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We all love our Rapsberry Pi 4s, but it’s not a secret that they tend to overheat. Painfully so. It’s been the main complaint of every owner of one of these SBCs – and in our initial review of it, we’ve discovered that these issues aren’t limited to cosmetics only – as they negatively impact performance due to thermal throttling.
There’s also quite a few strong reasons to decide to keep a Pi 4 in a case – keeping the dust away, and keeping any nasty ESD currents at bay. This all boils down to a case being almost a necessity – but most cases, including the official Pi 4 case only make the situation worse. During our testing, the Pi hit its 80 degree throttle point extremely easily, within a few minutes of its four cores hitting the full 1.5 GHz base clock. This makes performance take a huge dip, turning the class-leading A72 cores against themselves. We’ve seen benchmarks where systems with smaller, but more heat-efficient A52 cores win over the Pi in a textbook tortoise-and-hare example. The little cores just simply never slow down.
Cooling cases, thus, are a necessity for this SBC, and today we’ve got a Waveshare Pi 4 Cooling Case with us. It’s a simple contraption – two slabs of solid milled aluminium and two fans. The magic, though, is in how well it works.
Circuitmess’ Chatter is the newest kit in their STEM Box series of unique DIY projects. Released in February 2022, it features quite a few technologies and concepts that it aims to introduce to students and tinkerers alike. The Chatter itself is a tiny LoRa-enabled texting machine with quite the range. The kit lets you build two of them, both of which are also programmable thanks to the USB-C interface they offer.
The kit series began in 2020, via an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, offering a subscription-like model of ordering these – with a box arriving at your doorstep every three months. There’s also a tool-kit available that’s sent free with some longer plans – containing the essentials needed for assembling all of these.
We’ve been sent the Chatter box, as well as the tool kit (and a very nice t-shirt, too – thanks guys!) free of charge by Circuitmess for review purposes. We’ll also split this review into two parts, with the first part focusing on the build process and stock software, and a second part focused on the coding aspect that allows for extending the finished devices’ capabilities.
After opening the boxes, there’s quite an array of components jumping right at you – DIP switches, PCBs, screens, ribbon cables, screws and laser-cut acrylic pieces. Tiny details are sprinkled throughout the packaging, with an extremely modern quick start guide, as well as some words of encouragement on the top lid. Rest assured, box, I think we’ll manage!
There are many things in industry that simply need to be labelled – panels, cables, storage systems, or just general things. Label makers are small thermal transfer printers that enable high-quality labels to be made on-site, and perhaps there is no better known brand than Dymo.
Today, we’re glad to have our hands on one of the most popular labellers of this type – the Dymo Rhino 5200, a successor of the best-selling, industry-standard RhinoPro 5000. This review unit was sent to us by Dymo’s Serbian distributor – Eurocom International d.o.o.
The kit comes with two vinyl tapes – a 12mm and a 19mm one, a nice quick reference booklet, a Li-ion battery pack, a charger, and ﬁnally, the Rhino 5200 itself. This all comes in a nice, hard plastic carrying case with a satisfying locking mechanism. The case feels durable, so no complaints there.
Onto the unit itself – it’s quite a chunky device and is very solidly built. It bears Dymo’s signature black-on-yellow colour scheme, with an integrated rubber holster that protects it from the wear-and-tear out on the terrain. The selection of printing tapes is also impressive, ranging from standard paper tape to vinyl, nylon, heat-shrink tubing and polyester. These tapes are all tested to withstand the elements, from UV and heat exposure to extreme cold and rain.
The Rhino 5200 is a label-making powerhouse, capable of making many diﬀerent kinds of labels, including general-purpose horizontal and vertical labels, wire wraps and ﬂags, electronics modules, blocks and panels. Each of these modes is available with one press (some require a shift-press) of a dedicated button. This brings up the setup wizard for these modes, allowing for quick setup of even the most complicated label types.
Pocket scientiﬁc calculators have spent three decades at the forefront of technology following their debut in 1972. In an era before personal computers, calculators developed and ﬂourished, getting many features one would expect on a computer today – programming and graphing capabilities, complex data processing and expandable I/O. Long gone are those days, and although the humble calculator has largely been phased out by more powerful devices nowadays, these tiny computers are still a mainstay in the ﬁeld of education – providing exactly the capabilities students need, while limiting misuse of technology in the classroom.
Looking at the west and its high-school educational system, one can but notice the powerful trend of calculator use in schools. These devices are getting more use than just simple arithmetic – with entire STEM and IOT systems being based around them (as with the TI-nSpire) or cross-calculator communication capabilities (as with the HP-Prime). Sadly, looking back at our local Serbian market, interest for such technologies is low, and calculators are rarely used, and are certainly not a part of core school equipment.
Analysing the local market for calculators, we can also see that the most popular models at the time are cheap, unbranded or knock-oﬀmodels, while many large brands in the ﬁeld aren’t even covering Serbia as a region.
We’ve already talked a bit about the musical capabilities of the new modulars, but let’s give them a bit of a technical look.
First, the oscillators produce pretty clean signals, all at 4 V peak-to-peak (±2 V). The saw has some tiny inconsistency in its output, but it’s nothing worth noting too much. The oscillators are 1 V/oct, which pretty standard. Of course, these are all true analog oscillators – so they do require some warming up before they are able to accurately retain their tuning and to precisely track. The filter, being a self-oscillating one is capable of introducing quite a bit of ringing into any signal fed into it – including white and saw noise! A mix of white noise with a clever use of an envelope as filter control made for some lovely wind noises with the self-oscillation pulling off lovely high harmonics. It was also possible to bring out the entire range of singular overtones, allowing for some pretty unique sounds.
Any filter is a positive-feedback circuit if the feedback (resonance, in the world of synths) is high enough. For example, a four pole filter would shift the phase of frequencies at the cutoff frequency a full 360 degrees, but signals even slightly above and below the cutoff will be out of phase. This causes the cutoff frequency (or the harmonic of the fundamental closest to it) to additively resonate, making it much louder than the rest of the signal. Such filters were, at one point, considered undesirable due to signal attenuation at higher feedback settings, but the interesting characteristics of their sound made them valued nowadays. Rarely are such filters seen on compact, simpler synths, but they really do expand upon the sonic possibilities.
teenage engineering is one of those companies that always jump into the market with an original take on a concept. Their OP-1 and OP-Z synthesisers (well, more than just synthesisers, but that’s off-topic here) have created a huge splash and are still considered the finest examples of portable digital instruments. They are also known for their creative approach to problem solving and uniquely classy designs – something which we’ll see a lot of in this review as well.
Their latest entry in the studio equipment field is the Pocket Operator Modular series of synths (consisting of the POM-400 and POM-170 synths, as well as the POM-16 sequencer). While these bear a similar name to the earlier Pocket Operators – tiny digital instruments capable of a wide variety of sounds, these new synths are fully analog – making them a first for the company. They are also modular, consisting of a series of separate synth modules that can be assembled into a preconfigured chassis or converted into standard eurorack units. Possibly the most unique part of these models, though, is the DIY aspect of assembling them – as they ship in pieces, with LEGO-style assembly manuals.
Once again, Raspberry Pi have created an excellent product that has its rightful place in the lineup, oﬀering a viable replacement for the ﬂagship Raspberry Pi models in most projects that don’t require a lot of graphical processing. It’s hit a perfect niche, and will probably better suit these than the higher-specced Pis in the lineup, mainly due to less heat output, power draw and a smaller footprint. Overall, while not a desktop computer in any way, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is an exceptionally capable system for project usage available at an industry-leading price.
The second SBC we have our hands on in this release is an interesting one. Hauling from China’s SINOVOIP is the Banana Pi M5. The Banana Pi lineup has been a trusted mainstay of the SBC industry for many years now, competing with the popular Raspberry Pi computers. Even though the latter of the two is wildly more popular, Banana Pi models have remained relevant by providing multiple unique features not present elsewhere, making them the best computers for some projects. Banana Pi’s oﬀering is also signiﬁcantly more diverse than that of most other manufacturers.
Greeting us in the package we got sent, free of charge, by the manufacturer was a blue cardboard box with the model name marked on the back. The insides were also pretty simple – with the computer and not much else in there. Taking a closer look at the board, we see a lot of interesting hardware – an AMLogic S905X3 SoC (4 x A55 cores @ 2.0 GHz, Mali G31 MP2 GPU) , 4 GB of RAM, 16 GB of on-board ﬂash storage and a Realtek ethernet controller capable of 1 Gbps ethernet.
While the hardware itself has some unique features (the aforementioned 16 GB ﬂash storage), the IO selection is even more surprising. There are four USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI connector, a 1 Gbps ethernet jack, a combined A/V 3.5mm barrel jack, a Pi-compatible 40-pin header, a three-pin TX/RX data connector (no PoE HAT connections, though), a USB-C connector running at USB
2.0 speeds (sadly, not a full-featured connector, and as such no USB PD standard here), four switches, a microSD card reader and an IR receiver.
