Elecrow RC070 7″ IPS LCD Touchscreen Review

Continuing our series of reviews on SBCs and SBC accessories, we stumble upon yet another screen from a well-known brand in the field – Elecrow. While for most applications, SBC programming and setup is done via a command-line interface, but most end-use applications still require a GUI of some sort. This is why the market for purpose-built SBC monitors is so large -offering many options for different use cases and price points.
The screen we’re taking a look at today is on the budget end -retailing for around $70 – but offering proper capacitive touch and an IPS panel, as well as low energy consumption needs which can be easily be met with even USB power.

The resolution of this panel is 1024 x 600, which is a bit on the low side even with the relatively small screen size. While a full HD screen would be ideal for high quality content, lowering the load on SBC GPUs by using lower-resolution screens is always beneficial for performance.

We loved the simple connectivity provided by the screen – with a single USB cable used for both power and touch control – and anHDMI port used for signal. The main video codec is a Real-
tek-branded chip which should deliver reliable performance. There’s an odd hardware backlight switch, which is odd given that the screen isn’t transflective.

While the screen can’t hold an SBC on its back, it has simple mounting holes which allow for it to be fixed inside a functional device securely. This is great, especially given the low and compact profile of the unit.

Using the teenage engineering OP-Z and POM-400 with the Korg minilogue xd

Great gear comes pack with an array of connectivity options. No matter how powerful or great a piece of kit it on its own – mixing and matching it in different and surprising combinations can greatly extend the sonic potential and uniqueness of sound produced.

Modern systems use these ports for external sound control. Parameters and voltages from one bit of gear, much like in industrial systems, can be used to control parameters in another. Depending on the type of instruments, these signals can be digital or analog. Digital signals carry synchronization messages and data, while analog signals carry sound or other raw values. By using a network of oscillators (VCOs and DCOs), filters (VCFs) and envelope generators (analog circuits which help shape signals), a music setup processes and shapes sound much like a factory control system would process its data flow filled with sensors, actuators and control points.

Luckily for us today, all three bits of kit in the title are crazy powerful and are also equipped with a variety of IO functionality which makes them perfect for this small demonstration of integrating Teenage Engineering’s gear in a traditional existing creative setup.

The minilogue xd is a powerful synth. It’s the evolution of the already insanely versatile minilogue, adding new features and a more robust core. In the future, we plan on a full review of synth, but of interest to us today, though, are the two CV inputs on the back which can be assigned various roles. One of these is controlling modulation parameters, essentially opening up the synth design to external patching. Without further ado, let’s try a few fun things with these three bits of kit.

Bring in the POM-400!

Miniware DT71 Smart Tweezers Review

Measurement equipment is a key part of an electronic workbench – and there’s no doubt good equipment is necessary for any serious work in the field. Companies like Tektronix, Agilent and Fluke are among the biggest and most respected brands in the field – with an iron grasp over the market. Many of these mainstream options can be bulky or impractical in some usage scenarios.
This is why today, hauling from China’s edesign we have the D71 Smart Tweezers -a lightweight piece of measurement kit meant to be used for quick checks and component identification – for an impressive $70. It’s clear that a lot of engineering has went into making these as compact and affordable as possible while maintaining an appropriate level of accuracy in measurements.
The attractively-styled box opens up to reveal a nifty hard-shell carrying case in which the unit itself lies within. Well, calling it a “unit” is a bit of a misnomer – as the DT71 features two distinct parts in its construction – the tweezer tip base (which contains the two batteries powering the DT71) and the measurement processor which simply attaches atop with a 4-pin TRRS jack. This provides enough connections to enable full differential measurement – one of the big highlights of the tweezers.
But what do they exactly do? Quite a lot, actually! The basic functionality is that of an LCR meter – measuring resistance, capacitance, inductance, frequency, voltage and also offering diode testing. There’s also a built-in rudimentary signal generator and a nifty auto-identification mode which also supports secondary readings (likely due to using a more complex waveform while measuring). The battery life is great – easily reaching 12h of constant use on one charge. Standby battery drain is negligible, especially with the controller head unplugged.
Physically, these are gorgeous. There’s no springs or other mechanical tensioners. Instead, e-design decided to put in two sets of magnets which perfectly balance out and offer just the right amount of resistance to emulate a physical spring. This both offers a better feeling device and a higher quality construction with less moving parts prone to wear and tear. One minor design quirk is the capacitive button used for all operations.

