The makers at Arduino.cc have spent years addressing the needs of the Arduino community, building a variety of boards boasting ever more features. Until recently, however, wireless communications weren't a major feature in the mainstream line-up - leaving Arduino fans with no choice but to buy third-party designs or expensive add-on shields. The launch of the Genuino 101 brought Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to the official Arduino line-up late last year, as an upgrade from the older Arduino BT's Bluetooth Classic radio, and its follow-up aims to do the same for those needing Wi-Fi connectivity: the Genuino MKR1000.
Known as the Arduino MKR1000 in the USA thanks to an ongoing trademark dispute, the Genuino MKR1000 was announced back in December with a 1,000-unit give-away competition. The board is now available to buy internationally, and we've been putting one of the first from the production line through its paces to see just where in the Arduino ecosystem the MKR1000 finds its niche.
Based on a breadboard-friendly layout similar to the Arduino Nano, Micro, and Pro Mini, the Genuino MKR1000 has a surprisingly large footprint: while its width of 25mm is nothing to note, its length stands at a whopping 64.6mm - a whopping 20mm more than the Arduino Nano, despite having two fewer pins. The extra space on the board is taken up by the radio module, an Atmel ATSAMW25 board soldered to the top of the Genuino MKR1000's main printed circuit board, but its engineers have also found room for a JST connector suitable for a lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery which can be automatically charged through the micro-USB port at the top of the board.
Unlike the most common Arduino Uno board, the Genuino MKR1000 uses 3.3V logic. Taking this and the altered pin-out into account, though, it's possible to take almost any existing Arduino sketch or project and run it on the board: simply install the Arduino SAMD Boards package through the Arduino IDE's Boards Manager plus the WiFi101 library through its Library Manager and you're ready to go. The MKR1000 includes eight digital input-output pins and seven analogue input pins which can be switched from 8-bit through 10-bit to 12-bit resolution. In total, 12 of the pins can be used for pulse-width modulated (PWM) output, while the board also includes eight external interrupt pins and a single 10-bit analogue output pin.
While the board's main selling point is undoubtedly its Wi-Fi radio module, which provides an easy way to connect sketches to a local network or the internet via 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, the switch to the ATSAMW25 module brings with it a boost in performance over older board designs. The ARM Cortex-M0+ microcontroller unit at the heart of the MKR100 runs at 48MHz and packs 256KB of flash storage and 32KB of static RAM. The result: the ability to perform calculations far faster than an ATmega-based board, scoring 2.1 MWIPS on the Whetstone floating-point benchmark and 23.52 MIPS on the Dhrystone integer benchmark compared to 1.17 MWIPS and 6.25 MIPS respectively for the Arduino Nano.
The Genuino MKR1000 is positioned as a board built with Internet of Things (IoT) machine-to-machine networking in mind, and its designers certainly have certainly thought things through. The radio module is linked to an ECC508 cryptographic authentication module, which can be easily used to secure communications to and from an Arduino sketch running on the MKR1000. Coupled with the battery support and in-built LiPo charging circuit, we can see the Genuino MKR1000 proving popular - though at almost £38 delivered to the UK from the Arduino Store it's a considerably more expensive option than the rival Particle Photon at under £20.
More information on the Genuino MKR1000 is available on the official website.