There’s no doubt that the modern consumer SBC market has spun off from the original Mac Mini, giving users a complete computer in a tiny packaging that’s easy to place anywhere on cramped home or office desks.
While one branch of SBCs went and developed into open maker-boards with exposed peripherals and silicon-level hardware access, while the other branch went onto developing the aforementioned computers. Today we have one such low-cost offering from ACEPC, the GK3V computer, featuring an Intel Celeron J4125 with 8GB of soldered-on RAM and a 256GB Flashtype storage drive.
The review unit we’ve received retails for $235, but similarly specced models can be found in the $200-$280 price range. It also comes with an OEM version of Windows 10 Pro installed, which almost makes machines like this a steal, since the price of the OS is hardly lower than the entire system it comes on.
Another year has rolled around and there are new exciting Raspberry Pi products coming out on the market. Most of them are about what you’d expect – reﬁnements and new form factors of the already established Raspberry Pi series of SBCs. We’ve already reviewed one of their newer models – the Raspberry Pi 4B computer in one of our previous issues. But now, the company seems to be dipping its toes into a new product segment that’s long since been dominated by Arduino and TI. MCU development boards have traditionally existed alongside single-board computers with little competition between the two ﬁelds. With the Raspberry Pi Pico, a microcontroller development kit from Raspberry Pi, we might be seeing the start of a new chapter for this market.
With that being said, let’s move on to the review. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has once again kindly provided us with review units of the product in question. The package we received was an envelope with a few of these tiny boards packed in carrier tape. This was surprising, but extremely clever. The packaging costs must have been shrunk to the absolute bare minimum (which we wholeheartedly welcome) to allow for the board’s minuscule $4 price tag. This makes it one of the cheapest development systems available today, but it still managed to punch far above its price class – we’ve seen features here that are absent on systems orders of magnitude more expensive. (On second though, is that not exactly what Raspberry Pi did with their original SBC models?)
After the unboxing (erm… unpacking?) experience, we were greeted with, or should we say, a lack of header pins. This, though, had been quickly overcome with a soldering iron and a tad of patience, and not even a full ten minutes later we had a set-up Pico ready to use on a breadboard! As a side note here, the soldering process was really a breeze, and the copper pads on the PCB were very high quality, so we feel like even beginners could add pin-headers on their board.
Electrical measurement equipment is an expensive category for many educational institutions. While a single lab workspace is simple and relatively inexpensive to set up with a full set of tools, problems arise when a course calls for a large number of identical workbenches. For many schools, the cost alone will present a major issue, but for even more, the space required for such a setup is simply too large, providing major logistical obstacles.
Digilent attempted to solve most of these issues with their Analog Discovery Studio – a portable prototyping platform based on their popular Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscope. In fact, the measurement capabilities of both devices are identical. Where the Analog Discovery Studio shines, though, is in the academia-oriented additions to the Analog Discovery 2 make the Studio a superior device in terms of convenience.
We’d like to take some time here and thank Digilent for sending in a review unit of the Analog Discovery Studio free of charge. On the other hand, this is not a sponsored review and all of the opinions here are our own.
At $599 ($649 for a kit that also includes oscilloscope probes and BNC hook-up cables for the waveform generator), the Studio is competitively priced, providing a wide variety of instruments for much less than their traditional benchtop or rackmount counterparts. The main instruments is offers are a dual-channel oscilloscope, a dual-channel waveform generator, as well as a 16-channel logic analyser. There’s also a pair of variable power supplies along with three fixed ones, as well as instruments that share some of the the inputs/circuitry of others, like the network and impedance analysers which combine the oscilloscope and waveform generator instruments or the voltmeter which uses the oscilloscope inputs.
LED lighting has become the industry standard, both for commercial and personal use due to its rapidly declining manufacturing costs and high energy efficiency. The long service life of these lamps and the low maintenance they require also made them a favourite between businesses.
Today, we’ve got our hands on the ‘LED it grow’ kit by Würth Elektronik. The kit focuses on Würth’s new horticulture range of visible-light LEDs, and contains the LEDs mounted on heat-spreading panels, as well as the power supply unit based on MagI3C buck regulators (the power supply features 4 channels, with one Magi3C chip per channel).
