View Full Version : [Question(s)] Which microcontroller is best in terms of price and performance?

03-15-2010, 10:39 AM
I"m a bit of a noob to robotics, but have dabbled in elctronics a lot. I justed wanted to know which microcontroller is best for robotics in temrs of price and performance. A few people have told me Pic are the best, but I'm not quiet sure if it is the best. Thanx, DannyDeth.:happy:

03-15-2010, 11:27 AM
"best" is mostly opinion. PIC/AVR/MSP/etc are very closely matched for speed/price. I think more important for hobby and education use is the ease of use and support community -- and in that respect, the Arduino (built around the AVR) wins pretty much hands down.


03-15-2010, 01:17 PM
Thanx a lot, im gonna go search for that at my local electronics store ASAP. :veryhappy:

03-15-2010, 01:31 PM
I agree with Fergs, in terms of price/performance there is no major "value" difference between the major vendors. You might get a different answer on Microchip forum or AVRfreaks !

It depends on your robot and the actual performance you need from one or multiple microcontrollers. I tend to use PIC 8 bit for really small low cost stuff in assembler, AVR 8 bit/Arduino for medium stuff in C, top end is ARM, AVR32, PIC32 in C. I do weird stuff on propeller or FPGA(Microblaze). They are own my choice and my comfort zone.

While chip price and performance are chip choice vectors, you must also consider the cost and productivity of your development environment. Development tools include software development environment, and also hardware programming and debug tools, and may be free or not !. And as Fergs says, the availability of free support on the forums is very important, chosing the latest blazing chip may not yield the best knowledge base for support.

03-15-2010, 01:48 PM
Thanx a lot, im gonna go search for that at my local electronics store ASAP. :veryhappy:

Or better yet, just order an Arduino online. I doubt your local electronics store will have them.

03-15-2010, 02:14 PM
Thanx a lot, im gonna go search for that at my local electronics store ASAP. :veryhappy:

You really can't buy most of this stuff locally -- about the only "micro" you'll find locally is a Basic Stamp at Radio Shack -- and that's really not much of a microcontroller.


03-16-2010, 07:40 AM
Does anyone have any idea of a site i could order an Arduino from?

03-16-2010, 08:34 AM
Well, you could start here:


- Jon

03-16-2010, 09:46 AM
In terms of price, probably the picaxe series, at 4$ a chip it is hard to beat.

03-16-2010, 11:44 AM
In terms of price, probably the picaxe series, at 4$ a chip it is hard to beat.

It is? (http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=9061)

03-16-2010, 11:45 AM
Purely viewing pricetag per-piece, you can't beat Microchip.
They have a hundred new controllers every other week, and you'll never find the one you really need, but nonetheless, they're cheap.

Taking into account development tools and learning how to use them, you may end up with a higher pricetag though. But that's allready been stated before.

There's really no such thing as "the best price/quality" in micro's. They match up pretty good, if you take all things into consideration.

For a complete beginner though, Arduino does indeed seem like the way to go, although I've never handled one.

03-25-2010, 01:23 AM
if you are not building 10000 robots, do worry about the unit price.

03-25-2010, 02:09 AM
I still love the Propeller. I think you can not possibly not want to use it.

Please comment you opinions. Let the bashing begin.

03-31-2010, 12:54 AM
Best is in the eye of the beholder. I agree ease of use is important as is support. Depends on your familiarity with programming languages. If you're new to programming, you might think about going with a Lego NXT and the graphical IDE (you can always progress to more traditional languages later). Cost is pretty high but then you get a pretty flexible, powerful kit that you can build into a staggering array of things. Or, a BASIC Stamp is pretty simple to wrap one's head around. Not much of a deal at the prices they go for, given their limitations. (There are other BASIC MCUs out there) I've not programmed in Spin on the Propeller but am planning to dive in this year... that might be an option. At $40 for a Schmartboard based kit I couldn't refuse. The Propeller is a weird animal... but I suspect capable of some amazing things.

If you are comfortable with C, then Arduino is probably a good way to go as it provides library routines that simplify AVR. It seems from my limited experience with Arduino that you can always access the 'raw' AVR stuff if you need to, and eventually migrate to plain jane AVR programming... then just use other people's libraries anyway? :) Me, I like the idea of spending my time figuring out higher level algorithms versus digging through 500 page datasheets figuring out which bit in which register to set to get just the right behavior out of the MCU. :D

If you're not intending on controlling motors then several cheap Arduino compatible options exist, like the Solarbotics Ardweeny chip backpack kit at $10 (need FTDI programmer). I like mine so far--it's doing some very simple object detection vision processing for a firefighting robot. Another option is the Boarduino at just under $20. Or the Arduino Pro Mini at a similar price. Or buy a $5 ATmega328P from Sparkfun with the bootloader on it, stick it on a $8 breadboard, and wire it up per some tutorial out there, and program with a Sparkfun FTDI programmer. Just finished setting one of these up, should be good fun to play with ;)

If you are interested in controlling motors, like on a differential drive robot, it's awfully hard to argue with the size and price of a Pololu Baby Orangutan, either B-48 (ATmega48) or B-328 (ATmega328), $17 and $19 respectively, each with integrated motor controllers, a nice library set, and both can be programmed with Arduino IDE (some caveats, apparently, but I've limited experience with an Arduinified LV168 so can't offer detail).

That's some of the cheap stuff, and some of the options. Of course an official Arduino opens up the options of a multitude of 'shields' e.g., motor controller. That's about all I know, hope it is of help...