RoadTest: Atmel SAMA5D4 Xplained Ultra
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?: Atmel SAM4L-EK Cypress BLE Pioneer kit
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Lack of good documentation
To start off, Atmel SAMA5D4 Xplained is a powerful little board. Actually, to say it is a little board is not necessarily true, as it is one of biggest Atmel development boards that I own. This is certainly not a bad thing, as the board contains an abundance of headers and external connectors. It sports the Arduino Mega pinout, which makes porting Arduino designs a breeze. The standard pinout is also very useful when evaluating board, because it can be used to prototype a single shield design on multiple platforms. The board also contains headers for the Xplained Pro expansion boards, which was useful for pulling over designs from previous Atmel projects.
Even though I didn't use it for my project, the board also contains HDMI output, which would lend itself to a number of cool projects.
Now for the critiques... There are a lot of unpopulated parts on this board. This is both a blessing and a curse, because it allows Atmel to produce the board cheaply, but I was unable to find any list of "recommended" parts to populate the board with. In particular, the micro-SD card slot and the DC power jack would be nice to have recommended part numbers for. Also, having an audio line-out would be a nice addition, because it would enable a slew of DSP projects.
While I really liked this board, the biggest complaint is that the software documentation is practically non-existent. Want to use i2c? Go pick up a Linux kernel book, because the headless demo board doesn't have the device tree enabled for i2c. It's great if you're looking to learn about the inner workings of embedded Linux, but if you just want to talk to peripherals from Linux, there's practically nothing.
Overall, the Atmel SAMA5D4 is a great piece of hardware, just majorly lacking in documentation.