NumWorks N0110 Calculator Review

We love calculators. There’s something charming about these tiny computers which were first contacts with programming for many aspiring developers. These devices were the desktops of the 1960s and the smartphones of the 1980s – with the market flourishing in this era with various and wonderful models, culminating in some of the most recognisable designs.
With the advent of smartphones and other portable computers, calculators have fallen from their former glory. They still, however, retain an important place in education and specific scientific and engineering fields. This market is nowadays dominated by a few brands – with Texas Instruments, Casio, and to a lesser degree Sharp and HP having a firm grasp on the field. This makes it quite interesting and exciting that in Q3 2017 a completely new company – called NumWorks – appeared with their premier model – the NumWorks model N0100 calculator – simply branded the “NumWorks Calculator” (which we’ll also call just the “NumWorks” in the rest of the article). A quiet revision upped much of the specs and gave the calc a much-needed memory boost. This newer N0110 model paved the way for many new features in later software revisions.
Before digging into the review itself, we’d like to mention that this NumWorks N0110 has been provided by the company to us free of charge for review purposes. As always, all opinions below are our own and are in no way influenced by the company.
First things first – the N0110 is sleek. That is the most immediately noticeable thing about this device. It’s modern, it’s slim and it’s pretty. Even the box design is simple and unassuming in an elegant Apple-esque manner (makes sense given that CEO of the company is an ex-apple software engineer). Under the lid is a playful and beautiful calculator with a novel yellow-black marking design with grey accents. It’s such a striking pretty design that every other calculator we’ve tried (except the HP Prime) absolutely fades in comparison.
The buttons also feel great and responsive. The font used on these is also great and extremely sleek. The screen is not laminated, sadly, but it does not present much of an issue, as it’s plenty bright and has surprisingly great viewing angles.
The integrated 1450 mAh Li-Po battery is also as excellent as the screen and keyboard – providing the user with somewhere between 20 and 24 hours of constant use. It also charges quickly. And for charging, there’s a yellow USB cable provided in the box. Yellow! Absolutely bananas.

Würth Sensor FeatherWing Review

Second in the series of Würth’s add-ons for the Feather ecosystem is the Sensor FeatherWing – featuring four of Würth’s own sensors on-board – those being the WSEN-PADS absolute pressure sensor, the WSEN-ITDS 3-axis accelerometer, the WSEN-TIDS temperature sensor and the WSEN-HIDS humidity sensor.

All of these are connected via an I2C bus to the main Feather board. There’s also support for two SparkFun QWIIC devices and two WE-Sensor devices, thanks to the four connectors (one of each is pre-mounted, and two more are supplied).

As with all FeatherWings, this board is compatible with a wide range of microcontrollers. We successfully tested it with M0, M4 and ESP32-based systems – and it worked flawlessly.

There are two separate interface libraries that can be used with this FeatherWing – the platform.io Arduino-like library and the classic Arduino library. We’ve tried both of these, and they are both excellent and offer all the main features of these sensors.

The platform.io library worked perfectly – and we managed to run all the examples without any hiccups whatsoever. The Arduino library (well, in reality, it’s four separate libraries that Würth has provided) doesn’t offer support for reading more than one sensor at a time/per sketch – so we decided to tinker a little and fix this.

Namely, certain methods were defined multiple times in separate library instances, so we’ve unified the four libraries into one to take care of this – while preserving all the examples in a new folder architecture. If using multiple stock libraries is required, it can be achieved by including the header file under a namespace. This process didn’t take too much time, though, so we don’t consider it a huge deal.

Würth MagI3C FeatherWing Review

Feather is Adafruit’s system of development boards, available in a wide range of MCUs and peripheral options. FeatherWings are what they call the add-on “shield” type boards that stack above or below the main board to extend its capabilities.

Wurth Elektronik created four of these add-on boards to showcase some of their industrial-grade technologies in an approachable, easy-to-use factor. Today, we’re looking at the first of these – the MagI3C FeatherWing.

Normally, Feather boards are powered by either a USB connection or with a battery (there’s on-board charging circuitry, too). There’s also the option of supplying 5V directly to the GPIO header. While this is more versatility in the power department than most competitors, it’s still a far cry from being industry-ready.

This is where the MagI3C FeatherWing comes in. Powered by the namesake MagI3C modules, it offers a stable output voltage in a wide variety of input scenarios.

