Review: TinyDuino, the itsy, bitsy Arduino board

tinyduinoTinyDuino is an Arduino board about the size of the end of your thumb. It really is extraordinarily small.

The TinyDuino has an equally tiny port to plug a battery into; to plug in a USB for external power or downloading code you attach a separate shield. In fact you attach shields for a variety of activities – they simply plug into each other forming a neat stack of boards. Even with a USB shield, a Bluetooth shield and screen attached the whole thing remains remarkably small. The picture on the left is of the TinyDuino, the new TinyScreen, the USB board, and the battery.

Thanks to the plug-and-play approach, getting the TinyDuino up and running is very easy. We had the device powered up and running text on-screen within a couple of minutes. It’s altogether a lovely bit of engineering.

GIS TinyScreenProgramming the TinyDuino can be done offline through the normal Arduino IDE or online through the wonderful Codebender (every time I use Codebender I come away reminded about how well-designed and handy it is).

What’s not so great, is the documentation and examples. Links on the website don’t take you to where you expect to go, it’s hard to find clear documentation, and the examples seem to be simply wrong. We couldn’t get either the Bluetooth or the WiFi modules working thanks to software problems. Looking through the support forums showed we were not alone in those problems, especially with Bluetooth – but the manufacturers had not provided a solution. Trying to sign up for the forums ourselves was like getting into Fort Knox. I doubt any of this will prove insurmountable, but it is deeply frustrating.

For a project that needs a small footprint the TinyDuino is amazing. Adding in the new screen (which was just released under a successful Kickstarter campaign) opens up a lot of possibilities, although the smart-watch they show as an example may well define the word ‘nerd’. Additionally, and this is important, the TinyDuino only costs around US$20 from the manufacturer or A$30 locally. That’s a great price, although admittedly you’re unlikely to want to buy the TinyDuino by itself and so a more likely package will set you back somewhere in the range of $60.

All the details on the TinyDuino and all of it’s equally lilliputian shields are available through the TinyCircuits website.

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