• SparkFun Shipment Review

    08/30/2014 at 03:37 0 comments

    I thought I might as well share my thoughts on some new stuff I got from SparkFun.

    First up: the 50 watt soldering station. Apart from the metal dome for the brass sponge in the iron holder being loose, it's a solid iron. Adjustable temperature, fine tip that can do SMD and PTH, a comfortable wand, and a sturdy holder. What more could you ask for?

    Next: the Pocket AVR Programmer. This is a USBtinyISP rebranded and with some extra features. Showdown time!

    Contestant #1: USBtinyISP

    Contestant #2: Pocket AVR Programmer

    First: Both programmers can supply 5 volts to the target or adjust to the target's voltage while not supplying power. However, SparkFun replaced Adafruit's removable jumper with a small switch. This point definitely goes to SparkFun.

    The USBtinyISP has two cables: one for the older 10 pin header, and one for the new 6 pin header. SparkFun copies this, but consolidates both connectors on a single cable. The 6 pin connector is slightly looser, since some of the wires in the ribbon cable have to be cut away to "adapt" the 10 strand ribbon cable to a 6 pin IDC connector, but it's certainly better than having a second cable get in the way of what you're doing. SparkFun wins this round again.

    SparkFun ships their programmer as a bare board. Adafruit actually ships theirs with a case. Adafruit's USBtinyISP wins this round, but anybody with access to Thingiverse and a 3D printer can solve this problem.

    Also, Adafruit is the initial designer of the product, so they automatically get bonus points.

    I prefer SparkFun's edition, personally, but I would enjoy using either programmer. Definitely a solid choice. Pair it with AVRDUDE and you can't go wrong.

    Next: Binding posts. Some people have complained about their "cheapness". I think they work fine! Not too much to say here.

    I also ordered various connectors (ATX, MIDI, 3.5 mm audio). All were perfect, but the audio and MIDI jacks had quite fat pins, making them hard to stick in a PCB. Still, they work!

    SparkFun's MIDI cable is a good bargain and appears to be of good enough quality. After all, you don't need an outrageously expensive cable for 31250 baud serial!

    Various resistors and diodes came as well: top-notch packaging, as always.

    The 10k panel-mount potentiometers work perfectly: they have a solid action that doesn't feel cheap, and they'll stay in place and not "wobble" around. Perfect!

    Overall: kudos again to SparkFun for making some perfect products and generally being an awesome company to buy from. Now, time to use these tools to finish up the airboat...