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Need recommendation for Cheap Arduino or Clone

BobW

Active Member
I'm looking for a cheap microcontroller that can be programmed with the Arduino IDE. The Nano "Every" would probably suit my needs. I only need a couple of analog inputs and 3 or 4 digital outputs. It also needs to run on 5 volts. The genuine Arduino boards are cheap enough, but the shipping is a killer. There are lots of super cheap clone boards on Ebay with free shipping, but I don't know how reliable these are. What do you all recommend?
 

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
I've bought a few Nano clones on ebay (all from China) and never had a problem except for one board that needed reflashing.

Mike.
 

SPDCHK

Member
I buy frequently from EBAY. To cull your fear if the units you buy are any good, I usually order in quantities of 5 to 10. In total over the last 5 years I've ordered about 50 Nano's. Not one of the them were faulty when I received them. Yes, I blew a few up myself doing stupid stuff, but then I had many spare units because I ordered so many at one go.
I've ordered Nano's, Pro Mini, ESP8266, ESP32, STM32 and a new Nano Clone LGT8F328P. Admittedly the latter is the only one I haven't tested yet. Just got it a while ago and haven't had the time to put it through it's paces yet.
 

BobW

Active Member
Thanks for the replies. I've also bought various Arduino type peripherals, and ESP8266 based controllers from Asian Ebay sellers with no problems. What caused me to hesitate this time is this particular item:
www.ebay.com/itm/372607323090/

Notice the fine print at the bottom:
In the same performance guarantee NANO and master chip ATMEGA328P-AU same premise, We replaced the USB chip, Improved download speed, Increase the stability of the win7 win8, but it does not support MAC.
As it happens, I do virtually all of my development on a Mac, and it would be a major inconvenience to have to drag out my Windows PC and set it up for this. Seeing the statement about lack of Mac support, it got me wondering how many other suppliers have cut corners by not supporting all platforms, but have failed to mention it.

I'd appreciate it if you could let me know which sellers you've dealt with and would recommend.
 

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
It states that it uses the CH340 USB - Serial chip which has a Mac version of the driver available. Do you have any other boards that use a CH340? Can you check if your Mac has a CH340 driver installed?

Mike.
 

BobW

Active Member
A year or two ago, I was trying to use a USB to serial adapter that used the CH340 chip. I downloaded the driver that was available at the time, but wasn't able to get the computer to see the device. I switched to a different adapter that used the FTDI chip and had no problems. The CH340 driver may have improved since that time, but it made me wary of the CH340. I'm surprised that these things cause so much trouble. They're supposed to present themselves as a Virtual Com Port and work with the operating system's standard VCP driver.

That Nano clone is less than $3. I guess it's worth the gamble. Not much at stake.
 

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
I've generally found that Apple doesn't play nice with others.

You could use something like the Leonardo Pro Micro which uses the main processor to do the USB.

Mike.
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
If you go for a Pro Mini, you have to supply your own USB/Serial interface (I use the FTDI one) so that would cure any Mac issues - and also it's smaller and cheaper than the Nano :D
 

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
If you go for a Pro Mini, you have to supply your own USB/Serial interface (I use the FTDI one) so that would cure any Mac issues - and also it's smaller and cheaper than the Nano :D
I thought the pro mini used the ATMEGA32U4 which communicated without a USB to RS232 converter.

Mike.
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Sorry, I abbreviated "Leonardo Pro Micro" to Pro mini because you did. The Leonardo is different. And worth playing with.

