Today marks the official release of the long-awaited Arduino Due, a vastly more powerful and capable version of the wildly popular Arduino microcontroller. This new Arduino is aimed at more complex applications, such as robotics, where the faster processor and increased input/output capability can enable builds which are simply impractical with the standard Arduino.
Perhaps the biggest improvement on the Due over the previous models of the Arduino is the switch from the traditional 16MHz 8-Bit processor to the Atmel SAM3X8E, a 32-Bit ARM Cortex-M3 clocked at 84MHz. This is a quantum leap in processing power, making it possible to sample data from connected sensors thousands of times faster than on the older models.
The Due also greatly expands the interfacing capabilities by increasing the amount of I/O pins and adding 12-Bit analog DAC. With this new hardware, it will be possible to do things like directly drive speakers for audio playback. In addition, the Due now includes two USB female micro-USB ports; one is for the traditional programming functions, and the other can be used for USB host or client mode.
This is similar to the functions offered by the Teensy line of microcontrollers, and is sure to spawn some very interesting projects in the near future. Being able to connect standard USB devices to the Due is going to be a huge advantage.
First, the good news. The Due is completely compatible with the Arduino IDE, so you’ll still have the friendly and well documented development environment to work in. However, due to the very large hardware differences between the Due and the other Arduinos, not all code is going to be immediately compatible. The goal is to make code as portable as possible, with the Arduino IDE transparently making the necessary adjustments based on what your target board is, but we aren’t there yet.
Unfortunately, there is a rather serious compatibility issue with existing third-party Arduino hardware that new users should be aware of. Since the older Arduino boards were 5V, and the new ARM board is 3.3V, many of the add-on “shields” for the older Arduino’s won’t work.
The processor, like all other in this class, runs at 3.3v therefore all the shields that fully implement the Arduino R3 layout are compatible straight away (like our wifi shield and our eth shield) but other 3rd party shield might not be compatible. if you have doubts ask your supplier and they will be able to tell you.
Official shields should still work, but anything else is in question. Anyone looking to upgrade their project from one of the older Arduino models to the Due needs to be very careful that the rest of their hardware and circuitry takes the voltage change into account.
The Arduino Due is available now for $49 USD via the official Arduino web store. Other retailers, such as SparkFun and Adafruit should be updating their stock in the very near future.
While there are certainly cheaper options (even the Raspberry Pi is cheaper), it should be noted that the Arduino hardware and software is and always will be completely free, and that the boards themselves are manufactured with the highest quality standards in Italy. The Arduino’s have never been cheap exactly, but you do get what you pay for.