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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

Here are key points about the Arduino 101.



What's Hot


Built-in 6-Axis Gyroscope/Accelerometer with Pattern Recognition: You can buy shields which can add on a gyroscope and accelerometer, but the Arduino 101 already comes with it built-in, saving space and removing compatibility headaches. However, what sets the Arduino 101 apart is its 128-node neural network which allows it to perform quick pattern recognition of the inputs from the gyroscope and accelerometer. Users can easily utilize the Arduino 101 to track motion and recognize gestures.



Built-in Bluetooth: What's the Internet of Things without a portal to the Internet? While Bluetooth isn't a direct link to the internet, it does offer the ability to connect to devices such as phones and computers, which do have internet connections. The example Bluetooth sketches from the Arduino website worked quite well, and it was easy to figure out how to utilize the code to build your own.


Native 3.3v with 5V Tolerance: A huge part of Intel's vision for the Curie module is wearable devices and the majority of those run off low voltage button batteries. The Curie module's ability to run at 3.3v makes it a great contender for scenarios where higher voltages aren't available. The board's many voltage translators allow for 5v usage, which is more common with shields and other additions.


Very integrated: The Curie module is a new-age microcontroller. It's a highly-integrated SoC with two different types of processing cores and a lot of useful features such as the inertial monitoring unit and Bluetooth. The Arduino 101 is open source, so when you develop your design and perfect it, you can presumably design a significantly smaller device using the same tiny Curie module and a button sized PCB.


What's Not


RTOS Still Not Public: The Arduino website says that the real-time operating system which runs inside the Curie module would be made public in March 2016. It's May 2016, and it seems that Intel is still tweaking the RTOS for public release. While this doesn't impact the majority of users such as myself, it could pose a problem to developers who might want to utilize internal parts of the Curie in novel ways. Intel also hasn't made a full datasheet on the Curie module available to the public.



Final Thoughts


The Arduino 101 is priced relatively well at only $30, and its availability is quite good; I even saw it at my local Microcenter a few weeks ago. Intel has tried hard to make inroads into the open-source maker space for a while, but this might be their big hurrah with the Curie module on the Arduino 101. The Arduino 101 is basically an Uno replacement on steroids; with almost identical pinouts it would be very simple to add an Arduino 101 to your arsenal and still use your current Uno compatible shields.




The integration of the 6-axis inertial monitoring unit along with the Bluetooth makes the Arduino 101 a good value at only $30, perhaps even cheaper than buying an Arduino Uno and adding a few shields - and it's more compact. Since the two functions are integrated, you won't have any issues with compatibility of add-on shields. Overall, I found that the Arduino 101's Curie libraries were quite fun to play with and very easy to use. If you are looking for an elegantly equipped Arduino with a lot of versatility, then the Arduino 101 is a solid option.

Product Summary Breakdown

TweakTown award
Quality including Design and Build92%
General Features95%
Bundle and Packaging85%
Value for Money90%
Overall TweakTown Rating91%

The Bottom Line: The Arduino 101 equipped with Intel's Curie module integrates a 6-axis gyro/accelerometer and Bluetooth, which sets it apart from the rest of the Arduino line up.

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