chipKIT (Digilent)

Electronics manufacturer Digilent has produced the chipKIT range of Arduino-compatible circuit boards based on high performance 32-bit PIC microcontroller technology.

Three processor boards are available, plus a number of add-on boards, or shields. The chipKIT Uno32 and the more powerful uC32 are compatible with the Arduino Uno, while the Digilent equivalent of the Arduino Mega is the chipKIT Max32.

These boards offer 32-bit processor technology and generally have higher technical specifications than their Arduino equivalents, while remaining competitive on price. A detailed comparison is given in the following tables.

Table 1: Arduino Uno and equivalent Digilent chipKIT circuit boards.
  Arduino Uno (web) Digilent chipKIT Uno32 (web) Digilent chipKIT uC32 (web)
CPU ATmega328 (data) PIC32mx320f128 (data) PIC32MX340F512H (data)
Clock 16 MHz 80 MHz 80 MHz
Flash 32 KB1 (KiB) 128 KB (+ 12 KB boot flash) 512 KB (+12 KB boot flash)
SRAM 2 KB 16 KB 32 KB
I/O 14 42 42
EEPROM 1 KB 0 0
Table 2: Arduino Mega and equivalent Digilent chipKIT circuit board.
  Arduino Mega (web) Digilent chipKIT Max32 (web)
CPU ATmega1280 (data) PIC32mx795F512 (data)
Clock 16 MHz 80 MHz
Flash 128 KB1 512 KB (+ 12 KB boot flash)
SRAM 8 KB 128 KB
I/O 54 83
EEPROM 4 KB 0

Programming and Debugging

Programs may be developed, downloaded and debugged using the freely downloadable MPIDE (Multi Platform Integrated Development Environment) application, which may be used both with Digilent's own ChipKIT boards, and also with the full Arduino range. Hence you have the option to use a single IDE if you work with both types of circuit board.

The use of PIC-based processor technology also makes it possible to program the boards using Microchip's own MPLAB / MPLAB X IDE and their PICkit3 programmer / debugger, as an alternative to the standard MPIDE method. Digilent supply a PICkit3 Programming Cable Kit which allows connection between the PICkit3 and chipKIT boards, available from their Accessories section. Digilent also supply their own chipKIT PGM Programmer/Debugger which has the additional advantage of allowing in-system debugging of programs (or sketches) produced using the traditional MPIDE method.

Interfacing and Add-on Shields

A range of Digilent-supplied shields are available, including I/O, Wifi and networking add-on boards. Examples include:

Many of the shields designed for use with the Arduino Uno and Mega may also work with their equivalent Digilent main boards, provided they are designed to operate at 3.3 V. However, compatibility will need to be tested on an individual basis.

Footnote

1 The commonly used definition of 1 KB = 1,024 bytes is used here, to match with associated manufacturer datasheets. The equivalent IEC recommended binary prefix would be 1 KiB.

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