Digging a bit deeper into the inner workings of the module, we see some interesting chips populating the circuit. Firstly, the MagI3C FDSM (a fixed output voltage step-down regulator) takes any input voltage between 6 V and 36 V and brings it down to 5 V. An additional VDMM (variable output voltage step-down regulator) brings those 5 V further down to a pre-set 3.3 V. This second chip can be enabled or disabled via an on-board switch, and is meant for FeatherWings that require 3.3V power. The power is delivered to the MagI3C board via a no-screw terminal, which accepts wires of various thickness. There’s also a USB connector on the side, allowing for power delivery through a standard microUSB cable.

Dymo Rhino Heat Shrink Tubing Review

Dymo’s versatile industrial range of Rhino labelling tools offers an array of materials and colours suitable for a variety of applications. All of the labels are tested and certified to withstand tough industrial conditions – which include extreme temperatures, direct sunlight and exposure to water, oil or other chemicals.

Currently, Dymo offers vinyl (both standard, coloured and self-laminating), polyester, nylon, non-adhesive and shrink-wrap tags. Each of these have unique properties making them most suitable in specific scenarios.

What separates the Rhino line is the cartridge technology – most office label printers use thermal paper or tape which, while cheap, isn’t a permanent labelling solution. Such labels are very sensitive to higher temperatures – and on top of that they have a tendency to fade after a while. Rhino tapes use thermal transfer technology – meaning that the ink is transferred from a separate heat-sensitive ribbon onto the label tape. The ink ribbon runs parallel to the label tape and is advanced along with it, providing a fresh surface each print. This method has serious advantages over the conventional one – as it opens up a whole library of possible label materials and colours while also enabling the printed labels to be thermally stable.

Nucleo U575ZI-Q and X-Nucleo GFX02ZI – an ideal combination

Nucleo U575ZI-Q is an STM32 Nucleo-144 development board with STM32U575ZIT6Q MCU and connectors for Arduino, ST Zio and morpho accessories. The MCU is from the U series – Ultra-low-power Arm Cortex-M33 with a built-in FPU unit. It runs at 160 MHz and has 2 Mbytes of Flash memory. On the board itself is a USB output/input port for further connections and data transfer.

The combination we made was done on purpose. We added the X-Nucleo GFX02ZI board with a full-color LCD screen with a resolution of 320×240 pixels. At the moment it is the only STM Nucleo board that supports “out-of-box” this display through TouchGFX Designer which you can download for free from STM.

TouchGFX Designer itself is extremely pleasant to work with and it is very quick and easy to create custom applications. It generates code that you can further use and modify in STM32CubeIDE.

Unfortunately, the X-Nucleo GFX02ZI display does not have a high resolution, if it had a lower resolution, the usability of this assembled kit would be called into question. If our idea is to create a device based on an Ultra-low-power Arm fast and powerful MCU, with the presence of a USB connector on the board itself to connect additional peripherals: keyboards for example… this combination can give you hours and hours of pleasant and revealing work on STM ARM platforms. It is definitely recommended.

CircuitMess Jay-D Review

We’ve had our hands on the great CircuitMess Chatter in the previous issue. It’s a lovely DIY-assembled development platform with surprising versatility and a great beginner-friendly IDE called CircuitBlocks (based on MakeCode and PXT-Blockly). Even after finishing the core building part of the experience, there’s more to discover within these – and we were especially surprised to find full support for the ESP32duino packages which enable even Wi-Fi projects.

Today, CircuitMess sent us another of their great kits – the Jay-D STEM box. It’s the second box in the series – but it’s still available to order and is one of their most beloved kits.

Opening the box, we’re greeted with a familiar array of PCBs, acrylic parts and electronic components. There are also two speakers included – which makes sense given the nature of this DIY kit. Which we haven’t mentioned yet – right.

It’s a little mixing desk! Complete with crossfaders, digital effects, and all the basic features you’d expect. We find the concept here extremely appealing and satisfying – and who wouldn’t want to assemble a piece of music tech! So, without further ado – let’s get to it.

Once again, the most finicky SMT components have thankfully been pre-soldered to the board. Sadly, we can’t see a middle schooler using a hot air rework station, no matter how fun and rewarding as tricky soldering manoeuvres are. That being said, any old soldering iron will work just fine for the work required here. We’d recommend having a solder pump or a braided copper solder wick on hand, as well, just in case whoopsies happen. Some electrical tape also helps in cases where the component just refuses to stay in place. The holes on these PCBs are well placed, so this shouldn’t be an issue, though.

