Over the past few years, we have seen the micro:bit grow into one of the most useful programming tools available. Now, it has been a steady rock for STEAM education, as it is easy to code and program, build it with external components and affordable to everyone.
There’s a new version of micro:bit out there that’s really making some noise (literally)! The micro:bit Educational Foundation recently released (2020) a brand new micro:bit v2, and while it looks pretty similar like the original BBC micro:bit we came to know five years ago, they have packed a lot of great improvements into this little microcontroller board.
So, let's take a look at the new micro:bit v2 and what's different compared to the previous one.
Here's a detailed look of the micro:bit v2
Comparison table for all you nerds out there.
So, what is new and different?
The new micro:bit brings array of new onboard features and tech upgrades whilst keeping all the things students, teachers and makers love about the original. This means the new micro:bit will be compatible with existing lessons, code and add-on boards that the original is.
What's not different is the price! The new micro:bit will be same price as the previous one, which is impressive given the fact that the new comes with much-appreciated upgrades.
The updated micro:bit has been designed with the consultation of teachers and the global community fans of micro:bit to make sure continuity and simplicity in teaching with the latest device. So without further ado, let's take a look at those new features in more detail.
New Audio Upgrade: Speaker and Microphone
One of the big features the community have wanted on the micro: bit is now here, an onboard speaker! No longer will you need an expansion board to play sounds or respond to audio. We’re glad to see that the micro:bit v2 has a built-in speaker. The speaker is on the back of the micro:bit v2, now students can make a noise machine or build a musical instrument using just the micro:bit itself.
Microphone is also a wonderful addition to the on-board sensor suite of the board. We were wonderfully surprised by how responsive the microphone was and, at least when combined with the bar graph functionality on the LED array as a graphical output, how consistent and clean the signal was. Between the microphone and the speaker this opens up a whole possibility of new projects with just the micro:bit alone!
New Touch Sensitive Logo
The new micro:bit v2 also added another sensor to the board: a capacitive touch sensor. If you have used the micro:bit before, you may have used the touch functionality on the pins of its edge connector. This was great, but at times was a little tough to use with the pins being jammed together. micro:bit v2 has moved the touch functionality and connected it to the micro:bit logo at the top of the board.
The logo touch functionality can be used just like the buttons in MakeCode too with on logo pressed and on logo released blocks to execute code on the touch of the logo. Another wonderfully simple input for this little board.
The micro:bit v2 sports a new Nordic nRF52833 processor, allowing for more computing power, for those who need it. The flash memory has also doubled to 512Kb allowing bigger programs to be uploaded and the RAM has gone from just 16Kb to 128Kb, that's eight times as much! This updates a number of features, speed and power consumption which they upgraded the current from 90mA to 200mA on the micro:bit. The last two spec upgrades are the additions of a dedicated I2c bus for peripherals as well as Bluetooth 5.0 instead of Bluetooth 4.0 like on the original micro:bit.
One thing we are looking forward to is its potential to open the doors to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for your micro:bit projects, but it's still on the works, so we'll keep an eye on it.
Improved Connections: Notched Edge Connector + Capacitive Touch
Another noticeable change on the new micro:bit is the notched edge connector. At the bottom of each of the larger pins is a small cut out which will allow easier connection of external components to the micro:bit with alligator clips without them sliding around, falling off or shorting on other pins. This small and seemingly simple modification is a big deal and improves prototyping greatly.
Thoughts and Looking Forward
Best of all, the core functions remained the same so all of your current micro:bit programs can be re-built to run on the new hardware by simply dropping the hex file into whichever software editor was used to create the file. With the micro:bit Foundation’s new Universal Hex format, new programs that use features common to both versions; like Display, buttons, motion sensing, gestures like shake, light sensing, and even the Music blocks; will work for either version of the board.
The new micro:bit v2 adds a lot of thoughtful upgrades and features based on guidance from the user community, which builds on the micro:bit you already know and love to bring new opportunities to get excited about coding and making. The new micro:bit v2 will be available to pre-order via our resellers and partners soon so subscribe to our blog to receive new updates via email!