SparkFun Launches "a Better Uno" with the Arduino-Compatible SparkX BlackBoard C

Featuring up to 2A power input on its new USB Type-C connector, the BlackBoard C is designed to be the pinnacle of Arduino Uno compatibles.

SparkFun has launched another product in its SparkX family, this time a take on the Arduino Uno which upgrades the original design considerably — not least of all by switching to the modern USB Type-C connector with up to 2A power input.

"We've applied every lesson we've learned about making a better Uno and created the BlackBoard," the company claims. "The USB to serial is now done with a reversible USB C connector with through hole anchoring and the ubiquitous CH340C requiring fewer driver installs. The power portion of the BlackBoard has been reworked: we upgraded the 3.3V regulator to provide up to 600mA, with full thermal and reverse circuit protection, and added extra decoupling capacitance to increase the sensitivity of the ADC readings.

"We've decreased the brightness of the power LED, pin 13 LED, and the TX/RX LEDs from blinding to just perfect. We've added 3.3V voltage translation and a Qwiic connector to the edge of the board to allow for quick and seamless connection to our ever-growing line of I2C based Qwiic products. We've added solder pads to the bottom of the board for D+/D- so you can embed your BlackBoard into a project and run an external USB connection. We've increased the height of the reset button. This doesn't sound like much, but everyone who's touched it loves the improvement. And finally, we've increased the PTC from 500mA to 2A so that you can capture the full power of USB C."

Those aren't the only changes from a stock Arduino Uno, either: The BlackBoard C includes a "Red Squirrel switch" for toggling between 3.3V and 5V logic on the general-purpose input/output pins, clearly-labelled PTH holes by the standard-layout female headers for soldering into a finished project, and an on-board power supply capable of handling 7-15V DC input through the barrel jack and up to 2A via either the barrel jack or the USB Type-C connector.

There's only one note of warning: The design includes external 2.2k pull-up resistors on pins A4 and A5, which affects the accuracy of readings taken through the analogue-to-digital converter (ADC). Those who absolutely must have as many ADC inputs as possible, however, have the option of cutting two traces on the rear of the board to disconnect the pull-up resistors.

The BlackBoard C is now available priced at $14.95 from the SparkFun store; as a SparkX design, however, it is to be considered experimental and may not make the shift into being a regularly-stocked product.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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