RoadTest: We’re giving away 5 BBC micro:bits!
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?: The product pretending to be similar STEM device is CodeBug but it is light years far away from the completeness and usability of this micro-controller board.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: null
I have not done many products reviews on Element14, at least official RoadTests, but it is the first time I give 60/60 points to a product.
The emotional impression of this educational board is something really great. Many features, more than expected, embedded in a very nice form factor that certain will attract its primary target: young makers
Beyond the bare sensations the BBC micro:bit revealed to be a reliable, robust and complete platform.
The list below shows in synthesis the hardware characteristics of the board (source: Wikipedia)
The most interesting aspect of the BBC micro:bit is that wide availability of software so that any skill can proficiently use this board for make project.
The Microsoft TouchDevelop environment is a web-based platform allowing the micro:bit to be programmed easily from almost any device from smartphones to the desktop computers. Mostly oriented to young users approaching for the first time the world of coding and micro controllers as a matter of fact can be the best entry point for any newbie. The graphic and user friendly development environment - that includes a simulator on the web page = does not penalise the possibility to control all the sensors and features of the board.
For more advanced users micro:bit provides MicroPython. This language can be used in two different ways; with the MicroPython editor part of the web development environment or via direct access to the language from a computer connected to the USB
I suggest to all interested to explore the micro:bit site to appreciate the helpful support and the completeness of this portal. All the aspects of the micro:bit board, from hardware to supported languages are well covered and explained in a language easy to understand.
A last notable aspect of the board features is the firmware: ARM mbed. In the board hardware page it is mentioned with a link to the firmware dedicated site, very well documented too. The mbed site includes a good explanation - with specific referenced details to the micro:bit - of what a firmware is, how to upgrade the firmware itself and a number of good links pointing to the mbed HDK (Hardware Development Kit) documentation.
In my opinion a fact that will contribute in the near future (BBC micro:bit will be officially on the market starting from next July, 2016) to a very large diffusion of this educational and experimenting board is the price. The average end-user cost of one unit will be 16$.
I think that micro:bit can be compared under many points of view to Arduino UNO R3 (and some other models) as well as ChipKit UNO32 and the CodeBug device. Excluding the last mentioned that - sorry to admit it - will literally disappear comparing its features to the micro:bit, sold at almost the same price, I have done a couple of thoughts.
Arduino UNO R3 (the official board) will cost 23$ while the more powerful ChipKit UNO32 40$ or few less.
Thinking to those users that meet for the first time the microcontrollers world, what can we say them? The price difference is only one of the key factors that make the difference. If we consider how many shields and add-ons should be bought separately for these boards to reach the same standard features of the micro:bit cost gap dramatically increases.
I am not one of those catastrophists thinking that in few time this will be the only board surviving on the market, but sure can be the optimal choice for a great number of young students, low budget users, makers and newbies.
Another important aspect to take in account is how much the board is reliable in the hands of a not yet expert user. Using the micro:bit in some test projects involving external components (analog data, stepper and DC motors, frequency generation etc.) the result is 100% positive: all the signals tested are stable and the board response continuity is really good.
The following articles complete the RoadTest depicted scenario focusing the attention on the programming aspects