Nordic nRF52 Preview DK

Nordic has released a nRF52840 Preview Development Kit (PDK) to support their new nRF52840 chip. Unlike the Thingy:52 and nRF52 DK, the Preview DK supports the new long-range LE Coded PHY, making it fully Bluetooth 5 capable. The Preview DK also supports 802.15.4 for the Thread communication protocol.

This kit is similar to the nRF52 DK design. All I/O and interfaces are brought out ot edge connectors. The Preview DK is compatible with Arduino shields for easy prototyping options.

The Preview DK sports 4 user programmable buttons, 4 user programmable LEDs, and on-board QSPI flash for external storage. The board utilizes a PCB antenna and comes with an NFC for utilizing the onboard NFC tag support. Since the nRF52840 has an onboard USB controller, a micro-USB port is supplied for prototyping with USB accessories.

If you're interested in profiling RF performance, you can utilize the RF SMA connector to make direct RF measurements. There are also dedicated power management pins that can be utilized for power profiling.

The Preview DK is supported by the standard Nordic SDK. It is also compatible with ARM mbed.

More on the nRF52840 Preview DK:

About the nRF52840

The nRF52840 is the king of the Bluetooth 5 chips and the only chip in the product line that supports 802.15.4 and the new Bluetooth 5 LE Coded PHY. The nRF52840 provides an impressive 1MB of flash and 256kB of RAM.The chip sports additional peripherals, such as the ARM Cryptocell cryptographic co-processor and a USB 2.0 controller. With an improved output power of up to +8dBm, the nRF52840 is definitely the chip to pick if you're looking at long-range Bluetooth communications.

nRF52840 Specifications:

  • 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4F 64MHz Processor
  • 1.7v to 5.5v operation
  • 1MB flash + 256kB RAM
  • Up to +8dBm output power
  • 802.15.4 radio support (ZigBee and Thread)
  • On-chip NFC
  • PPI –Programmable Peripheral Interconnect
  • 48 x GPIO
  • 1 x QSPI
  • 4 x Master/Slave SPI
  • 2 x Two-wire interface (I²C)
  • I²S interface
  • 2 x UART
  • 4 x PWM
  • USB 2.0 controller
  • ARM TrustZone CryptoCell-310 Cryptographic and security module
  • AES 128-bit ECB/CCM/AAR hardware accelerator
  • Digital microphone interface (PDM)
  • Quadrature decoder
  • 12-bit ADC
  • Low power comparator
  • On-chip balun

More on nRF52840:

Nordic nRF51 DK

This is a great platform for learning more about BLE and the ARM Cortex-M0 architecture.

It seems as if every company I've worked with in the past 6 months is using the Nordic nRF5x. The nRF51 is an "ultra-low power" SoC consisting of a Cortex-M0 MCU with an integrated 2.4GHz transceiver. Nordic also supplies software stacks supporting various BLE configurations as well as other useful features like DFU & OTA updates.

The Nordic chips are directly usable as the primary SoC in low-powered BLE devices. However, I also note a trend of using nRF5x SoCs as a secondary processor in complex systems. Since Nordic provides a fully functional BLE stack, a paired Nordic SoC can be used to handle BLE comms, freeing up the main system processor for other tasks. Other systems take advantage of the low power and use it as an always-on processor that monitors various inputs and wakes the primary system when required.

Due to their ubiquity, I recommend familiarizing yourself with this platform. Nordic provides an SDK for their nRF5x series of parts, which is geared toward their dev boards.

To support nRF51 development, Nordic provides the nRF51 DK. The kit supports development for the nRF51822, nRF51824, and nRF51422 SoCs. The kit is also compatible with Arduino shields, providing interesting prototyping options right out of the box. Nordic also highlights that the nRF51 DK can be used as a low-cost Bluetooth LE packet sniffer by using their nRF Sniffer software.

The nRF51 DK is also compatible with ARM mbed.

More on the nRF51 and nRF51 DK: