Some days ago I suddenly got the urge to tinker a bit with some hardware. In my studies, we worked with Arduino breakout boards for our prototyping exercises, so it felt like the natural thing to start messing around with.
If you want to know more about what Arduino is, visit arduino.cc.
I used to have an Arduino Uno R1 (I believe), but I gave it to my Dad for a project of his and I figured it was time to get another one for my self. Having recently moved, I wasn’t looking to spend too much on hardware I was intending to just mess around with. Luckily, the Arduino is open source and basically anyone can build one for them, thus there are many clones on the market. So while I was browsing through, I stumbled upon the Elegoo Uno R3. It was just about a third of the price of the Arduino, and since it’s a one to one clone, I thought “I should be able to get it to work ok, and if I can’t – it’s not that big of a loss for that price”. Now I’m not a specialist in microelectronics, in fact I know basically nothing about it, but I love building stuff, and since the Arduino has a super healthy community around it, I went ahead and grabbed the Elegoo. I ended up being really impressed with it, so I thought I’d write a little post about my impressions and thoughts.
The Elegoo came in a transparent anti-static bag, which included the board (packaged in a nice little cardboard box), a little “thank you” note and a usb cable. Pretty straight-forward, but also everything you need to get started. The “thank you” booklet includes instructions on what to do when you’re happy with the product, what to do when there’s a problem with the board and a password for Elegoo’s online tutorials.
The included USB cable is of pretty good quality. I don’t know if all have the same color, but mine is transparent blue, which is pretty sweet. The only downfall of the cable is that it is incredibly short. This is ok if you’re developing on a laptop and can put the board next to it, so you can see what’s going on, or if you just want to upload your sketch quickly from your PC and then use an external PSU to power the board. However if you want to keep the Elegoo connected to the PC and have a breadboard with lot’s of stuff connected to it, while constantly changing and uploading your sketch (or you want to view the serial monitor), the cable is way too short. Thankfully I have a longer compatible cable, which works just fine.
The Elegoo Uno R3 is exactly what you would expect from a one to one copy and if you know what an Arduino Uno looks like, you will feel right at home. I won’t get into the technical specifications of the Uno – you can read them at the Arduino website, but it’s safe to say that when you connect the board to your PC, it will not know the difference between Elegoo or Arduino. The board is built pretty well and the soldering on it looks solid. I found the little labels on the side of the pins quite helpful and I thought it was a neat idea. Apparently I was out of the game a bit too long, since I later found out that the Arduino Uno R3 also has them, so the Elegoo people copied that too. It’s still useful, so I’m happy they went ahead and tried to justify the name Uno R3, by adding these details.
Strangely enough the “getting started” online tutorial from Elegoo started with 3 or 4 pages of explaining what could go wrong and in case that happened, it pretty much means you ended up with a faulty board. That made me a bit skeptical, since to me this means that they often get contacted by customers about problems with their boards. Whether I ended up being lucky or they simply wanted to sort of wash their hands in advance by writing this in the tutorial – I don’t know, but my board connected and worked flawlessly right away. Basically all I needed to do is download the Ardiono IDE along with the drivers from the Arduino website, go to the Device Manager and update the drivers of the newly detected Arduino Uno device. After that the board showed up in the IDE and I was ready to go. The board comes preloaded with the “Blink” sketch, which makes the built in PIN13 LED blink. A quick test was to load up the sketch from the examples and change the delay from 1000 milliseconds to something else just to see if it would upload and run, which turned out to be no problem at all for the Elegoo.
So does the Elegoo Uno have any advantages in comparison to the Arduino, apart from it’s price? Not really, but that is also exactly the point. The board looks, feels and works exactly like the original, but is way more affordable. Given the Arduino Uno is not a super expensive breakout board and some of the money you pay for it go to charity and further research and development, when your projects expand and you start getting a lot of extra sensors and gadgets to control with your board, it can all add up quite a bit. So if you can’t afford getting the original at the time, getting a clone (there are many out there, the Elegoo is just one of them) so far seems like a good alternative.