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Intel Curie-based Arduino 101 Programmable Microcontroller Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Development Boards in Maker & DIY | Posted: May 20, 2016 1:16 am
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Intel

Arduino 101

 

 

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A small box holds the Arduino 101 in an anti-static bag and a paper pamphlet.

 

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The top of the unit looks very similar to the Arduino Uno; the pin layout is identical to that of the Uno, so shields will easily plug in. On the back of the unit is a sticker with a unique identifier for the Bluetooth LE (BLE) connection.

 

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A USB 2.0 connector is used to load code and can provide enough power to run the unit. You can also monitor serial output using USB and the Arduino IDE. There is a DC power jack which can handle higher voltages from battery packs or an AC/DC converter. There is a Master Reset and Reset button. The Reset button will reset the sketch (code), and the Master Reset button will reset the sketch as well as both the cores (Quark SE and ARC) in the Curie SoC.

 

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Part of the PCB is almost translucent, and that is where the BLE antenna is integrated.

 

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Side by side images of the Uno and 101, and the Mega, Uno, and 101.

 

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The Curie module is one powerful little beast. Stamped with Intel's traditional SSpec, the SR2NW carries a 32MHz x86 Quark SE core and a 32MHz/32-bit ARC core. The Curie also uses a real-time OS (RTOS) developed by Intel, and you can take advantage of it by using the Curie libraries in the Arduino IDE. The Arduino site says that this RTOS should become open-source in March 2016, but considering it's already May 2016, it would be safe to assume that Intel isn't done optimizing it yet.

 

Apart from the schematics located on the Arduino website, which includes a full pinout and diagram in case you want to build the board yourself, I could not find a datasheet on the Curie module. There is mention that the 6-axis gyroscope/accelerometer is a BOSCH BMI160. The Curie is a 3.3v device, which is great for scenarios where lower power is better, but since many devices use 5v, the Arduino 101 utilizes three voltage level translators to support both voltages.

 

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As I mentioned before, three Texas Instruments LSF0108 8-channel bidirectional multi-voltage level translators are used to support 5v although the Curie is a 3.3v device. The Curie also needs some flash memory, and in this case, it's a Winbond 25Q16DVSIG 16Mbit SPI Flash module.

 

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Power input for the Arduino 101 can come from either the USB port or the DC jack, and the selection is automatic. However, the input range of the DC jack is quite wide, and most input will be above 5v, so a Texas Instruments TPS62153 switch mode power supply is used to step down the voltage to 5v. To take the 5v down to 3.3v, a Texas Instruments LM1117 LDO is used to provide a steady 3.3v output. The Arduino 101 also has voltage and over current protection. The tiny black square in the image on the right is a Fairchild FPF2496 IntelliMAX chip with OVP and OCP, and you can short the pad to allow higher current operation up to 1.5a.

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