Arduino Zero Arrives With a Fast Microcontroller, More Features and Easy Debugging Tool Than UNO

After a few days of waiting, the Arduino Zero board finally arrived and now is in my hands. Produced by (Arduino Zero Pro is made by, just to avoid confusion), the new board claims to come with enhanced features compared with UNO.

Zero is available only in the USA under the Arduino brand. Outside the USA, Zero can be found as Genuino. The name doesn’t have any importance since both Arduino Zero and Genuino Zero have the same specifications.

Arduino Zero Specifications

  • Microcontroller: ATSAMD21G18, 32-Bit ARM Cortex M0+
  • Operating Voltage: 3.3V
  • Digital I/O Pins: 20
  • PWM Pins: All but pins 2 and 7
  • UART: 1xNative and 1xProgramming)
  • Analog Input Pins: 6, 12-bit ADC channels
  • Analog Output Pins: 1, 10-bit DAC
  • External Interrupts: All pins except pin 4
  • DC Current per I/O Pin: 7 mA
  • Flash Memory: 256 KB
  • SRAM: 32 KB
  • EEPROM: None
  • Clock Speed: 48 MHz
  • Dimensions: 70.3mm x 53.5mm x 12.7mm / 2.76″ x 2.1″ x 0.5″
  • Weight: 22.6g

Zero is three times faster than UNO due to the 32-Bit microcontroller with a clock speed of 48 MHz. The UNO board still has the same 8-bit microcontroller with a clock speed of 16 MHz even at the third revisio

The board is not just much faster than UNO. The ARM Cortex M0+ is the ideal microcontroller for learning how to build 32-bit applications.

Zero is designed to work at 3.3V instead 5V as UNO. The layout of the board is still the same as UNO, but the 3.3V feature is a problem if you want to use the board with many of the existing shields that support 5V. Some of the shields work with either 3.3V or 5V, but not all the shields.

This shift from 5V to 3V is common in the microcontroller world, especially for 32-bit devices. To make the Zero board 5V compatible, the price of the board would have to rise since the engineers had to add 5V shield compatibility. So, the 5V support isn’t a good alternative.

Also, Zero comes with an increased number of digital I/O pins, more PWM pins, and more flash memory. Overall, Zero comes with a powerful microcontroller, more features and a fast debugging tool than UNO. It has 20 digital I/O pins, from which 10 are PWM. That’s really cool.

For code debugging, you have something very useful. The tool is integrated into the board and is called Embedded Debugger (EDBG). With EDBG, you make code debugging much easier using a full debug interface with no need for additional parts. Why is this tool so important? Well, the debugging tool allows bit by bit manipulation of the chip, so you can set a breakpoint at an interrupt process and find out what happens.

Like any other Arduino boards, Zero selects the power source automatically between the USB connector or an external power supply. The Arduino recommendation for an external supply is 7 to 12V, but it can also operate on an external supply of 6 to 20 volts.

The first thing that I did when I saw the board was to connect it to my computer. But I realized that something is different than other Arduino boards, and I started looking information about this model. The board has two USB ports. One is a native port, and one is programming port. On the back of the board is written next to every USB port for what it is used. Also, the board works with the latest version of Arduino IDE. After you open the Arduino IDE, you have to install in Boards Manager a package with support for Arduino Zero.

My first project, like any other beginning, was to blink an LED. Given that the dimensions of Zero are almost the same as the UNO’s dimensions, my next try is to adapt my 4WD robot to Zero.

The price of Arduino/Genuino Zero is around $50, which is, at least, four times more than an Arduino UNO Rev 3. Fortunately, the Chinese clones will be available soon, and I hope for the same price as UNO.

Zero has a big potential in at least four industries: IoT, wearable, automation, robotics. Depending what you want to do with this board, there are many cases where a UNO board would be just fine for you. Only if you’re looking for more inputs and outputs, a faster microcontroller, and a debugging tool, Zero is a better alternative instead of a UNO board.

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