Arduino Portenta H7 Development Board

Product Review: Arduino Portenta H7 Development Board

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The Arduino Portenta H7 Development Board is a highly capable embedded computing platform that offers a unique combination of power and versatility. With its two asymmetric cores, Cortex® M7 running at 480MHz and Cortex® M4 running at 240MHz, the H7 can execute high-level code simultaneously with real-time tasks. This feature allows developers to run tasks in different languages and opens up possibilities for various applications, including computer vision.

Pros:

  • Dual Core Processing: The Portenta H7 features two processors, Cortex® M7 running at 480MHz and Cortex® M4 running at 240MHz, capable of running tasks in parallel. This capability enables simultaneous execution of Arduino compiled code and MicroPython, with seamless communication between the cores.
  • Versatility: The board can be used as a typical embedded microcontroller or as the main processor of an embedded computer. It is well-suited for high-end industrial machinery, laboratory equipment, computer vision, robotics control, and more.
  • Graphics Accelerator: With the on-chip GPU, the Chrom-ART Accelerator™, and a dedicated JPEG encoder and decoder, the Portenta H7 allows you to connect an external monitor and create a dedicated embedded computer with a user interface.
  • Scalability: The addition of two 80-pin high-density connectors at the bottom of the board ensures scalability for various applications, making it easy to upgrade the board as per specific needs.
  • On-board Connectivity: The board comes with an onboard wireless module that supports simultaneous management of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® connectivity. It offers various wired interfaces, including UART, SPI, I2C, and Ethernet, providing ample options for connecting peripherals.

Cons:

  • Steep Learning Curve: The Portenta H7’s advanced capabilities and diverse features may pose challenges for beginners, making it more suitable for experienced developers.
  • Developing Environment Complexity: Setting up the development environment can be challenging due to limited example code and documentation, which may require further improvements and support from the community.

Detailed Review:

The Arduino Portenta H7 boasts impressive features, including two independent cores that enable parallel execution of tasks. This unique capability allows developers to combine Arduino-compiled code with MicroPython or other languages, expanding its potential use cases. Additionally, the onboard support for peripherals like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, keyboard, mouse, external monitor, and sound makes the H7 a versatile single-board computer.

However, setting up the development environment for the H7 can be a bit cumbersome, especially given its recent release. While the official Arduino IDE provides support, there is also an alpha version of the new Arduino Pro IDE, which offers a more streamlined development experience. It allows users to select the target board through a pop-up menu, simplifying the process.

Despite its potential, the Portenta H7 faces challenges due to the current lack of fully developed tools, limited example code, and sparse community support. This may make it less accessible to beginners or hobbyists, as the board requires a higher level of expertise to utilize its full capabilities. Additionally, interfacing with advanced features may require the use of a breakout board, which could be complex to implement due to high-density connectors.

Conclusion:

The Arduino Portenta H7 Development Board is a powerful and versatile embedded computing platform that appeals to experienced developers seeking advanced capabilities. While its potential for various applications is evident, it currently faces some limitations in terms of the developing ecosystem. As the tools, example code, documentation, and community support continue to evolve and mature, the H7 holds the promise of becoming a leading system-on-module in the future. For now, it remains a top choice for professionals looking to build sophisticated embedded applications. The board’s compatibility with the Arduino IoT Cloud simplifies secure communication for all connected things, making it a valuable tool for creating innovative smart projects.

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