SAM D21 Curiosity Nano Evaluation Kit - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: SAM D21 Curiosity Nano Evaluation Kit

Author: moi8765

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?: Arduino Nano, STM32L series Nucleo boards, Teensy 3.x, Arduino MKR x0x0

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Setting up the toolchain. This can be a big problem for a beginner, which is why Arduino still dominates this section of the market. Nevertheless, the documentation is really good and I did not face many issues.

Detailed Review:

Getting started with the Development environment with MPLab

After a long and eager wait, I finally received my Curiosity Nano Evaluation Kit along with the cute little Click boards yesterday. Thanks to for co-ordinating the logistics and the entire team at element14 and Microchip for giving me this opportunity.


The SAMD21 chip has always been a personal favourite and I have read quite a lot about this. I am really excited to try out some cool stuff with it. Talking about specifications, the Nano board is powered by a 32bit ARM Cortex M0+ SAMD21G17D processor from Atmel. It has a whooping 48 GPIO pins and is breadboard friendly. The form factor is similar to an Arduino nano board and the red colour of the PCB gives it a sleek appearance. It offers one user LED and a reset button.

For programming this beast, the first step is to install the MPLAB X IDE. I will walk you through the installation.

Step 1: Head over to the Microchip website and search MPLAB X IDE

Step 2: On that page head over to the Downloads section and select your operating system(Windows in my case)

Step 3: AFter the download is over, run the installer and agree to the terms and conditions. By default, all types of MCU support is installed

Step 4: Click OK when prompted to install drivers for the software

Step 5: Open up the IDE through the desktop icon

Step 6: An error will pop up. Don`t worry. Head over to the Tools in the application tray at the top left and then click on Plugin Downloads from the dropdown menu

Step 7: In the available plugins section check the MPLAB Harmony and MPLAB Code Configurator for GUI programming support


Step 8: Press on install and go for a stroll outside

Step 9: Close the IDE and on a browser search for MPLAB XC COde compiler

Step 10: Click on the first link and in the downloads tab install the compiler for your OS

Step 11: Run the installation file(You will be prompted to buy a licence but I guess for us hobbyists a free licence would do)

Step 12: Reopen the IDE. No errors this time.

Step 13: Enjoy. Your IDE is all set now. Get an example program from the website and run it



For an ice-breaker, I uploaded the LED blink example code available on the website and there goes my little friend.

It works like a charm.


**edit - On the recomendation of some community members I am posting a walkthrough of the MPLAB X IDE


Here is how the startup screen of the IDE looks like.


On the IDE, Go to File and then to the Open Projects tab to open an existing project.


This is how an example application opened on the IDE looks like


Created projects have the extension .X as shown in the example project here


To get started with any project, firstly go to Tools and then Plugin Manager.

The essential things to install are MPLAB Harmony, a GUI based programmer and the plugins as mentioned earlier.


In a future update to this blog, I will explore more of the MPLAB X IDE and do something more creative with the board

In the meantime, I will solder the base board and the cute little Click boards.

Till then, stay safe and stay tuned.


I have managed to assemble the base board to accommodate the Curiosity Nano, but for some reason, the form factor just wasn`t compatible.

I literally had to bend the headers by a large angle and use electrical tape to hold it in place!!!

The click boards are working just fine and I have verified that with my Azure Development board.

This is all for now. More on my home automation project coming in a few days.

Stay Tuned and stay safe.



** As promised I am back with my final project on the Curiosity Nano SAMD21 Evaluation kit.

Initially, I must admit that the complication of the MPLAB X IDE did intimidate me but I did not lose hope and figured out a good application for the Click boards.

In this home automation project I established communication between my smartphone and the Bluetooth click and used the relay click to control an LED lamp. The video demonstrates my roadtest.

  • Finally I have managed to put together a home automation project with the click boards. Hope you like it.

  • Hi Moinak,


    I have seen this before. But not at all a big fan of fancy GUI based tools.

    Simplicity is the beauty.

    My moto -  Give me the BSP/SDK (For ARM Cortex M boards preferably CMSIS ) for the board with a properly tested GCC and Binutils I am more than happy to work on that.

  • Have you tried out the Harmony Configurator. This is Microchip`s answer to STM32Cube I believe

  • Aswin,


    I used to create many programmes using make file, mainly for 8088/6 based microcomputer boards and had many enjoyable times working out memory placements and linking problems (well - maybe they were not all enjoyable). I'm also a great fan of command line activity and I still think I can do command line work in Windows much faster than the normal click, collect and then wait while Windows decides whether it wants to respond or not - quite often it's not. However, I'm not sure I would want to go back to that now - I prefer the simpler, if somewhat slower, life.



  • Hi Dubbie,


    I agree with you on MPLAB X and the old Atmel studio is also the same. Generally I am not a IDE fan.

    "Atmel" now "Microchip" releases ASF ("Atmel Software Framework" or now known as 'Advanced Software Framework") comes with the CMSIS standard SDK.

    All the example projects are made using Makefiles. I generally use this along with the arm-none-eabi- pack and multiarch-gdb.

    I am a hardcore command-line lover.


    It's true that Adruino comes really handy at sometimes. But I try to avoid arduino these days and stick with the more native development process.




  • This looks like an interesting board. However, I've used Microchip MPLAB X before and I found it too complicated for everyday home use. I think I will stick with the Arduino IDE unless that gets too complicated as well.



  • Thanks for the advice. I was thinking on similar lines too

  • Don`t worry!! I am going to roadtest it thoroughly. I just put together a project with the click boards. Will complete it in the next few days

  • Hi Moinak,


    You got one more month to test this board thoroughly. No hurry in post this incomplete roadtest.


    Since you got your personal favorite MCU for roadtesting reader will expected more from you.


    Some suggestions:

    • D21 is low power MCU so you can create a power profile for this chip
    • Peripherals available ( Pin multiplexing features )
    • Ease of use of the IDE/Development environment
    • some sample projects using the click boards


    Expecting a good roadtest from you.