Arduino clones received – pics and discussion

I am a big proponent of Aliexpress / Ali Baba along with other reputable Chinese drop shippers. There’s many a things I couldn’t afford to do if I had to buy US everything… and there’s even quite a few things I’d not be allowed to purchase because of bad laws. But, I digress.

On December 2, I put in the purchase order for 2 Arduino UNO clones. They clearly say UNO, but are absent all Arduino logo and trademarks. Cool. I don’t like to buy material that clearly rips off the names, so I stay away from “Arduino UNO” branded goods, as they well, aren’t.

And I just received the 2 UNOs I ordered yesterday.

wpid-img_20141216_075414.jpg

The kit didn’t come with the required USB B cable. Big deal.. It’s not like I don’t have 10 or so of those cables. One nice thing about these are that I also received 4 10-headers. Awesome. I can never have enough of those.

I power the first on up, and there’s no program aside the Arduino bootloader loaded on the ATMEL Mega328P (AU 1436). Ok. So I load BLINK. Works perfectly on both.wpid-img_20141216_081944.jpg wpid-img_20141216_082015.jpg

So, how did the Chinese get this Arduino clone so cheap? We’ll have to look into the board a bit further to figure that out.

wpid-img_20141216_075541.jpgThe first thing’s obvious: There’s no Atmel (8/16)u2 serial-USB chip. Instead, there’s a Chinese chip, a CH3400. Makes sense, as the Atmel chip goes for $4.30 in single quantities. That’s more than the entire board! But some people talk about driver issues. It seems like if you run Windows or Mac, you’re going to be hunting for drivers which may or may not work. Fortunately, we Linux folk already have a generic USB-Serial driver for any device that implements it. So, everything for us just works. Yay Linux! There’s also a 4 pinholes in a header line to reprogram this chip, I’m guessing. It’s labeled X1.

But for the others, this is the lsusb output: 1a86:7523 QinHeng Electronics HL-340 USB-Serial adapter

Next off, there’s no DIP socket/DIP chip. It’s a pain, as I like using my Arduino (and clones) as programmers for Atmel chips. But I also know there was a shortage going on. And frankly, SMT profile does make sense in cutting down cost. Sockets are expensive (in a $3~ board).

Next thing is the LDO voltage regulator. According to my SOT chip silkscreen, it says it’s a AMS1117 5.0 H1418 (PDF). I’m unsure as to how to check if it’s the “real thing”, given recent Reddit posts of exploding LDO VR’s . So I’ll just have to consider it close tolerance to 5V.

Next is the crystal. Peculiar – 12.000 MHz (16 HMN 1311). A quick search didn’t shoe me the crystal, but I know the reference design calls for a 16.000 MHz crystal. So, possibly underclocked.

I also notice the block of pins ready for headers above the ANALOG section. They’re broken out in a really nice section, seemingly ready for solder and simple connections. Nice and convenient. And lol on the “ISCP”. Simple acronym spelling mistake.

I can also appreciate on this board more than reference: for each of the main pinout female headers, there’s holes for you to attach your own male headers as well. I really like that.

Also, the soldering job on the boards are quite well done. There’s one pin on the ICSP that needed (in my opinion) a tiny bit more solder, but it still works perfectly fine.

The downsides: Shipping. The shipping cost was “free” (read: amortized within the good). I’ve no problem with that. But the shipping time was 13 days, from China. That’s awesome if you need X Arduino-compatible devices in a few weeks. But if you need one now, there is Radio Shack (cringe… cant believe I just said that).

The other downside is you are not purchasing devices from Arduino.cc . They were the ones who started the super simple platform using Atmel chips that brought physical computing to the masses. And their official builds are rock-solid. I am just poor, and get by with the 90% solution.

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11 responses to “Arduino clones received – pics and discussion”

  1. Anonymous says :

    But do they work, your review does not cover that part.

    • jwcrawley says :

      They do, for what I tested. The Arduino bootloader works well. The blink script/pin 13/led works. Serial io is good. I have to test other pins. But so far, what i tested works like the real thing.

      Also, I would have been very vocal if they were defective. And I would have immediately worked with Ali express to remedy it.

      But they work. Well.

  2. Anonymous says :

    The 12 Mhz crystal is probably for clocking the CH3400. The crystal for the atmega seems to be located between C5 and C6.

  3. Collin Reisdorf (@NillocR) says :

    If you make some money, and really feel like supporting the creator of small accessible micro controller programming, don’t forget about wiring.org.co (where the arduino guys forked the idea).

  4. Felix says :

    The capacitors in some of these boards are made with animal products. I know some people don’t care about this but others may. The electrolytic capacitors are created from dog fur extract.

    • jwcrawley says :

      Interestingly enough, I do care. I tried looking at a few different keywords regarding this topic, however I could not find any direct connections between animal products and capacitors.

      Please note I’m not refuting you; I’m asking for more information about this.

  5. Anonymous says :

    I saw your feedback on Aliexpress re: all metal hot end. I was curious how those were working for you. Sorry for the off-topic post.

    • jwcrawley says :

      I did receive that, along with a 9DoF accelerometer and arduino mini clones!

      Right now, it’s all family obligations and stuff. I’m looking at a fairly extensive review of my purchases and organization of my ICs.

  6. spots says :

    The very first official Arduino I purchased (i.e. with its very high quality screen-printed legends on the PCB etc and in the official packaging from a reputable supplier) was faulty – caused a “high current” warning when plugged into any USB socket on my computer (the Arduino had nothing connected to it). The second official Arduino behaved correctly.
    So, I would say that even though official Arduinos charge a premium, it is no guarantee that they will work any better than a low-cost one from China.
    I know I probably got extremely unlucky, but it goes to show it can happen..

    • jwcrawley says :

      That’s all too true. Good components from the official channels are usually much higher quality than he bargain basement Chinese shops.

      Now, there are plenty of ways to lower costs. For example, going with a CH3400 serial-USB chip is almost a magnitude cheaper than the FTDI chip. And frankly, the Arduino also charges quite a lot for the name.

      But there’s other places where skimping can be bad. For example, a big area is quality control. Parts may be badly soldered, or not at all. If you know what you’re looking for, this isn’t a hard fix. The real problems are when you get janky voltage regulators that can provide 5v from up to 16v spec. You try that, and POOF! Guess what, your VR could only realistically handle, maybe 9v.

      And the warranty from buying from a local retailer also has the power of “It’s defective. I want one that works.” If you buy from Ali express, they’re counting on shipping>cost of object so you won’t want to bother.

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