NXP has been designing chips and peripherals for professional and industrial use for years. Their line of affordable evaluation boards has helped professionals and beginners alike get to grips with the various microcontrollers they offer for different tasks. The MIMXRT1020-EV development board is fast, well supported, and comes with many attractive features whether you are a seasoned IoT developer or a beginner wanting to take the step beyond the Arduino IDE. At just $59.00, it's pretty cheap too, but is it the board for you?
What is the MIMXRT1020-EVK: i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit?
The MIMXRT1020-EVK is a development board based on the i.MX RT1020 single-core Arm Cortex M7 microcontroller running at up to 500 MHz. It's well set up for Internet of Things (IoT) tasks with onboard audio capabilities and an Ethernet port, and the ARM Cortex M7 core can run FreeRTOS and Zephyr OS, among others.
The board also has header pins for Arduino Uno form factor peripherals, making it highly extendible. The onboard microSD card slot and Can transceivers also make it perfect for data transfer and backup in industrial and automotive settings. NXP provides the free MCUXpresso IDE to make it easy to work with the MIMXRT1020-EVK with various toolchains, including IAR, Keil, GCC, and NXP's own SDK. You can build and debug code from inside the eclipse based IDE, and several example projects are provided to help you get started.
MIMXRT1020-EVK: i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit Specs
- Processor: MIMXRT1021DAG5A processor
- Memory: 256 Mb SDRAM memory, 64 Mb QSPI Flash
- Audio: Audio codec, 4-pole audio headphone jack, External speaker connection, Microphone
- Connectivity: Micro USB host and OTG connectors, Ethernet (10/100T) connector, CAN transceivers, Arduino interface
- Storage: Micro SD card slot
- Tools & OS Support: MCUXpresso SDK with optional FreeRTOS support, MCUXpresso IDE, MCUXpresso Config Tools, Zephyr® OS
Getting Started With the MIMXRT1020-EVK: i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit
The MIMXRT1020 comes with a blink sketch preloaded, so getting the board up and running is as simple as plugging it in via USB. NXP cover this, along with the basics of setting up a development environment in their getting started guides. As well as written tutorials, there are videos taking you through all the basics too!
The easiest way to get going is to use the MCUXpresso SDK and IDE. Both are free, though you will need to make a free account with NXP to download them. The getting started guide takes you through the first-time setup right up to building and debugging an example project, leaving you ready to experiment and create your own projects. You don't need any extra hardware to program and debug thanks to the onboard CMSIS-DAP USB serial debugger, though the board is compatible with JTAG and has a 20 pin connector.
What can You Make with the MIMXRT1020-EVK: i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit?
The speedy single-core processor of the i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit makes it a great general-purpose microcontroller for embedded projects, but there are a few notable features that set it aside. A built-in 10/100T Ethernet connector makes any project a potential IoT project, and the onboard external speaker connector and microphone allow for a large portion of the development to happen without any extra peripherals.
The Arduino compatible headers open you up to a lot more than just Arduino shields. NXP provides peripherals for motion and tilt sensing, DC motor driving, temperature, pressure, and humidity sensing, and many others. Whether you are interested in learning the basics of robotics and IoT, or creating industrial and medical control devices, the i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit is a good starting point!
What is Zephyr OS?
The i.MX RT1020 can support Zephyr OS as an alternative to programming using NXPs tools. Zephyr is a real-time operating system (RTOS) designed with secure embedded development in mind. It's an open-source collaborative project which now supports hundreds of different microcontrollers.
NXP is one of the Zephyr project founding members, so it's no surprise that the i.MX RT1020 is fully supported by Zephyr and documented on the NXP website. FreeRTOS is another real-time operating system designed to be as open and extensible as possible. NXP provides an example FreeRTOS project in the MCUXpresso IDE.
What is the MIMXRT1020-EVK: i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit like to use?
While working with the MIMXRT1020-EVK is a little more involved than Arduino-based hobby boards, the MCUXpressoIDE is packed with features to speed up development. The experience is similar to the IDEs provided by ST for the STM32 and Cypress' ModusToolbox IDE.
This is perhaps unsurprising as they are all based on the Eclipse open-source IDE, and perform similar tasks: programming and debugging microcontrollers. While NXP boards suffer from the same lack of beginner documentation that almost all microcontroller companies do, the example projects help to get a feel for how projects work using the board. There aren't many online tutorials, but Eric Styger's MCU on Eclipse blog is a great resource for working with Eclipse-based hardware interfaces.
Should You Buy the MIMXRT1020-EVK: i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit?
At just $59, the i.MX RT1020 Evaluation Kit packs a lot in for the money. While it lacks the onboard peripherals of some other development boards, the tools NXP provides are industry standard, and whether you are already developing projects or just learning, you'll get a lot out of this evaluation kit.