SunFounder PiPower Review

SBCs are great. Reading through our extensive list of SBC reviews we’ve created over the past few years, one can notice our own love for these little systems enabling everyone to deploy IoT systems and create various server-based projects, among other things. At the same time, certain models have proved themselves worthy of serious industrial use thanks to their wide IO arrays and reliability. SBCs also draw impressively little power, with the most power-hungry models rarely requiring more than 15W under top loads, making them very easy to power.

Sadly, that power is usually provided by a switched-mode power brick attached to a nearby outlet and delivered through a USB port – which means that there’s nothing between a power outage and your data being lost or services being fully interrupted. Short of a full-size desktop UPS, there’s not much that can be done to combat outages – but given the fact that compact size is one of the biggest upsides of an SBC, it’s easy to see why a large, bulky battery backup box is somewhat inappropriate in most use-cases.

In today’s review we’re taking a look at a solution to this problem – SunFounder’s PiPower – a tiny, easily attached and sleek UPS system designed for SBCs. While it’s not the first device of its kind, it’s certainly the neatest one we’ve seen so far. SunFounder sent this device free of charge to us for review purposes.

Inside the box are quite a few parts – all the screws and standoffs, an acrylic backing plate, a screwdriver and the PiPower module itself. Two high-quality braided cables (one Type-C and one Micro USB) for connecting the UPS to the SBC are also included in the set – which is a great touch. These cables are extra-short, which is great for keeping the setup tidy (can you even easily get such tiny cables commercially?) and for keeping the overall footprint small.

SunFounder IceCube Review

We’ve already the overheating tendencies of modern SBCs a few times in the articles we’ve written in the past. Seriously, these little powerhouses need some sort of cooling – be it passive or active – to retain their peak performance for a reasonably long time.

Some of them come with stock heatsinks, while others don’t. The latter group is thus often left by most users to overheat and throttle, seriously lowering performance. Sitting at a not-so-nice toasty 80°C, while technically safe, is not the best practice and certainly does not do any good to the CPU.

Most solutions for cooling single-board computers come in one of two flavours: a small heatsink or a small heatsink with a fan bodged atop. While this is reasonably effective for low-TDP SoCs, it leaves a bit to be desired, especially when overclocking.

SunFounder had something different when they sent us the Raspberry Pi 4 IceCube cooling solution. It’s a proper little heatpipe-based system with a radiator and an RGB (everything has to be nowadays) fan. It looks like a miniature version of a proper desktop cooling setup – and it’s adorable. The mounting was pretty straightforward – as the cooler holds itself suspended on four arms right above the CPU, RAM, ethernet controller and the USB controller. The IceCube uses rather thick thermal pads to couple the bottom of the heatsink – which does make using thermal paste a bit of a challenge – but in our tests the provided thermal pads worked a treat!

Banana Pi M4 Review

We’ve already had our hands on the excellent Banana Pi M5 SBC in our previous issue, and have explored some of its capabilities. Today, we’re taking a look at its smaller sibling, the Banana Pi M4, and the differences in features and price that might make it more enticing for some.

The Banana Pi M4 used in this review has been provided to us by the manufacturer for review purposes.

Single board computers are somewhat of a different category from other computing platforms, as they tend to end up embedded in some other project or product or used for running a specific service. This makes their use more specialised, and thus shifts focus from pure performance and benchmarks to some other factors – like power envelopes, port selection and cost. Given that today’s SBCs are all incredibly powerful – strikingly fast compared even to last decades’ high-end desktops – many, if not most projects hardly utilise the power under the hood. For this reason, slower but cheaper and/or smaller systems, like the Raspberry Pi Zero, have proven so popular among hobbyists.

The Banana Pi M4 sports a slightly unconventional Realtek RTD1395 SoC, which features four Cortex A53 CPU cores alongside a Mali 470 MP4 GPU. Realtek is usually known as a producer of Ethernet controllers and audio codecs, but their chip division certainly holds its own in the set-top box and HD media device market. The M4 also comes with 1 or 2 GB of RAM and 8 GBs of eMMC on-board storage, the latter of which being a signature feature of Banana Pi computers.

