Cheapest Board for beginners

Hey everybody,

I’m new to the community and I want to buy my first hardware to use riot on it. Has anyone some recommendations for a cheap and easy to use board?

There are a couple of good options. You could go with a Blackpill (better version of the Bluepill, STM32F1) It’s pretty cheap, but you also need a ST-Linkv2 in order to program it. If you have the money for it, I would get a couple of them, because you can flash the black magic probe firmware on it. (Alternative How to) There is also a non-standard IPv6 stack for the CC1101. So, you could get a couple of Blackpills + CC1101 and create a small network.

The nRF52832 is also a cheap MCU. With NimBLE you can run IPv6 over BLE. With a cheap Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter you can also connect it to a Linux machine and talk to the device. In order to flash it you need a black magic probe or a J-Link. J-Link clones are also not terrible expensive.

The classic Black/Bluepill is not such a good option, STM32F1 doesn’t have USB support in RIOT yet and the chip is quite dated.

The WeAct-F411CE is a more modern option in a similar form factor, it comes with a more capable STM32F411 for which RIOT has USB support - so you don’t need any extra hardware to program and use it, the in-ROM USB bootloader can be used for flashing.

CDC ACM is still not always as stable as a ‘real’ UART, so if you want a cheap board with a debugger, the Nucleo boards are a good option.

If you want something with a radio, the nRF52840 Dongle is a great option. It doesn’t have a debugger (but has a USB bootloader), but you can leverage the very wide input voltage range of the nRF52840 if you decide to run if off batteries.

1 Like

On 2022-04-26, at 20:42, Philipp Blum via RIOT wrote:


The clones used to be really cheap (I got a ton at ~ € 2), but still are not expensive:

(You can still buy 5 for ~ € 20.)

If you do anything with STM32 (including bluebell etc.), you want to have a stash of these lying around. They power your little setups as well… Running GDB on these small thingies is really empowering.

(You can firmware-upgrade them with standard software from ST as well.)

My only caveat: There are two versions of this clone which look exactly the same but have different pinout. Fortunately, the pinout is printed in the aluminum shell.

Grüße, Carsten

1 Like

If you want both the USB and radio support of nrf52840 (the nrf52840dongle Ben mentioned is one of my favorites) and easy access with an external debugger, the particle-xenon might be right for you, as it has a small debug connector readily soldered on, and pins rather than solder points for easy breadboarding. They’re discontinued by the vendor, but were still rather available last time I checked. Both come with bootloaders that can be used from RIOT.

If you like to have the debugger built in, you may want to go for the microbit-v2; compared to the nrf52840 dongle and the particle-xenon you lose the full USB support (it has USB but through the debugger, ie. you can debug and flash, and access a serial port, but can’t do, say, USB networking), but gain a neat small dot matrix display, a speaker (although I’m afraid my PR for supporting it isn’t through yet) and pins that can be used with conductive thread if you’re into wearables.