Interested in trying a competitor to the most popular open-source microcontroller platform? Check out the best Arduino alternatives and find out why they deserve consideration for your next project.
The Arduino is the microcontroller platform of choice for hobbyists and educators. This is in no small part due to the large community support and available resources. Nevertheless, it’s not as though there aren’t other players out there.
The following microcontrollers are all Arduino alternatives. They are all directed at either hobbyists or developers and facilitate microcontroller programming. It is worth noting that most of these boards have variations that are also worth checking out.
The Teensy family of boards was developed by PJRC over the past few years. Initially, Teensy was created promising a bit more power in a smaller form factor, and so far, it has only fulfilled those promises. The best Teensy released to date is the . This little beast has a 32-bit Arm processor, 52 total input/outputs, DAC, ADC, an SD card reader, and many more features.
While the capabilities of this board are impressive, it wouldn’t be on this list if it weren’t accessible to hobbyists. PJRC provides a Teensyduino software add-on for almost complete compatibility with Arduino programs. In this way, Teensy takes advantage of the resources already in place, as we’ll see other boards do, as well.
Specs: 180-MHz Cortex M4F, 256 kB RAM, 1-MB flash storage, 4K EEPROM
Features: Teensyduino for Arduino IDE, SD card reader
Price: approx. $30 at PJRC
The Launchpad is a development board made by Texas Instruments. While it may not be the most powerful one on the list, it does have a few unique features that make it stand out. Along with the fact that it comes with an MSP430 by TI, it also provides compatibility with TI’s software and hardware. This comes in the form of booster packs and online development tools.
For those who want to get down to the nitty-gritty of MCU programming, it allows for onboard debugging. If this seems too far out of your comfort zone however, there is an IDE similar to Arduino called Energia for a more user-friendly approach.
Specs: 24-MHz MSP430, 32 kB Program FRAM, 4 kB RAM
Features: Energy Trace Technology for low power, Energia (Arduino-like IDE), 2 onboard buttons & LEDs, Booster Pack compatible
Price: approx. $13 at Texas Instruments
A different kind of Arduino alternative by Wilderness Labs, the Netduino N3 uses the .NET MicroFramework and Netduino.Foundation Framework, meaning that it’s programmed in a higher-level programming language (C#). This may appeal to those who don’t want to deal with the lower levels of MCU programming.
This board is made with wireless devices in mind, with Wi-Fi built-in. Another notable feature of the Netduino is the pin arrangement made for Arduino shield compatibility. All of this said, the Netduino may appeal to those who are already familiar with the .NET framework and would like to program their MCU board through Microsoft Visual Studio and the like.
Specs: 168 MHz, 164+ kB RAM, 1408-kB flash storage
Features: .NET MicroFramework, Netduino.Foundation libraries, Wi-Fi, SD card reader, 22 GPIO
Price: approx. $50
Thanks to all of the support, guides, and tools provided by Particle, the Photon makes for a good Arduino alternative. It’s great for novice or intermediate hobbyists that are looking for the right platform for a simple IoT project.
Specs: 120-MHz ARM Cortex M3, 128 kB RAM, 1-MB flash storage
Features: Device Cloud, SDKs for mobile and ParticleJS, 18 GPIO, plenty of references and guides
Price: approx. $19.00
SparkFun took the ESP32 and made this… Thing. Thing as in the Internet of Things thing. The ESP32 is certainly a great choice for their IoT board. It comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy built-in. They even added a Li-Po connection to further compliment its wireless nature.
The Thing Plus also flashes some impressive specs and a nice suite of sensors. Of course, a good Arduino alternative wouldn’t feel right without an easy way to program, and what could be easier than having the Thing Plus compatible with the Arduino IDE.
Specs: 240 MHz, 520 kB SRAM, 16-MB flash storage
Features: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE, Li-Po charger, Hall-effect sensor, capacitive touch sensor, temperature sensor
Price: approx. $21 at SparkFun
The Adafruit’s Feather line. It is meant to be a small board capable of being in your next IoT project. It has Wi-Fi built-in, a Li-Po charger, and Arduino compatibility. Additionally, as an ESP8266, it can be used with NodeMCU Lua.comes from
You may notice that this board seems like a lesser version of the Thing Plus. That would be because the ESP32 is essentially the successor to the ESP8266. This board, however, has been around long enough that it has gained a large community of users. This makes this board an accessible one to hobbyists who may want the collective experience of such a community.
Specs: 80 MHz, 50 kB RAM, 4-MB flash storage
Features: Wi-Fi, Li-Po charger, Arduino compatible, NodeMCU Lua, 9 GPIO
Price: approx. $17 at Adafruit
The BeagleBoards. This little guy runs Linux right out of the box and can be programmed through your web browser.is the smallest of the
In fact, this is more of a computer than an Arduino alternative you might say. It’s even featured in our best single board computers article. The reason it appears on this list is because it is aimed at being an educational jack-of-all-trades board, and indeed it is.
The Sitara AM3358 ARM Cortex-A8 on the PocketBeagle has two PRUs (programmable real-time units) that are essentially microcontrollers attatched to the main processor. These are, in the words of their FAQ, “ideal for predictable low-latency, whereas the ARM processor is good for throughput.”
The PocketBeagle is the ultimate tiny machine, ideal for small projects that need the resources of a computer.
Specs: 1-GHz Cortex-A8, 512 MB RAM
Features: Linux operated, SD connector, 2 PRUs, 72 expansion pins, easily programmable through a browser
Price: approx. $35
The RedBoard Artemis is SparkFun’s improved take on the Arduino Uno. It comes in the same form factor and adds Bluetooth, 24 GPIO, 21 PWM, and ups the specs significantly.
SparkFun continues to recognize the value of the Arduino platform and have therefore made this board compatible with the Arduino IDE. Additionally, they have exposed the JTAG connector for those more advanced users who want to properly debug their MCU.
This relatively new board is also capable of running TensorFlow models, bringing it to the Arduino IDE. An exciting alternative to say the least.
Specs: 48 MHz (96 MHz turbo), 384 kB RAM, 1-MB flash storage
Features: Arduino IDE compatability, Bluetooth, 24 GPIO
Price: approx. $20 at SparkFun
The STM32F3 is just one of the various Discovery boards made by ST worth checking out. This one, however, comes with a 3-axis gyro and accelerometer, 3D magnetic sensor, 10 LEDs, and a few more features.
While this Arduino alternative doesn’t have the compatibility we all know and love, ST does provide software tools to get you going. Currently, their STM32Cube ecosystem includes an initialization code generator and IDE.
This board is for those wanting something different and aren’t afraid to dive into ST’s ecosystem.
Specs: 48 kB RAM, 256-kB flash storage
Features: 3-axs gyro/accelerometer, 3D magnetic sensor, 10 LEDs, 2 buttons, motion sensor
Price: approx. $16 at ST
This board by Silicon Labs is based on the EFM32. While it is a more expensive board, it does come with its bells and whistles. They include a micro LCD, a touch slider, an ambient light sensor, and a 0.03-F super capacitor for backup power domain to name a few.
The Wonder Gecko is more geared towards development but it still has a decent amount of references and guides to be accessible. Silicon Labs also provides their Simplicity Studio. If the price isn’t as much of an issue, this board and its variations make for good Arduino alternatives.
Specs: 48-MHz Cortex M4, 32 kB RAM, 256-kB flash storage
Features: Integrated debugger, energy monitoring system, various sensors, LCD, Simplicity Studio
Price: approx. $100 at Silicon Labs
Feature image source: John’s DIY Playground / YouTube
License: The text of "10 Best Arduino Alternatives in 2019" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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