From the 6th of July this year, the US will be imposing a 25% tariff on over 800 categories of goods coming from China in a retaliation to Chinese government subsidies. I reckon the 4th of July would have been a better date, but jokes aside, this is something that will affect the entire electronics Maker community.
Every passive component is on this list, resistors, capacitors as well as transistors, diodes, displays, oscillators and equipment such as signal generators. About the only thing that isn’t on the list is laser diodes. So, you can bank on everything you buy within the US going up by 25%. That’s a huge amount for a hobbyist. Will it spell the end of the electronics Maker community? Who knows? But, if you have the spare cash now, I’d buy as many components as possible before the price hike.
The Friendly guys are back at it again with a bunch of new SBCs.
The first one is the NanoPC-T4, which is based on the hexa-core RK3399 SoC, with 4G DDR3 RAM, 16G eMMC, dual-band WiFi, GbE, M2 key, 40 pin almost compatible GPIO header, 4k capable HDMI, DisplayPort, MIPI-DSI & CSI and USB3.0, all powered from 12v DC. They’re doing their old trick of shoving as many features in as possible. However, good to see a lot of SBC companies abandoning the microUSB power port and using DC jacks instead.
Then there’s the Smart4418 which is based on the Samsung quad-core S5P4418 SoC with 1G DDR3 RAM, 8G eMMC, GbE, WiFi, Bluetooth and possibly the same GPIO layout as the Smart6818, but I’d have to check the schematics on that.
This board can fit into their carrier board, which pushes out everything from the module as well as providing SATA ports and M.2 slot.
Meanwhile the Firefly guys have come out with a module called the Core-PX3-SEJ… Either I’m not up with the latest l33t 5p3ak, or the engineers ran out of naming ideas.
Why don’t they give it a trendy name, like Pixy?
Anyway… This SODIMM style board runs the quad-core Rockchip PX3-SE with 512M, 1G or 2G DDR3 RAM options, 4G to 32G eMMC options, SD slot, GbE, WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, and all the usual plethora of GPIO options. The SoC is capable of encoding and decoding H.264 video at up to 1080p/60Hz and you get all this for only US$40, which is pretty decent.
The only catch with SODIMM SBCs is that you usually get hit with carrier board prices. However, for only an extra US$20, you can pick up the carrier board for this.
Last year I predicted that 2018 would be the year of the FPGA for Makers. We’re already half way through the year and we’ve seen boards like the TinyFPGA surfacing.
Well, the Arduino guys have also seen the writing on the wall and have released the MKR Vidor 4000. Based on an Intel Cyclone FPGA, with a really stupid name, it has 16 thousand Logic Elements, 8MB SDRAM, 2MB QSPI flash, HDMI, MIPI-CSI interfaced to a mPCIe connector.
Not only that, but it has a SAMD21 with all the GPIOs pushed out and a HW crypto chip. Can be powered from PCIe bus, USB, or LiPo battery.
This is a very cool little board and I think I’ll get a couple of them for future projects.
Then there’s an upgrade on the Arduino Uno running the ATmega4809 and a Ublox W102 WiFi module. This makes it very similar to an ESP32, but the advantage is that both ICs work independently, so your code doesn’t have to share the CPU with WiFi code.
Then there’s the Arduino MKR NB 1500, using a SAMD21 and U-blox SARA-R410M module, powered from 5v, USB, or LiPo. This is a pretty cool module, capable of NB-IoT and LTE Cat-M1. I’m pretty sure this is the smallest mobile network board I’ve seen.
And finally there’s the MKR WiFi 1010, running a SAMD21 along with a U-blox NINA-W10 module. This is based on the ESP32, so provides pretty much the same lineup. Like the MKR NB 1500, has the same GPIOs, power options and footprint.
The Khadas guys have come out with an expansion board called the Khadas Tone. This is an audio processing board running an XMOS XU208, which is a pretty grunty 8 core realtime SoC. It also has a 32bit stereo DAC with some decent audio specs. You can sample up to 768kHz at 32bit resolution with a very low jitter and can transcode in realtime to several different audio CODECs.