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Protostack ATMega8 Developers Kit Review

DSC_1462 Daniel over at Protostack sent uCHobby an ATMega8 Developers Kit to review. The kit is basically a prototyping board with a spot for an ATMega8 chip and the minimum support parts. For $15 you get the PCB and parts. You will need a way to program and power the board in your final project. I used their $16 USBASP AVR Programmer to program and power my board for this evaluation.

More after the jump

All the parts are shown in this first picture. USBASP AVR Programmer and ribbon cable are not included with the ATMega8 Developers Kit. The kit does include the ATMega8, caps, inductor IC socket, and programming header.

Protostack also sent a board to Solder In The Veins. Their review is here.

Features of PCB

  • I/O Ports brought out for easy access
    • Clearly labeled and grouped by port
  • 10-Pin dual and 6-Pin single row programming connections
    • 10-Pin header included
  • Crystal and Analog VCC filter
    • Parts included, 16 MHz Crystal
  • Mounting holes
    • Important for home projects
  • Reset Button
  • Solderless breadboard style layout
    • power rails on outside and center
    • Plus power rail is easy to see with solid white silk screen.

My opinion

DSC_1474 This kit is very useful for home projects where you want to build up the gizmo in a permanent fashion. The prototyping area is well marked and matches the familiar solderless breadboard layout. Easy access to all the I/O ports and the support for the programmer round out this board and should make it easy to use.

The total of $36 is on par with the cost of an Arduino. You only need a single programmer so your next project may only need the $15 ATMega8 Developers Kit. You can even just get the $9 28 Pin AVR Development PCB for your next projects. You would need to come up with the socket and other small parts to use the $9 PCB.

The Arduino has the nice advantage of not needing a programmer but you do need to find a way to adapt the serial port. A USB or RS232 level converter is needed which cost about the same as the USBASP AVR Programmer. And considering that the USBASP AVR Programmer can program any AVR part you can expand your options. I want to try some projects with the 8-Pin Tiny AVRs.

Although I have not tried it yet, the Arduino environment should be supported on this PCB. Just need to load the boot loader and adapt the USB to serial adaptor cable. Liberlab should also work…

Hints for first time users

  • A power regulator is not included on the PCB but you can get power from programmer for your initial work.
  • I had some initial problems with the AVRDude software. After talking with Daniel I installed WinAVR to solve the problem. I was trying to cut to getting his test program running before I tackled the compiler. The version of AVRDude included in the free development tool package of WinAVR works fine.
  • The list file did not include source code initially. This is not an issue with the board just with the make file. I found some information on this on the avr-gcc-list here.
  • Daniel at Protostack provides a sample/test program which does a Cylon LED sweep. This code is a good start, just connect and LED and load this program to get things flashing. I modified the version to use a while loop so that it would cycle continuously rather then stopping after once cycle.
  • You could easily move the ATMega8 or ATMega168 from your Arduino to this board for your home project.

Suggested improvements

The ATMega8 Developers Kit is a fine and usable kit for home projects as is. It might be improved by including a layout for a voltage regulator and an RS232 chip. You can add these of course on the prototyping area but it might be very handy to have these very common features available on the board.

Posted in Development Tools, Ideas, Microcontroller, Parts, Review.


One Response

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  1. Berni says

    Thats a nice simplistic board.

    Well i guess they didn’t put RS232 on it cause they are planing for you to put it on if you need it for your project. Altho a lot of peaople might go for a cheaper route of assembling this on a normal cheep prefboard.

    But i do alaways like tiny USB programmers, thats why i got me the PicKit2 (Its not as small as this one but it has a heap of features)