If you are getting started with Embedded system journey and planning to purchase any hardware . This article can help you. I had posted one article Which ARM board to buy for baremetal programming ?
What is the use of evaluation board ?
Evaluation board is useful for both hardware and software engineers. Hardware engineers may refer to schematic of evaluation board to understand any specific requirement. Software engineers can use it to develop firmware before custom board proto type is ready. It can be also used by students for learning particular microcontroller.
Time is the most critical aspect for both developers and students. Any wrong board selection can spoil your valuable time.
Key points for students
- Architecture : Currently ARM architecture based skills are preferred in the industry
- Cost : Genuine hardware vendor must be preferred because they never compromise with quality to make it cheaper. They use only approved vendors for all required components.
- Reliability: This is most important factor because your project or learning depends on this board only. Hardware boards go through various phases starting from design by architect, Circuit design by experienced hardware designers, PCB , PCB layout, manufacturing , testing and Quality control . This is a huge team efforts. A reliable board can save hours of debugging.
- Documentation: Make sure you get datasheet of device being used, Board user guide, Device errata doc, Application notes , Device Programming manual etc. NxP, TI and ST provide excellent documentation.
- Community support: This is important aspects. You can easily find this with the help of Google. For example : Google this “Nucleo-l4r5zi youtube” . You will find community support available for well known semiconductor company evaluation boards.
- Development Ecosystem: You must check all tools required to work for particular evaluation board. I generally install all tools in advance first. If you have to purchase external debugger, it can increase cost and sometime it may not work due to version mismatch.
- Support : I have good experience with sales team of NxP, ST , Nuvoton and Nordic semiconductor.
- Resale Value : If the board is from well known company, one can resale it after learning and use that money to purchase other board.
Why can’t we design our board and then learn embedded software with that ?
It depends on your career target. If you are exploring hardware design as career, you can design. On the other hand, you don’t need to touch PCB design If your target is to become good software developer .
My classmate has developed hardware board , Can I use that ?
It depends on how much time you have to spend on that.
When you have to solve an equation, minimum number of variables can help.
Embedded system development has two key areas 1: Hardware 2: Software
If hardware is not proven, you will be unnecessary increasing a variable. Same thing applies if you want to test hardware but software is not proven. This is why developer use proven software libraries as reference.
Success stories of Embedded Developer kit are at this link.