Ukrainian maker Dmytro, of Dmytro Engineering, has designed an "improved Raspberry Pi Pico" microcontroller development board — using the same dual-core RP2040 microcontroller but with reduced noise, a better analog-to-digital converter (ADC) reference, a USB Type-C connector, and a dedicated reset button: the ProPico.
"Have you ever wondered what makes something 'Pro?' I believe it should offer meaningful improvements over the base model, for people who actually use these tools for work and expect appropriate performance from them," Dmytro explains.
"With that being said, you all know I love the RP2040 and the Raspberry Pi Pico… but there are a few things I never understood that keep driving me crazy about it. And I am not the only one who thinks this way. I have talked to many people who share my displeasure with these aspects of the Pi Pico, but the form factor and the ability to easily integrate it into your design is undeniably nice."
With that in mind, Dmytro set about building a Raspberry Pi Pico-style board which addressed six key complaints with the original design: a noisy DC-DC power converter; the lack of built-in reference for the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) coupled with the aforementioned noisy DC-DC converter; the outdated micro-USB port; the limited 2MB flash storage; the "unreasonable difficulty" in runtime use of non-volatile storage; and the lack of a dedicated physical reset button.
"This is a wild one. How the people developing this board didn't get annoyed by not having a reset button is beyond me," Dmytro notes of that last issue. "So, on a cold October evening, I set out to make my own Pico board. It should stay affordable and not be too bloated, while remaining compatible with the original Pi Pico in terms of software and footprint, and most importantly, it needs to address the points above."
The resulting design uses a linear Texas Instruments TLV761 or TLV1117 low-drop out (LDO) regulator, a TI LM4040 as the ADC reference, a USB Type-C port for programming and power complete with the resistors required for use with E-marked cables, support for up to 16MB of flash plus a footprint for an optional I2C EEPROM or FRAM non-volatile storage chip, a physical reset button, and even some additional general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins including an extra analog input.
"I've already assembled some of these," Dmytro says of his design, which mimics the single-sided breadboard-friendly and surface-mountable design of the original Raspberry Pi Pico, "and so far, it is able to overclock and perform the same way as the Pi Picos I have, meaning I didn't mess up the bypass capacitors. Currently, I am still working on finalizing the design, supporting libraries, and board files."