Microchip PICkit™ 3 In-Circuit Debugger Programmer - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Microchip PICkit™ 3 In-Circuit Debugger Programmer

Author: nermash

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

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?: null

What were the biggest problems encountered?: null

Detailed Review:

This is my somewhat overdue review of Microchip Pickit3 programmer/debugger.

Thank you Microchip and Element14 for the opportunity to test it and compare it to my old Pickit2 clone.


The unit came in a clamshell package, Pickit3 with very nice and flexible, and in matching red color, USB cable.




Installation is painless, Windows 10 installs the drivers automatically, and Microchip's IDE MPLAB-X v4.05 install is pretty straightforward.

The one thing that was sort of "missing" from this review package was the 44-Pin Demo Board that comes with Debug Express or F1 Evaluation packages.

I did ask Microchip to send me one sample of PIC32MX mcu in DIP package so that I could test it with the PK3, but Microchip refused...

So, I had to revert to old favourite, 12F629 based 6 LED demo board.




After an hour or two playing with it, this is what I have found out:



* Microchip paid attention in these last 6 or 7 years, and has made several improvements from the first negative review done by EEVBlog Dave Jones. LEDs are pretty bright, there is now a standalone programming utility called IPE (Integrated Programming Environment). IPE ships and installs with MPLAB-X. There is also a Programmer To Go function inherited from the Pickit2. Unfortunately the basic logic analyser is not revived in Pickit3.

* There is now a seamless switching from MPLAB and IPE mode on the Pickit3. In the past you had to switch firmware in the Pickit3 from standalone to mplab mode.

* It is still a very nice and usable programmer /debugger, Microchip is investing time, money and energy improving the usability and functionality of this device.



* You still have to switch firmware for every device familly, ie. changing from PIC12F to PIC18F. This process is automatic, but it can catch you off your feet if you are offline.

EDIT: As my fellow roadtester Hendrik Lipka kindly pointed out, you don't have to be online (on the Internet) to change family firmware on the PK3. I stand corrected. I tried switching from PIC8 to PIC24 in the IPE, and then tried to connect while my laptop is in airline mode, and it switched firmware without any issues.


* OSSCAL calibration of internal oscillator is missing from Pickit2 standalone utility and it is sorely missed. There is an option in the XC8 compiler within MPLAB-X to recalibrate it at programming time, but a similar option in IPE would be great.


Do I prefer PK3 over old PK2?


I will have to say yes. Altough the new PK3 is somewhat quirkier and demands more fidling in some cases, extended range of device supported is a very strong point, and Microchip seem to be trying to improve it over time.

I just hope that PK4 will be a complete and tested solution once it hits the market.

P.S. I will gladly road test it when that happens image