TI Launchpad MSP430 vs Arduino Uno

I haven't developed a project with either one of these microprocessors yet, so I am speaking only in theoreticals until I do.  The Arduino has an incredible amount of documentation, shields, test data and community support and that goes a long way.  Given it's price and power, however, the TI Launchpad MSP430 has got to be considered, at least in some applications.

I put the order in for three TI Launchpad MSP430 development kits, and the total came to 12.90 shipped.  TI got these kits to me in 3 days, and I didn't even pay for the shipping.  I know TI is taking a loss on these to try and stimulate their business further down the road, but still, $4.30 is dirt cheap when compared to any of the Arduino boards.

TI Launchpad MSP-430XXX Dev board
The MSP 430 comes in a nice retail box and currently ships with:
  • MSP-EXP430G2 Development board
  • M430G2553 MPU
  • M430G2452 MPU 
  • 32.768 KHz crystal - there is a spot on the board to solder it if you need the timing accuracy.
  • Two sets of extra header pins
  • One USB cable (programming and power supply)
  • A couple of cool TI Launchpad stickers
So, right away we can see that we are getting another MPU thrown into the deal and a USB cable.  Oh - there are also four small rubber feet on the bottom of the Launchpad.

The TI Launchpad development board layout

Looking at the board iself, it is separated into two logical and physical sides.  The USB interface is on one side of the board, and it comes pre-jumpered with the USB interface connected.  There is a power LED on the USB side, and power can come in either via the USB cable or via the header pins on the other side of the board.

On the other side of the board, we have two buttons, two LED's, header breakouts for each of the 20 pins of the IC socket, 3 pin power input header (VCC, GND,GND), and two jumpers to connect/disconnect the two integrated LED's.  If you take a few minutes to look at the board, you'll see it's a very simple circuit, especially if you ignore the USB converter side of the board, which for our purposed, you can.

One of the buttons is a reset button, and is hardwired to Pin 16 - can't change that one.  The other switch goes to pin 5 of the IC socket.  There are also two programmable LED's - LED1 is red, LED2 is green.  They are connected to pins 2 and 14 respectively, but can be easily disconnected via jumpers.

The only thing this development board seems to be missing are mounting holes to attach the board to risers.  The included headers are nice, as are the rubber feet.  The SMD electronics on the Launchpad make it a very small, clean design, and keep power usage ridiculously low.  I'll get back to the power usage later, as it is incredible.

The Comparison: TI Launchpad vs. Arduino UNO

I'm using the Arduino for comparison because of the current popularity of the Arduino, not to say you should pick one over the other.  There are plenty of applications where either, or both, or neither would make sense.

TI Launchpad Arduino Uno
MicrocontrollerTI M430G2553ATMega328
Data Bus16 bit8 bit
Speed16 MHz16 MHz
Storage16 KB32 KB
RAM512 B2 KB
Digital I/O8 channels14 channels
Analog I/O8 channels6 channels
Kit cost$4.30 @ TI.com$29.95 @ Adafruit
MPU cost$2.80/1 chip$2.82/1chip

TI offers their Code Composer Studio for download free of charge and has a fairly good documentation package.  Arduino's community support is unmatched, however, with tons of info and shields available.

The chips are comparable in function and price if you buy the MPU's individually.  TI is selling their development kit at cost or probably a loss.  You get two MPU's, retail priced at a total of $5.00.  The Launchpad also includes a USB cable for programming/power, while the Uno does not come with one.

For most simple applications, the Launchpad is probably the better way to go, with the lower cost.  For more complex projects, you may find it more feasible to use the Arduino package.  The Arduino has a huge selection of shields commercially available.  

Power Usage

The MSP430 line is amazingly energy efficient.  It has a power saving mode in which it uses virtually no power, but can wake up and return to full power in 1 microsecond.  This makes it especially good for remote sensor applications where you don't want to change batteries often.  This also makes it a good candidate for solar powered applications, where the MSP430 can run indefinitely even in areas with little sunlight.

Here's a few YouTube videos of mine featuring the MSP430:

TI MSP430 installed directly on breadboard - HELLO WORLD
Unboxing free MSP430 microcontrollers I got from the TI sample program
HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Sensor with TI Launchpad MSP430 and Energia
Program Launchpad MSP430 like an Arduino with Energia
Using the TI Launchpad MSP430 as an in system programmer (ISP)
TI MSP430 Launchpad i2c communication with Arduino Mega 2560
Make the Switch to TI MCUs - free schwag from Texas Instruments

I've basically only plugged my TI Launchpad board in to make sure it works - sure enough the default LED flash program ran fine.  I will be putting projects based on the TI Launchpad up on the blog starting in the next few weeks.

Again, the Launchpad Development kit is $4.30 apiece, free shipping.  You can buy up to 3 kits per order.

TI Launchpad official WIKI - Good jump point for everything MSP430.  Community links, technical specs and documentation, list of projects.
Buy the Launchpad at TI-estore
43oh - Good community driven msp43