Our kit has been donated to us by Würth Elektrik, free of charge, for which we are thankful. This did not cause any bias in this review. We will be handing down the kit to a local educational institution for further lab work and tests, as well as for supporting the young and aspiring engineers.
The kit comes packed in an attractive box, with the installation steps printed on the lid, and all components laid out cleanly. After minimal assembly (quite literally – it’s down to a dozen screws and ten cables total), the entire kit comes together and is ready to use with the included power supply. The kit also comes with a simple, but effective heatsink that can be attached to the back of the metal LED carrying plate.
The kit comes with two main sets of LEDs that cannot be used simultaneously. The first, and arguably, the less important one is the set of two plates of RGBW LEDs, with 4 diodes each (one red, one green, one blue and one white LED per plate). These two can be daisy-chained and then controlled via the iOS app.
About a month ago, we’ve gotten our hands on another prominent SBC: the Pine64 RockPro64. Here are our thoughts and opinions on this piece of hardware, as well as several accessories for it.
All the hardware reviewed here has been sent to us by Pine64, the company behind this, and several other SBCs, as well as some other devices oriented towards Linux development.
The RockPro64 launched back in 2018, with an impressive amount of RAM for an SBC (2 or 4 GB), a fast, hexa-core RK3399 SoC and an outstanding array of various connectors. Its main downfall at the time was lackluster software support, an issue that plagues many ARM-based SBCs, but thankfully, the issue has been almost completely mitigated by now.
Our first impressions of the board were great. Aside from itself, we’ve also received a heatsink, 16GB eMMC module with its USB adapter, power supply and a SATA-to-PCIe x4 adapter.
Let’s start with the IO. The Pine64 RockPro64 comes equipped with two USB2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a USB C port with DisplayPort 1.2, one full-sized HDMI port, one true gigabit-ethernet port, an SD-card slot, a headphone jack and a PCIe x4 connector. It also features a Raspberry Pi-compatible 40-pin GPIO header, dual-MIPI ports for camera connection, headers for attaching a real-time-clock battery and a fan, as well as connectors for touchscreens, WiFi and Bluetooth modules and IR receivers. Most importantly, a 9V barrel jack is used for powering the board up – which means that the USB-C port is actually freely available for use, unlike with some other SBCs out there. This all is an impressive feat – it’s probably the largest amount of various connectors on one SBC we’ve seen in a while. This all makes the platform very versatile and usable in a wide variety of scenarios.
Reed relays have never been known for high power switching, in fact, high carry currents can seriously affect switch life and reliability due to the very use of reed switches. On the other hand, reed switches allow for very efficient spatial distribution, taking up miniscule amounts of surface area on your board.
One of the first impressions we’ve had upon opening the samples that Pickering sent us is the extremely neat and tidy packing. Each set of relays came in its own tiny plastic box with clear windows, complete with a protective layer of sponge and a satisfying “click” when opened and closed. Nothing important for the tests, but a nice touch nevertheless. Pickering has also thrown in a really nice set of literature, including an 80-page product catalog, along with a handy relay look-up chart and a brief relay theory overview booklet.
Pickering’s new 120 Series relays have an exceptionally small footprint, with 20 watts of switching power and 3, 5 or 12 Volt coils are the smallest relays of such performance on the market. With a 4mm by 4mm base, they are almost four times smaller than Pickering’s own 110 series.
The 110 Series have already offered an extremely compact relay solution with great performance. We also loved the fact that it is breadboard friendly and operable directly from TTL logic. This means that it can be directly incorporated in many existing prototypes without much preparation. The 110 Series and the 120 Series relays have very similar specifications in their datasheets, so we took them to the testing bench to see if any hidden differences lurk beneath.
Continuing our series on single-board computers, we’ve come across a new contender on the market. LattePanda is not a new name in this field, with the original LattePanda debuting way back in 2016. Since then, the brand made a name for itself by being the first x86-based commercially available single-board computer. This time, we’re taking a look at the flagship offering from the company, the LattePanda Alpha 864s, a tiny, powerful, albeit somewhat expensive offering from DFRobot.
We would like to thank DFRobot for sponsoring this review and sending us a review unit. Our opinions are our own and unbiased and are not in any way influenced by any third party.