Mike.
 

sagor1

Active Member
I stay away from any Nano (or any Arduino clone) that uses the CH340 chip, or any of its derivatives (like CH341). Just too many "bad" stories about those serial chips and/or their drivers (mostly their drivers are bad...). You can specifically find nano boards on Ebay from China that use the FTDI serial chips (or some other Arduino with the U16/U8/CP2102 chips). Those chips have supporting drivers for almost all OS out there. They do cost more of course.
That said, often I've ordered a Nano with the FTDI and they ship a board with the CH340. I always put in a claim for "not as described" and get my refund (and get to keep the lousy board too...). A thing to note for Ebay, any "item not as described" requires the seller to pay return shipping, and for most products from China, it is cheaper for them to not ask for it back if it is a cheap item.
Same holds true for cheap USB to Serial (or specialty interface) adapters. The cheaper ones tend to use the CH34x series of chips.
 

sagor1

Active Member
Not the board itself, they do work. It is the Windows/Mac/Linux drivers that tend to mess up the operating system. Once a Nano is programmed, no issues running the board.
I saw one blog that recommended removing ALL CH340 drivers as they conflicted with FTDI and other "normal" drivers. I guess if you don't mix the drivers, then just the CH340 may be ok.
I'll see if I can find that article, but that was a while ago.
 

sagor1

Active Member
Ok, my mistake, it is the Prolific chipset and drivers that seem to cause the problems. There are issues with the CH340 still, but there seems to be work-arounds for those (use old bootloader).
Prolific were the clone chips (from China) the Microsoft "zapped" a few years ago, and Win10 still has some issues with them.
Regardless, I still stay away from the CH340 type of boards if intending to use the serial interface in the program itself.

Sorry for the misunderstanding, I got confused between those two USB to serial chips that I avoid.
 

Mike - K8LH

Well-Known Member
BTW, Bob. You might look into sampling some of the 8-pin, 14-pin, and 20-pin chips supported by the ATTINY Arduino core. You can program them from the Arduino IDE using an Arduino and the "Arduino as ISP" sketch or one of those inexpensive micro-USB "avrisp" boards from China ($1.33, incl. shipping). Unfortunately, I can't guarantee it'll work with your Mac...

I made a simple programming adapter board with 20-pin ZIF socket for a few of the more common ATTINY chips (see below)... it also plugs into my PICKIT3 to program 8/14/20 pin PICs...

attiny2313.pngattiny2313_adapt.pngattiny_adapter.pngATTINY85 + ST7735 Test.jpg
 
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BobW

Active Member
I've generally found that Apple doesn't play nice with others
In recent years, Apple has annoyed a lot of 3rd party software developers with their policy of bringing out a new OS version every year, just to introduce a lot of useless "features" and very little effort to fix bugs. These new releases have been breaking a lot of existing software products.

As for drivers though, I think it has more to do with peripheral manufacturers doing a half hearted job on their Mac drivers, or not bothering to support Mac at all, because of the smaller market. When the peripherals work, they usually work very well. Plug a USB device into a Mac, and you're done. None of that Windows "New device detected. What do you want to do?" fiasco.

If you go for a Pro Mini, you have to supply your own USB/Serial interface (I use the FTDI one) so that would cure any Mac issues - and also it's smaller and cheaper than the Nano :D
Thanks. I wasn't aware of that model. That may be the best option.

BTW, Bob. You might look into sampling some of the 8-pin, 14-pin, and 20-pin chips supported by the ATTINY Arduino core.
For chip level projects, I generally stick with PICs and the MPLAB IDE. In this case, I'm trying to adapt one of my earlier PIC based projects for people not used to handling bare chips. So I'd like something that can plug directly into a breadboard with as little soldering as possible.
 

BobW

Active Member
I was pleasantly surprised to find a semi-local supplier of Arduino & Arduino clone hardware with cheap shipping. I ordered 5 mini pro's which arrived last night.

The supplier sells both 3.3V and 5V versions. I ordered the 3.3V ones, and then afterwards got wondering if there would be any compatibility problems using the FTDI USB/serial adapter to program it. The FTDI adapter supplies 3.3V to the controller, but I assume the serial signal logic levels are still 5V. I guess I can put some small value resistors between the adapter and the microcontroller just to be safe, but I was wondering if anyone has had any problems with voltage level differences in this situation.
 

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