Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: HobbyKing Arduino Mega

For the Arduino section I thought I would start with a review of the Arduino I have at the moment. When I got into messing around with Arduino, one of the main concerns was cost. In fact, the main reason I ever thought of getting one was because my favorite store for cheap RC parts began selling Arduinos.

Enter the Arduino Mega 2560 purchased HERE, at

Now, let me first give a word of warning to all those that might follow me. HobbyKing is based in China. As I live in TN, USA, this has some very important implications.

1. Orders take a long time to get here.
    I believe most of this time is spent on the China side. Using the terrible order tracking system of the Chinese postal service that is what I have deduced. Once it gets to the sorting facility in Chicago or where ever it comes stateside, it's usually only a few days. Nevertheless, plan ahead.

2. Quality Control can be lacking.
     If you are ordering cheaper items like $2 servos expect 1 in 15 or so to be bad. It happens. Luckily the price is such that ordering an extra is ok.

3. Descriptions don't always match the product and/or they can be deceiving.
    While this has gotten better over the past few years, descriptions sometimes can be deceiving. This has improved as I believe HobbyKing has hired some Americans to take over the English side of things, but dimensions remain in metric which to a lazy person like me can be tricky. I tend  to guestimate how big something is rather than get a ruler and actually see how big it is.

4. Shipping is a bit pricey on some items.
    Shipping on small orders is payed by the gram in increments of 100 grams. This means that it is in your best interest to use every gram up to the limit on your current pricing tier(they make it easy to find little bags of screws to spend extra money on). Pricing starts at $3 for 100 grams and goes up after that. However, I usually have found that the difference in item price more than makes up for the difference.

5. Things go on backorder for long periods of time.
    This means if it is on backorder, it could stay that way for a few months. But the Mega is in stock right now so GO GO GO!

Now that we have all of that out of the way, the review. Now lets again not forget who is writing this. I am 19 and a Sophomore majored in Mechanical Engineering. I'm not a EE with 40yrs experience building NASA Flight hardware. I am just a practical person giving an honest opinion based on my experiences to far.

So anyway.. I am reviewing the Arduino Mega 2560 Microcontroller Board as purchased from at the below link.

  • Price:  The price is obviously fantastic. $17.69 vs the $50ish for a "real" Italian Arduino Mega is pretty good. At this price I would highly recommend to the beginner to get the Mega over the Uno. It just has so many more features and allows you to spread stuff out across 54 Digital IO pins to avoid confusion.
  • Documentation:  Well HobbyKing has none. But luckily everything at is open source, both hardware and software. So THIS documentation works just as good. Given my style, I have never really looked at it honestly. If I had a question, I Googled it.
  • Quality:  This kind of surprised me but I honestly a very happy with the quality of my board. I don't have a "real" (the HobbyKing version is  a clone) one to compare it too but the board is nicely made. Good solder joints. Nicely deburred. I am happy. And as far as I have seen, it works just like an Italian Arduino. Maybe there is some difference in processing speed. I don't know. But is it worth $30  extra for an Italian version? In my mind, nope.
  • Durability:  Well its a PC board so.. It ain't great. But I have been rougher than I meant to be(both physically and electrically) a few times and it survives. And if it breaks you can spend the $30 you saved to buy another one.
Final Thoughts: I love this board. It works well and has been great for me to learn basic robot programming (a peek behind the curtain of things to come). I would recommend it to anyone. As far as I can tell, it meets the description perfectly. It comes with a usb cable and electrostatic packaging. That's it. I haven't need a power supply, but if you want one, most people with "the nack" have an old cordless phone or 2 sitting around. If not, look HERE and then surf ebay to pick one up for a few bucks. 

I plan on writing again soon with reviews of the other two shields I bought.

After those two reviews I plan on going into the story of my arduino projects including a bill of materials and mini reviews of all of the sensors and components that I have purchased and lessons that I have learned regarding such purchases. In the meantime, research Arduino. Download the software and peruse the website. Also look into HobbyKing and their US competitor HobbyPartz for future purchases, investments in your Arduino arsenal. 

Until next time,

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