The LattePanda Alpha lineup (including its lesser Delta sibling) started off as a Kickstarter campaign in 2017, materializing in 2018 as the first generation of the device. A refreshed design in 2019 brought upon several changes, mainly an upgrade from a 7th generation Core m3-7y30 CPU to a newer, 8th generation Core m3-8100y and a step back in the RAM department going from dual to single channel memory, but still retaining 8GB of LPDDR3 it. We find this change justified, as the price of the device has not changed after the refresh. Intel’s newer silicon costs significantly more than its older iterations, so other cost-cutting measures had to be implemented. Thankfully, the intended applications for this SBC are all CPU-heavy, rather than RAM-heavy, thus this change should, in theory, almost universally positively impact performance.
It’s also worth noting that the current LattePanda lineup offers two main variants – the LattePanda Alpha, with the aforementioned specifications, starting at $379, and the LattePanda Delta, with an Intel Celeron N4100 processor and 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, starting at $188. The LattePanda Alpha further comes in two variants, the 800s and the 864s, the only difference being the presence of 64GB of eMMC flash storage on-board on the latter. You can also pick up the Alpha with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed.
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B came out a few weeks ago, and it brings a major leap forward in general usability and performance compared to its predecessors. The previous major revision of the board, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ paved the way towards a viable desktop replacement, but just wasn’t quite there, whereas the new model promises to finally reach the aforementioned goal of every single-board computer out there – to get onto your desks as a complete alternative to a standard PC.
Raspberry Pi has always been the go-to board for tinkerers, engineers and developers. Its versatility as a platform, open access to a large GPIO header, low cost, open-source hardware and software, and the great community around it are ensuring that more and more people keep getting drawn towards it. Numerous robotics, IoT, CS and electronics projects are made with a Pi in their heart. Another major demographic of the community is comprised of students having their first foray into programming.
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B comes in three variants, differing only in the amount of RAM they are equipped with. The base model keeps the 1GB of its predecessors and maintains the traditional $35 price that the full-size boards have always gone for, while the 2GB and 4GB models run for $45 and $55, respectively. It’s also worth noting that the RAM of the new board is LPDDR4, which is much faster than the LPDDR2 used in the previous iterations.
Other new additions include the USB-C port, now used for powering the board, two USB 3.0 ports, true gigabit Ethernet, two micro-HDMI ports (that can go up to 4K 60Hz on one port or 4K 30Hz on both), Bluetooth 5.0 and last, but not least, a greatly upgraded SoC at the heart of it all.
EasyE4 has a simple, efficient and flexible control system adapted for use in industrial environments and buildings. In addition, it is significantly more compact than the easy500, easy700, and easy800 it replaces.
The pneumatically actuated robot quick-change system SCHUNK SWS-046 allows fast and process-reliable change of different gripping systems and tools at the front end. With its four optional module attachment surfaces, it offers a wealth of options for supplying the connected pneumatic, hydraulic or electric effector.
The single-acting clamping module SCHUNK VERO-S NSE3 138-V4 increases the flexibility in clamping pallets with just one clamping pin: While the pallet alignment on conventional single clamping modules, which are equipped with an anti-twist protection is precisely defined, pallets on the VERO-S NSE3 138-V4 can be rotated in 90° increments.
Robot-guided palletizing systems are an efficient way of increasing the flexibility of machine tools. They help minimizing machine downtime during the production of individual pieces and small series…
The new long-arm ARC Mate 100iD/10L welding robot has arrived. One of the latest additions to FANUC’s extensive range of welding solutions, the ARC Mate 100iD/10L robot offers customers a bigger working envelope combined with outstanding axes speed and ultimate precision.
Producing a variety of beverages in glass and PET bottles, cans and cartons, PepsiCo partner SMLC is Lebanon’s biggest beverage bottling company. The implementation of a line management system based on zenon software from COPA-DATA put an end to manual data entry, providing comprehensive information for efficient filling operations
Mersen is launching a brand-new Modulostar® fuse-disconnector for applications with power cylindrical low voltage fuses.
Raspberry Pi today launches its next-generation Raspberry Pi 4, a significantly faster and more capable version of the popular industrial single-board computer. Starting at only $35, it will…
Elesa+Ganter has long been market leader also in the use of reinforced technopolymer (SUPER-Technopolymer) for robust industrial applications and specialised environments, among the other metal materials.
SUPER-Technopolymers represent the most recent and advanced development in engineering of polymeric materials. Thanks to the presence of high percentages of glass fibre linked to the base polymer with suitable primers and / or the presence of aramid synthetic fibre, SUPER-Technopolymers are characterized by mechanical and thermal properties far superior to the traditional polymers.