The classic Arduino form factor is iconic, but it is also dying. The Uno-like boards that became a de facto standard in the maker world are now quietly on the way out. While the ‘legacy’ classic Uno form factor is still around, increasingly all the newer boards from Arduino use the MKR form factor.
The original Arduino Nano was smaller than other Arduino boards, although not any cheaper. With similar specifications to the Uno, the Nano was really just a breadboard-compatible ‘classic’ Uno with a smaller form factor.
But while the new boards share the footprint as the original Arduino Nano, the next-generation Nano family is just a bit different. Because footprint and form factor aren’t exactly the same thing.
Unlike the original Arduino Nano which was powered by the 8-bit Microchip ATmega328P, the Arduino Nano Every is built around the much more powerful Microchip ATmega4809, with an Microchip Arm Cortex-M0+ processor for USB to serial communications also on board.
The ATmega4809 at the heart of the new Nano Every is the first AVR device to feature Microchip’s Core Independent Peripherals (CIP), and having this on the board is a perhaps a bigger deal than it appears on the surface. Yet while CIP support for the new board will no doubt be available in Microchip’s Atmel Studio or MPLAB X development environments, it’s not yet clear how support will be exposed in Arduino’s own native development environment. Native Arduino library support will no doubt define how much adoption this new feature gets from the community.
However the big difference here is that, unlike the original Nano, the new Nano comes in a castellated form factor. Not only is the new Nano breadboard-compatible, it can be soldered directly onto another PCB. Which goes some way to explaining why Arduino has chosen to refresh its Nano line up.
With its MKR form factor losing out to Adafruit’s Feather form factor in the battle to be community’s next default microcontroller board standard, this is Arduino deciding to throw their hat into the ring beside the ESP8266 and the ESP32-based modules.
The boards in the new Nano family aren’t really intended to stand alone by themselves — these are really meant to be surface mounted as modules.
Unlike the Nano Every, the new Arduino Nano 33 IoT is based around a Microchip ATSAMD21 Arm Cortex-M0+ processor, with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE provided by an onboard Espressif ESP32 in the form of a u-blox NINA-W102 module. The board also comes with 9-axis IMU and a crypto chip to securely store certificates and pre-shared keys, and is compatible with the new Arduino IoT Cloud.
Unlike the Nano Every and Nano 33 IoT, the Arduino Nano 33 BLE is not based around a Microchip processor. Instead it is equipped with a u-blox NINA B306 module, which in turn is built on top of a Nordic nRF52840, an Arm Cortex-M4F. The Nano 33 BLE even has a 9-axis IMU on board.
Finally then, similar in design to the Arduino Nano BLE, the new Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense is built around the same u-blox NINA B306 module, but comes with a much larger set of sensors in addition to the 9-axis IMU—sensors for pressure, humidity, temperature, and light—as well as a gesture sensor and embedded microphone.
Intended for environmental sensing, or human interface applications, the Nano 33 BLE Sense is what I call a ‘kitchen sink’ board, and has a price to match. Whereas the new Nano Every is less than half the price of the classic Arduino, the Nano 33 BLE Sense is actually more expensive.
“The new Nanos are for those millions of makers who love using the Arduino IDE for its simplicity and open source aspect, but just want a great value, small and powerful board they can trust for their compact projects. With prices from as low as $9.90 for the Nano Every, this family fills that gap in the Arduino range, providing makers with the Arduino quality they deserve for those everyday projects.” — Massimo Banzi, co-founder of Arduino
All four of the new boards in the Arduino Nano family will be available for pre-order on the Arduino Store starting today, with the Nano Every and Nano 33 IoT expected to ship in June, and the Nano 33 BLE and Nano BLE Sense expected to ship in July.
The boards will be available both with and without headers. Without headers the Arduino Nano Every will cost $9.90, the Nano 33 IoT will cost $18.00, the Nano 33 BLE will cost $19.00, and finally the Nano 33 BLE Sense will cost $29.50. If you want the boards with headers, it will run you an additional $2.
Around this time last year, I confidently predicted a collapse in the number of Arduino form factors down to two—with the ‘classic’ Arduino Uno targeted at those wanting to prototype, and the newer MKR form factor at those trying to bridge the gap between prototype and product. I almost got it right.
These new Nano boards fit into a final gap, while they may be breadboard compatible, they’re intended to be surface mounted as modules. They’re not really aimed not at makers, but smaller manufacturers who have prototyped using classic or MKR boards, and want to take their product to full scale production. So expect to see volume discounts, and perhaps in the future a version without the onboard micro USB jack.
If you want to take a look at the hardware the new boards will be on display this weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area in San Mateo at the Arduino booth. As is tradition, Banzi will be delivering a talk on “The State of Arduino” on the Faire’s Center Stage (in Zone 6) at 2pm on Saturday. So if you’re interested to hear more about the new family of Nano hardware, and mange to make it to the Faire tomorrow, you’ll probably hear more there.