How to Compare Arduino Microcontrollers: 5 Steps - MakeSureHow
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If you're planning on using an Arduino microcontroller in your electronics project to drive and power external devices, such as servos or motors, your size, power and output pin requirements will be much different than when you're adding special effects to a Halloween costume by sewing a microcontroller into the fabric. Look for specialized Arduino models when you have specific requirements, such as Power over Ethernet or the need to interface with an Android device.


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    Digital I/O Pins:The digital input/output pins on an Arduino microcontroller enable you to send signals to turn devices on or off. A device such as a motor requires a pin that supports pulse-width modulation to vary the motor's speed. Each Arduino microcontroller has a different number of digital I/O pins, and only a subset of those pins support PWM. Estimate the number of pins you need to control the devices in your project in two groups: devices that require an on/off signal and devices that require a signal that indicates intensity.
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    Power: Power is a critical consideration when selecting an Arduino microcontroller. Determine the power requirements for the devices you want to control to ensure you have pins with the right voltage to control them and sufficient power to supply to all your devices. While a 3.3V output pin provides enough power to signal a device to turn on or off, other devices might require a 5V pin to power them. The larger controllers, such as the Arduino Mega, can accept up to 20V of power through the USB port, the power connector or the Vin and ground pins.
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    Size: Consider the size of the different Arduino microcontrollers when you're choosing the right controller for your project. For example, if you're embedding an Arduino inside a stuffed animal, you might want to choose a smaller controller, such as the Mini Lite. If you're going to sew an Arduino into clothing, you'll want to select the round LilyPad controller. If the controller will be one of several components on a robot you create, the size of the controller might not be an important consideration.
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    Network Support: When you compare Arduino microcontrollers, consider the type of network support you need for your project. Several models such as the Mini, Nano, LilyPad, Leonardo and Uno don't have network capability included in the controller. You must add an additional shield to provide it. Other models have networking embedded in the controller, such as the Arduino Ethernet, Arduino Ethernet PoE or the Arduino Bluetooth. The Arduino Fio has built-in XBee wireless headers.
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    Most Powerful Capabilities: The Arduino Mega and Mega ADK are in a category of their own when you're comparing the different microcontrollers. If your project requires a faster processor, many digital I/O pins and a large amount of memory to accomodate more complex programs, choose the Arduino Mega or Mega ADK. Both controllers are physically larger than the other Arduino models, provide four times the number of digital I/O pins and provide memory that is seven to 14 times larger than the other controllers. The Mega ADK is the only controller with built-in capability to interface with an Android device.

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