Robotdyn’s Mega Pro Mini and “Embed” Arduino boards review

The Arduino Mega is a great board. You can often get a project that typically requires multiplexing or shift registers running with a single Mega board because it contains so many GPIOs. The only problem I have with it is its massive size. Enters Robotdyn shrunk versions, and for about US$7!

Shop webpage: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/1950989

The Mega 2560 Pro “Embed”

Mega-2560-PRO-Embed-CH340G-ATmega2560-16AU-with-male-pinheaders-Compatible-for-Arduino-Mega-2560
Mega 2560 PRO Embed from Robotdyn

The Mega 2560 Pro Embed is simply put a fully compatible board with the Arduino Mega 2560, with all the features, shrunk into a tiny 38x55mm footprint. And that, in itself, is trully amazing.

The USB controller is a CH340G, a proven chip; and the onboard voltage regulators are of the AMS1117 series (one for 5V, the other for 3.3V). Not the best components out there, but they are definitely adequate for the job.

Out of the box, the Arduino IDE programmed the chip without any issue. In my opinion, it is the Mega you should get if you need an Arduino with many pins. Easy to use, efficient, small sized. It’s a great board!

The Mega 2560 Pro Mini

Now the Pro Mini is where things get interesting.

Robotdyn's Arduino Mega 2560 PRO MINI
Robotdyn’s Arduino Mega 2560 PRO MINI

This board uses the same design as the embed, except it doesn’t contain a USB controller. As a result, it doesn’t have a 3.3V regulator, and no USB connection. You program it using a Serial to USB adapter; just like the normal Arduino Pro Mini based on the ATMega328P. Those smalls differences makes the board 3mm slimmer, and the board as such is truly the king of Arduino board to create a permanent project. This board is so bare it is almost a breakout board for the ATMega 2560 chip.

Programming this Arduino, as a result, is slightly more complicated. During my initial test I used a FT232RL FTDI USB to TTL adapter (a very common serial to USB chip), but it failed to load a program. In fact, the Pro Mini does not recognize the CTS/DTR signals and requires a simple reset signal. This is NOT a very popular standard so be careful. Robotdyn’s USB to TTL UART CH340 board works well; and it costs less than a dollar.

 

The package: what do you get?

Pro Mini on the left, "Embed" on the right
Pro Mini on the left, “Embed” on the right

You can get the boards and nothing else, but I recommend spending a few cents more and getting the header pins with it. The Pro Mini comes with all the necessary pins, plus a 2×6 for ICSP and 5 straight pins for UART. The Embed is exactly the same, without the UART pins.

Size comparison

There is little left to say about these Arduino clones. But a picture is worth a thousand words right? Here’s a shot of these new Mega compared to the original Arduino Mega, together with an Arduino Uno for comparison:

mega_pro_mini_arduino_mega_classic_uno_size_comparison
Size comparison of the Mega Pro Mini, Mega Embed, Arduino Uno and Arduino Mega

That’s right: you can get all the pins of a Mega for a smaller footprint than an Uno!

Conclusion

If you are hesitating on the Mega because of its humongous size: think again! These 2 boards fill the gap in the Arduino offering, and became defacto one of the best 8 bit AVR based Arduinos money can buy.

Verdict: GoodScore - Good

The Good The Bad
  • Good soldering job & look
  • Small footprint, but all the pins!
  • Still using the cheap AMS1117 linear voltage regulator.
  • Serial connection of the Pro Mini is non standard: careful.

 

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