RT8822CS Bluetooth and WiFi adapter for Banana Pi M5

As a demo project, we created a little Wi-Fi enabled display stand using the SunFounder 10.1″ LCD touchscreen, Banana Pi M5 and the RTK8822CS BPI WiFi adapter. The display setup was extremely smooth and easy, but the WiFi module setup required some additional steps.
After installing the WiFi module on the back of the M5, we enabled the environment overlays for the “wifi_bt_rtl8822cs” layout.
After doing this, we had a great little touchscreen-enabled wireless IoT device, capable of connecting to various databases or websites and displaying dashboard data.

SunFounder 10.1” HDMI IPS Touchscreen Review

SBCs have been changing industry and maker spaces for quite a while now – and while many projects are developed using CLI tools and SSH access, sometimes a more graphically impressive solution might be needed – especially when user comfort is important.
This is when many of us reach for a proper display – and while SBCs work great plugged into the TV, it’s not always convenient to hog up hardware already in use for a project. Here SBC screens come into play – a somewhat niche group of products that usually add display and touch functionality to these little computers – turning them into fully-fledged standalone devices.
Some SBC screens, like the Official Raspberry Pi display, use hard-to-come-by cables or obscure ports which limit their usability to a single model or family of computers. This is why HDMI-based screens offer a big advantage when board compatibility is key.
SunFounder sent us their 10.1” HDMI IPS display for review. This unit is on the larger side for this kind of equipment – and being HDMI-based, has a large list of devices supported. There’s another trick up its sleeve – the touch controller works over USB, which further increases compatibility – there’s basically no device on the market that doesn’t have USB!

OP-Z unexpected MIDI demo project

And now for an unexpected demo…
… we are an engineering magazine, after all, so we wanted to create a bit of a crossover project to finish this review off. We grabbed one of our favourite MCUs – the SAME51-based ATMEL ATSAME51J19 and got to work!
We wanted to add a little OLED-based display to the OP-Z and use it for displaying the current beat inside the bar. We decided to use the MIDI protocol for this, as it gave us the necessary data out of the sequencer.
Using the USB-MIDI library we listen to start, stop and clock signals. As per the standard MIDI implementation, the OP-Z sends 24 clock pulses per quarter note. This means in order to get accurate beat sync we just need to count those pulses.

teenage engineering OP-Z review

In the past issue, we’ve already had our hands on the excellent teenage engineering POM-400 synth and POM-16 sequencer, and after being blown away by how excellent and full of surprises they were, we were raring for more. Thankfully, the amazing folks at teenage engineering provided us with a review unit of the OP-Z and the first bit of expansion kit designed for it – the oplab module.
Now, let’s get into what exactly the OP-Z is – since it’s quite the little package! At its core is a 16-track sequencer capable of sequencing a wide array of things. Around it are four drum track engines, capable of loading a 24-sample pack, four synth tracks, capable of loading one of the multiple available synth engines. These synth tracks each also feature a powerful PCM sampler. Next come the two effect racks, a “tape” track, the master track, and finally, we have the unique performance, module, DMX light, and motion tracks.
Looking at the physical form factor, the OP-Z is tiny. Compared to the already semi-pocketable POM-16, the OP-Z is the same width, but half the thickness and almost half the height. It also feels extremely solid in the hand, with an injection-moulded IXEF 1022 PARA polyarylamide-based resin, reinforced with 50% glass fibre by weight. This is a unique decision, but it gives the svelte device serious structural integrity. The material also gives each OP-Z a streaky marbled surface finish, which teenage engineering claims to be unique on every single device – which is certainly endearing!

CircuitMess Chatter Review – The Other Side (part II)

In the first half of this review (well, we tried to make it a half), we were focused on covering the initial build experience of the Chatter kit by CircuitMess.
In this second half, we want to explore a bit deeper under the hood and get to know what makes the little Chatter devices tick – and how much we can get out of them.
These LoRa-based DIY texting machines come equipped with USB-C connectors for PC communication, and are built to be programmed with CircuitMess’ own CircuitBlocks IDE. It’s based around the Blockly language – meaning that it’s simple to use and quite intuitive for newcomers to the field.
Once downloaded, CircuitBlocks grabs a set of extensive and well-written libraries enabling high-level access to all the main hardware components of the Chatter – especially focusing on the buttons, piezo buzzer and display. When we say high-level here, we truly mean it. The team did a gorgeous job with the core library here – called CircuitOS. It unifies the experience across the company’s kits and provides simple calls for handling button presses, sprite graphics, interactive UI elements, sound and multitasking. It all makes programming the Chatter feel way less like programming an MCU and way more like a proper desktop experience akin to those students might have had in the past.

