Best Arduino Board: Best Microcontroller Boards for Different Applications

We’ll cover the best Arduino boards for different applications in this article.  Arduino makes multiple microcontroller boards that are ideal for prototyping and development. But the sheer number of official & unofficial boards can be …

We’ll cover the best Arduino boards for different applications in this article. 

Arduino makes multiple microcontroller boards that are ideal for prototyping and development.

But the sheer number of official & unofficial boards can be overwhelming when you want to pick a microcontroller for your project. 

So here’s a guide to show you where you can start. Read on to learn more!

Table of Contents

What Is Arduino?

Arduino is an open-source prototyping platform comprising simple software and hardware (microcontrollers).

The hardware (development board) consists of a circuit board that hosts a microcontroller and additional components to support the microcontroller functions.

These boards are ideal for building computers that sense various environmental parameters, then control motors, LEDs, displays, etc., based on the sensor data input.

On the other hand, the software component is the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment), which enables you to learn and write programs to run Arduino boards.

The Arduino platform became popular among students, enthusiasts, and professionals due to its simple, easy-to-learn design.

Additionally, being open source implies all the board resources (CAD files, design files, etc.) are free and available to everyone.

So you can modify the Arduino board to suit your applications.

Arduino Board Types

Arduino has several microcontroller board models that include the following.

(1) Arduino UNO

(2) Arduino UNO Wi-Fi

(3) Arduino GIGA R1 Wi-Fi

(4) Arduino Leonardo

(5) Arduino Due

(6) Arduino MEGA 2560

(7) Arduino Nano

(8) Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect

(9) Arduino Nano 33 BLE

(10) Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense

(11) Arduino Nano Every

Two Arduino Mega boards with a UNO and Nano in between

Two Arduino Mega boards with a UNO and Nano in between

(12) Arduino Micro

(13) Arduino Zero

(14) Arduino Portenta H7

(15) Arduino Portenta H7 Lite

(16) Arduino Nicla Sense ME

(17) Arduino MKR IoT Carrier

(18) Arduino MKR GSM 1400

Best Arduino Boards

Arduino boards are superb for their respective applications, so you should select the right one for your project. Here’s a guide to assist you in picking the most suitable microcontroller boards that suit your needs.

Best Arduino Board for Beginners

Common characteristics present in these Arduino boards are a few limited I/O ports, slow (8-16MHz) clock speeds, and 8-bit microcontrollers. They include:

Arduino UNO

Initially released in 2010, UNO is one of the most popular and documented Arduino boards because it is relatively affordable and ideal for starters working on desktop projects.

UNO means one in Italian, and the manufacturer chose the board to replace the Duemilanove with major redesigns on the software (Arduino IDE 1.0) and hardware.

The label “UNO” also signified the board as the first in a series of Arduino boards with USB ports.

An Arduino UNO R3

An Arduino UNO R3

Arduino Nano

Nano means small, but the board is complete and has most of the features in the UNO in a tinier form factor.

This small size makes the board suitable for sensor gathering and portable electronics projects.

A vector image of the Arduino Nano

A vector image of the Arduino Nano

Like the UNO, the Arduino Nano is ideal for beginner-level projects because it is relatively affordable.

Arduino Leonardo

Powered by the ATmega32U4 chip, Leonardo does not need a dedicated USB-UART bridge chip or a second processor to handle the USB connection communication because the chip has this feature. So you can connect it to a computer as a COM/virtual (CDC) serial port or HID (Human Interface Device).

The board also has more analog pins (12), PWM pins (7), and I/O pins (20) than the UNO and NANO.

Arduino Micro

Developed in partnership with Adafruit, the Micro has everything it needs to power and support the microcontroller.

It is like a small-form-factor or compact version of the Leonardo because it runs on the ATmega32U4 chip.

So its functionalities are similar to the Leonardo (HID or virtual/COM port), but it does not have a DC input jack.

The board’s form factor is also ideal for easy insertion into a breadboard.

Arduino Pro Mini

Like the UNO, Arduino Pro Mini runs on the ATmega328P.

SparkFun Electronics designed and manufactured the board, and it comes in two versions: a 3.3V-8 MHz clock speed board and a more powerful 5V-16 MHz clock speed version.

An Arduino Pro Mini

An Arduino Pro Mini

Both lack pre-mounted headers, which allows you to do direct soldering or use various connectors.

The board also lacks a USB port and onboard USB-TTL bridge.

But you can use a six-pin header linked to a SparkFun breakout board or FTDI cable to give USB cable communication and power to the board.

Best Arduino Boards for Portable/Breadboard Projects

The ideal features for a breadboard-friendly board are a compact design and headers for easy mounting.

Considering these features, the best breadboard microcontrollers are the Arduino Nano and Micro.

An Arduino Pro Mini

An Arduino Nano

Best Arduino Boards for IoT Projects

IoT projects require wireless or wired connectivity, a feature common in the following boards.

Arduino Nano 33 IoT

This Arduino IoT cloud-compatible board provides the cheapest and simplest entry point for enhancing new/existing devices to be part of the IoT and designing Pico-network apps.

It has the same form factor as the Nano but runs on a low-power 32-bit ARM core microcontroller (Cortex M0 SAMD21).

A 2.4GHz NINA-W102 low-power chipset runs its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, while an ECC608 crypto chip secures the communication. 

Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect

The RP2040 also has the Nano form factor but runs on a 133MHz ARM dual-core Cortex processor and features onboard sound (microphone) and motion sensors to enhance its capabilities.

A Nina W102 uBlox radio module provides wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

An Arduino board used to implement an IoT project

Arduino Ethernet REV 3

As the name suggests, this board has an ethernet port and fully supports the ethernet library for wired connectivity.

But you must provide a MAC and IP address when connecting to a network.

The board also supports SPI and TWI communication and features a built-in Micro-SD card reader.

Arduino UNO Wi-Fi

The UNO Wi-Fi board features a u-blox NINA-W102 radio module that can be a Bluetooth and BLE client/host device.

And it still features Wi-Fi connectivity with an ECC608 crypto chip accelerator to secure the network, making it an ideal component for your IoT project.

Arduino MKR GSM 1400

Instead of using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE, or LoRa connectivity, this board uses the cellular network to send IoT data.

GSM/3G networks cover most regions, making this board ideal for areas lacking other connectivity options.

The SARA-U201 u-blox module provides GSM connectivity, while the ECC508 crypto chip secures the network.

Arduino MKR Wi-Fi 1010

Like other MKR family boards, the Wi-Fi 1010 features the ARM Cortex-M0 low-power SAMD21 32-bit processor with a u-blox NINA-W102 radio module.

The device is compatible with the Arduino cloud and other services like Azure, AWS IoT core, Firebase, IFTTT, and Blynk.

Arduino MKR WAN 1310

The MKR 1310 is ideal for LoRaWAN because it features the low-power SAMD21 microchip, a Murata CMWX1ZZABZ LoRa module, and the ECC508 crypto chip module.

But it is more efficient than its predecessor (WAN 1300) because it comes with a new battery charger, better control of the board’s power consumption, and a 2MB SPI flash.

Arduino MKR NB 1500

This NB 1500 provides narrowband communication to IoT projects in remote areas (with no internet or power).

You can power it using a USB cable (5V) or plug in an onboard Li-Po battery.

The board features a Li-Po charging circuit that enables you to power it using a battery or 5V USB when charging, and it switches between the two power sources automatically.

Best Arduino Board for Advanced Projects/Users

Arduino Mega is the best option for advanced-level projects because it comes with a large number of I/O pins, which include:

  • 54 digital input/output pins (15 give PWM output)
  • 12 analog input pins
  • Two analog output pins
A side-by-side comparison of the Mega, UNO, and Mini

A side-by-side comparison of the Mega, UNO, and Mini

Additionally, the board features more RAM (8KB SRAM) and ROM (256KB with 8KB for the bootloader) than the UNO and Nano.

Best Enhanced-Feature Arduino Boards

Enhanced feature boards are ideal for applications requiring fast performance and advanced functionalities.

Arduino Nano 33 BLE

Although it has the same form factor as the Nano, this board is more powerful because it runs on a 32-bit nRF52840 ARM Cortex-M4 CPU with a 64 MHz clock speed.

Also, it has more memory space (RAM and flash), features Bluetooth Low Energy, and has a 9-axis inertial sensor.

The Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense is a variant of the 33 BLE that contains the following additional sensors.

  • Temperature sensor
  • Humidity/moisture sensor
  • Microphone
  • Light color & intensity sensor
  • Gesture & proximity sensor
  • Barometric sensor

Arduino MKR Zero – Best for Audio Projects

The MKR Zero is the ideal board for audio projects because it features an SD card connector for hosting music, sound, and digital audio data.

Also, it features dedicated SPI interfaces for playing music without requiring additional hardware.

An Arduino audio project

An Arduino audio project

Arduino Due – Best for Running Large Programs

Although it has the same form factor and pins as the Mega, Arduino Due features a powerful 32-bit ARM microcontroller (Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 CPU) that runs at 84MHz.

On top of that, it has more interfaces, such as a JTAG header, USB OTG, and DAC.

Arduino MKR Vidor 4000 – Best Reprogrammable Board

Since it has an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) onboard, the Vidor 4000 allows chip reprogramming.

So you can customize the board to do any function, including writing a custom CPU, building a digital sound mixer, regulating motor speeds by dedicating all pins to run PWM signals, etc.

The rear side of an FPGA board

The rear side of an FPGA board

Arduino Zero

The Zero is a more powerful extension of the UNO because it features a 32-bit ARM microcontroller to help students learn about 32-bit app development.

Arduino Portenta H7 – Most Powerful Arduino Board

Portenta H7 has a dual-core processor with the following.

  • Cortex M7 running at 480MHz
  • Cortex M4 running at 240MHz

This power is enough to handle processes created with TensorFlow Lite, and the two processors can run instructions parallel and independently.

So the M4 can run low-level processes, while the M7 does computer vision algorithms concurrently. But both processors share the on-chip peripherals.

Wrap Up

As you can see, the best Arduino board depends on your specific application. 

But Arduino has several boards that give you options for each project or user.

For instance, beginners can pick from the UNO, Nano, Micro, or Leonardo, while those working on IoT projects can pick from the Nano 33 IoT, UNO Wi-Fi R3, MKR 1310, etc. 

That’s it for this article.

Comment below or reach out via the contact section if you want further guidance on the best Arduino board to use for your project.