentation: Assembly Drawings, Schematic and User Manual for main board and expansion board.

  • Resources

Silicon Labs: Link for Silicon Labs' main webpage.

Presentations and Brochures: Slides in PDF format.

Silicon Labs Community: Link for Silicon Labs Community's webpage.

Technical Support: Link for Silicon Labs' webpage (registration is needed).

University: This is a very good idea! 7 lessons for the beginner users from the MCUs through the C to the Energy Modes and Optimizations. There are C projects for the lessons with explanatory comments, so I am very impressed.

Silicon Labs Videos: Silicon Labs' Youtube playlists.


III. Application

 

There are 16 examples/demos as the following:

  1. blink: Blinking the LEDs next to the PB0 button. Its source code can be good starting point for the new project.
  2. clock: Analog and digital clock run on the LCD display. To change between the two modes with the PB0 button, to set the time if hold down the PB1 button more than 2 s.
  3. emlcd: It demonstrates the four energy modes (see below). Real time information about the mode is on the LCD screen.
  4. emode: Can select an energy mode.
  5. energy: The LCD display shows the actual voltage and current when varying CPU frequency.
  6. freertos_blink: Uses the FreeRTOS and blinking the LEDs.
  7. freertos_tickless: Uses the FreeRTOS and running background pictures on the LCD.
  8. inttemp: Reads the data from the on-chip temperature sensor, and writes on the LCD in Celsius and Fahrenreit (change with the PB0-PB1).
  9. powertest: Shows the current and voltage profile during the different energy modes.
  10. rtx_blink: Uses the Keil RTX RTOS and blinking the LEDs.
  11. rtx_tikkless: Uses the Keil RTX RTOS and running background pictures on the LCD.
  12. rtx_tickless_nolcd: Uses the Keil RTX RTOS without LCD activity.
  13. spaceinvaders: Plays with Space Invader on the LCD screen with the PB0-PB1 and touchpads.
  14. textdisplay: Shows counting numbers on the LCD.
  15. touch: Can increase/decrease numbers on the LCD with the touchpads.
  16. weatherstation: For this example/demo the add-on board is needed.

 

IV. Grading

 

It is time for me to explain my ratings. The points are the following:


  • Product Performed to Expectations

I will be honest: I thought that this kit has very limited area of use because this is a board for the weather station application. However, I changed my mind during the use: the Zero Gecko is not specified only for the environment monitoring. This is a very useful board for different areas.

 

  • Specifications were sufficient to design with

Well, there are some things that I miss: the battery, the soldered connectors and a USB stick with Simplicity Studio. However, these are not as big mistakes, only the overall picture is a slightly worsened.

 

  • Demo Software was of good quality

The tutorials are clear, detailed and commented. Aesthetics comment: the most of documents are align full, but some documents are align left. It would be better if the design were unitary.

 

  • Demo was easy to use

The tutorials are absolutely easy to use, very detailed and understandable.

 

  • Support materials were available

I would like to give for 20 points, but unfortunately I can not do that. There are so many demos, examples, tutorials, Youtube videos and technical documents. And of course, the University is a good idea and it is a very useful for the newbies.

 

The price to performance ratio was good

At Farnell/Newark element14 the price is (same time):

£24.24 (the UK),

30,30 € (Germany),

$36.05 (the USA),

10 220 HUF (Hungary),

No available in China (I did not find it),

Rs. 10,420.00 (India).

 

It is a hard question: the performance is a subjective aspect, but the price is different for each country (only the ratios: Zero Gecko Weather Station in Hungary: 10 220 HUF + VAT (27%), average net salary: 164 590 HUF; Zero Gecko Weather Station in Germany: 30,30 € + VAT (19%), average net salary: 2054 €). All in all, the Zero Gecko Starter Kit with Sensor Card is a good development board for any low power consumption applications.

 

V. Final judgement

 

Summarizing the foregoing, Zero Gecko Starter Kit with Sensor Card has some little deficiencies (missing battery and solder header) nevertheless this is a very good device for the beginner users too.

 

It is absolutely recommended!

 

If you like my report and are interested in the Zero Gecko Starter Kit with Sensor Card, please check the other RoadTester's reviews:

http://www.element14.com/community/groups/roadtest/content?filterID=contentstatus%5Bpublished%5D~language~language%5Ball…


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