Formlabs Form 3+ SLA resin 3D printer

When Formlabs unleashed the Form 3 (and its dental counterpart – the Form 3B) upon the world back in June 2019, it changed the game for desktop 3D printing by bringing an array of features never seen before in this form factor. On top of that – the company tried to allow for finer details to be printed with less support material by introducing their LFS technology – which boils down to the bottom of the resin tank being flexible, thus allowing the layers to be peeled off gradually, instead of being torn right off the surface by the Z-axis motor.

This produced amazing results, with smooth surfaces and never-before seen versatility when printing free-standing walls and overhangs. Having had the pleasure of owning a Form 3 for over a year, we have to say that it was truly a great printer – delivering with most prints, no matter how challenging the geometries were.

In January of 2022, Formlabs dropped a new pair – the Form 3+ and the Form 3B+, which brought new software and hardware to the table. The software part of the announcement promises 20-to-40 percent faster printing – with the company also promising to bring it over to the older Form 3 and 3B machines. The hardware part promises better thermal control, due to a redesigned heating element, a more stable LPU (the part that houses the optics and laser – and that actually does the printing) and better early layer performance – making these first layers print 5-15 minutes faster.

Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra review

14.6 inches is a lot for a tablet. It’s massive. It feels like it just shouldn’t be this big – but in all its fourteen-and-a-half-and-a-bit-more inch glory, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra stood in front of us on our review desk – and it was up to us to figure out how to approach it.

The S Pen, Samsung’s own digital stylus, which has appeared in various iterations and product series, also makes a return here, and comes bundled in with the tablet. An optional $349 keyboard accessory enables on-the-go access to DeX mode and turns the device into a pseudo-Chromebook type of deal.

See, Samsung positioned its flagship tablet in the ever-growing niche of laptop-replacement devices, and the relatively competitive pricing (starting at $1,099 for the base 8GB RAM model, with 12GB and 16GB models being available in $150 increments) is clearly taking a shot at the venerated iPad Pro lineup – but while this year Samsung opted for a gorgeous AMOLED screen and a sleek design and a lot of high-end features, the lacklustre performance and inherent flaws of Android as a tablet OS hold back the Galaxy Tab S8 from reaching the productivity potential of its competitors.

Waveshare Pi 4 Case review

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 build overview (part I)

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!

Dymo Rhino 5200 review

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.

Casio fx-991RS X review

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.

A bit of a closer look / sound demos : teenage engineering POM-400 and POM-16

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 POM-400 and POM-16 – review

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.

Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W review

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.

Banana Pi M5 Review

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.

Raspberry Pi Pico review

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.

Hubor Raspberry Pi Cases

Hubor is a series or Raspberry Pi accessories by Xinguard, a relative newcomer to the SBC world, debuting their first products in 2019. They launched this line of products as an Indiegogo campaign, raising enough money by early backers to develop the line of cases and other add-ons for the SBC.

When Xinguard reached out to us and asked us to send some samples for review, we were very intrigued. While we’ve never heard of the company before, some research later, we’ve acquired quite an interest for the unique case system in offer here.

We’d also like to take this chance to note that our opinions in this review are fully unbiased and are not influenced by any third party, including the company providing us with the units.

Analog Discovery Studio review

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 it grow’ kit overview

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.

Pine64 RockPro64 Review

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.

Pickering 120 Single-Pole Reed Relays – 20W at 4 mm x 4 mm

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.

LattePanda Alpha864s Review

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.

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B Computer – Desktop Kit Review

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.

Easy integration at the heart of FANUC’s most automated EMO stand to date

FANUC will be heading to EMO 2019 with the remit of showcasing how easily automation can be intergrated into all elements of prodction equipment, with a stand full of turn-key cells that can help end-users fast-track their facilities into a Smart Factory.

New Eaton EasyE4 Multifunction Relay – Can be Integrated into IIoT.

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.

Where craftsmanship and high-tech go hand in hand

For over a century, Okuma, has been developing grinding machines for the highest quality demands. Though a lot has changed since the beginning, some aspects remain the same. Okuma CNC grinders still achieve their high precision, productivity and longevity due to a symbiosis of craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technologies.

Combining hardware and software for excellent cutting performance

Achieving supreme quality while maintaining high productivity is difficult for most manufacturers. Measures to improve the outcome often slow down machining processes. In order to combine the two partly conflicting objectives, machine tools need not only high performance hardware but also customised software to reach the machine’s full potential.