Thursday 29 December 2011

USB Stick Microcontroller Dev Boards

A USB programmable microcontroller is a cheap and easy way to begin experimenting with microcontroller projects. I've recently been playing with 6 USB sticks which can be picked up for under £25 ($40) and discovered three I would recommend, the Micropendous, Minimus and eZ430. Have I missed your favourite USB stick based microcontroller?


The Micropendous3 (top left) contains an ATMEL AVR AT90USB647 microcontroller with 64K flash, 2K EEPROM and 4K SRAM and allows access to the MCU's 48 I/O lines. The board also supports the AT90USB1287 with 128K flash, 4K EEPROM and 8K SRAM. Support and development software are available online.

Maximus AVR USB 1.2

Despite it's name the Maximus AVR 1.2 (top right) is based on Microchip Technology's PIC18F4550 microcontroller with 32K flash, 2K SRAM and 256 bytes EEPROM. Unfortunately the board layout doesn't allow access to the MCU pins.

Minimus AVR USB 32K

The Minimus 32K (middle left) uses ATMEL's ATMEGA32U2 with 32K flash, 1K EEPROM and 1K SRAM. The board allows access to the MCU's 22 I/O lines. Development software is available online.


Texas Instrument's eZ430-F2013 (middle right) has a detachable target board containing a MSP430F2013 microcontroller with 2K flash and 128 bytes SRAM. The board allows access to all MCU pins. The eZ430 is supplied with development tools for Windows and support is readily available online. The instruction set is easy to learn with just 27 instructions and 4 addressing modes.

Maximus AVR USB 1.0

The Maximus AVR 1.0 (bottom left) is based on the ATMEL AT90USB162 microcontroller with 16K flash, 512 bytes EEPROM and 512 bytes SRAM. As with the later version, the layout doesn't allow access to the MCU pins.

µRlink ST7Ultralite Primer v1.1

The ST7Ultralite (bottom right) is a board based on ST's 8-bit ST7FLITEUS microcontroller with 1K flash and 128 bytes EEPROM. The slightly odd looking board features a light sensor and buzzer and is supplied with a development environment for Windows. Unfortunately the IDE refused to install and there's little information online.


  1. Teensy, about 10 pounds. Mini usb though.

  2. USnoobie:

  3. Second vote for Teensy. They're great for small spaces.

  4. I don't think you can use hyperterm. Someone's evil. No such thing as generic serial communication.

  5. Mbed to get using ARM microcontrollers?
    Has a nice litlle web based IDE. Might be out of the price range but worth considering, there's a £29 and a £50 version -

  6. I Third Teensy.. :).

  7. How about the Arduino Nano?

    And what good is a dev board with no access to the MCU pins?

  8. TMDX5535eZdsp board from TI. Specs blow all of these boards out of the water:
    - 240 MIPS
    - 16-bit TI 55xx series DSP
    - 320 kB of on-chip RAM (Not a measly 128 B)
    - hardware FFT accelerator
    - 16-bit stereo audio
    - USB 2.0 host
    - memory and IO breakout
    - 96x16 OLED display

    They've been selling it at $55, but that sale ended yesterday...their store still shows that price, though.

    User Manual:
    Product Page:

  9. Whoops, that user manual for the eZDSP should be at:

  10. I have a set of these "Propeller on a Stick" that I had some students working on. Nice board, simple clean design.

  11. These are beyond anything I've learned so far, but just seeing and reading this makes me want to learn more about them. I've always loved this kind of technology so much, but doing so much with nature has limited me in the last few years.

  12. actually i am interesting of programming for the products on markets

    like programming for my usb disk :]

  13. It is a bit larger..

    But it is a complete FPGA dev kit..

  14. Todd, that's a MaxII CPLD, not an FPGA. Very cool board though.


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