Microchip MicroStick review
In 2010 year end, Microchip present to us the Microstick for dsPIC33F and PIC24H Development Board. The device is very portable, beauty, and Microchip list interesting features (from Microchip website):
- Low Cost – Priced at $24.99 at Microchip Direct
- Integrated USB programmer / debugger – No external debugger required
- USB Powered – Ease of use, No external power required
- Socketed dsPIC/PIC24 – Flexible, Easy device replacement
- 0.025” Pin headers – Enables plug-in to Breadboard with room for jumper wires
- Easy access to all device signals for probing
- Small size – Smaller than a stick of gum at 20 x76mm – Easily Portable
- On board debug LED, Utility LED and Reset Switch
- Free demo code
I ordering one and I’m very confident because it’s the first way Microchip creates a breadboard friendly device (I really don’t like Explorer16 board’s kit and companion). I spec to use this device on rapid prototypes, tests, code optimizations, etc. Also other thing I want to do is know about dsPIC.
The package comes and here is the content:
Very well documented, comes with printed schematics (great Microchip!). And other chip! a dsPIC33FJ64MC802. Again, point to Microchip.
I plug the device on my notebook (a Macbook Pro running Parallels Desktop) and easily upload some example codes (free demo code). Led blinks as a signal that board it’s ok. The debugger has a PIC18F67J50 control and a small ICSP header to upgrades (I think).
When I’ll gonna replace the original PIC on device (PIC24HJ64GP502) to one mine more powerful (PIC24HJ128GP502) the MPLAB won’t recognize the board yet. After some tests and explorations, the explanation comes from the MicroStick box: designed to work only with the two devices inside the box (dsPIC33FJ64MC802 and PIC24HJ64GP502). Wow… what? Why no use other devices? Why no support other PIC24H (or even PIC24F) and dsPIC on 28 DIP packages? All from the same Microchip?
Ok. That’s a lost point. Now, I’ll put the MicroStick on breadboard and wire up it to some device, maybe a LCD, or a triple-axis accelerometer. PORTA RA0, PORTA RA1, GND and +3V3… Where? Where is the +3V3 pin on headers to power external circuitry? Look at schematics again, and, there’s no +3V3 pin on headers to power external circuitry. The 28 pin PIC (+3V3) isn’t connected to 28 socket pin on bottom side.
Because of that (and other things), I’m change my opinion about MicroStick. The device still great, very straight use, ideal for a School Lab, but with limitations. Some of them you need to know (most easy to fix):
- Total absence of +3V3 pin on headers to power external circuitry on breadboard;
- Don’t support other 28pin PIC24H and dsPIC devices;
- Machine headers, DIP-28 socket 600MIL and breadboards don’t form a great team. They won’t attach firmly on breadboards. Maybe a two single-line header work’s well;
- PGD(RB0) and PGC(RB1) program data lines don’t available on DIP-28 socket 600MIL;
But, aside these things, there’s great goals too, not easy to understand on a first view:
- J3 header looks like a 6pin ICSP header, but actually not. It’s a 6pin header where only three pins it’s useful: USART RXD(4), TXD(5) and GND(1). Other pins rest unconnected. It’s match exactly the same cross position (RXD->TX and TXD->RX) to use it with common USB/RS232 breakout boards, like that, and with Bluetooth Mate Gold, both from SparkFun
Well, that’s it. My review to help other users that need know more about this little evil until spend $24,99. I like it, really. And yours will see some project with it here. Maybe some fix to the limitations listed above.
Suggestion to Microchip: update the PIC18F67J50 firmware on MicroStick debugger (and MPLAB, off course) to support the others 28pin devices. Even PIC24F family. Please?