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Gadgeteer vs Arduino vs Phidgets (blog post)


Check out my post in response to a recent Hackaday article about “Arduino vs Phidgets - Dev Time Trials” where I add a Gadgeteer response.


Love it!


@ iamin - thanks!

LOL! I just realized I hadn’t listened to the video with headphones on lately and just realized that I didn’t mute the 5x track in the 2nd test. That’s why it sounds so funky. Too bad YouTube won’t let us post edits. :frowning:

EDIT: I couldn’t bear the sound problems. I’ve uploaded a new video and edited the original post.


What software did you use for this? Camtasia?

What camera are you using and what are you using for a mount?




I use Pinnacle Studio 18 Ultimate for producing and their Screen Capture program for the screen captures.

I have a Canon Vixia HF20 mounted on a “custom” PVC mount. Hopefully, you can make it out amongst the mess I currently call an office.


Ian Lee, this is the greatest thing I have ever seen. You have very clearly proven why Gadgeteer is the best hobbyist platform hands down. It’s not even close. That Phidget thing is a joke compared to Gadgeteer (slower and more expensive). With that great split screen, you clearly demonstrated how fast and easy Gadgeteer is.


I have never understood why Gadgeteer never supplanted Arduino.


@ Valkyrie-MT - Thanks for the kind words. I’m blushing. Unfortunately, I do know why its never taken off and I’m on a mission to do as much as I can to fix that this year. Lots more to come!


@ ianlee74 - I want to give you a hug right now :slight_smile:


That’s why:


Unfortunately, that is a big reason. It’s just not possible to run NETMF on such small devices. However, with the coming IoT the demand for more capable devices running much more complex applications is going to increase and that will create a lot more opportunities for NETMF & Gadgeteer.

To demonstrate your point… As soon as I posted this last night, the very next thing I did was grabbed the cheapest thing I had laying around to embed in my sons pinewood derby car we are building. :frowning:


I’d rather have a beer :wink:


@ Gus - Why havent any of you GHI guys done anything like this before? :whistle:

But, in essence, these cases are not even Gadgeteers playing field. When prototyping projects are getting more complex than blinking an led the real powers of debugging and coding in managed code, with lots of hardware sockets is just priceless.

But you only understand that when you have tried debugging an Arduino project with two leds blinking in different patterns - with chaotic wires spread over three breadboards.


@ njbuch - Or, for that matter trying to debug mBuino or RETRO. I love both those boards, for their low price, and for the learning opportunity they afford me, but if I need to get a project built quickly, it’s Gadgeteer all the way…


Being an old user of Phidgets, I think that this article has a major bias in that it does not compare equal things.
He should have been using Phidgets SBC, as it is the board that can run standalone, like the two others. Other Phidgets I/O boards do indeed need to be connected to a PC.

Okay, let’s say it now : Phidgets is expensive. This is obvious. And this is a major drawback, to me. We agree on this.


What the article is missing (purposedly ?), and that may justify the overall price, is the network management : as long as a sensor is connected to either a PC, a I/O board or a SBC, it becomes available on the entire network !
And without any weird programming tricks. (Almost) pseudo-code would be :

Console.WriteLine("Temp : "+TempSensor.Temperature);

All connected sensor are (or may be) shared on the network and are accessible by any machine on it.

Imagine the following (almost real) scenario :

  • a telescope has a motorized focuser (stepper or DC motor) connected on a SBC, which has a Wifi adapter plugged on one of the USB ports
  • a temperature sensor is also connected to the SBC
  • goal is to adjust focus depending on temperature (this is critical on telescopes :wink: )
  • since telescopes are operating outside and at (sometimes very cold) nights, a PC in a warm room is collecting data and sends back orders to the focuser

Then program on the PC would simply look like this :

newTemp = TempSensor.Temperature;
if ((newTemp - oldTemp) > 0.1) { Stepper.Move(Forward, 2); }

As you can see, networking is transparent. Nowhere in my code I have a send/receive event handler in which I would deal with headers, trailers, control chars or others. We focus (!) only on real useful code. Do you sincerely think you could do this that simple with Arduino, Gadgeteer or other NETMF devices ? I am not sure.

And how much would it cost using Arduino/NETMF if you add all the necessary parts to achieve the same result ? How complex would be the networking code ?

So indeed, if this is the purpose, then blinking leds with Phidgets is expensive. But blinking leds can also be done with a 555, and in this case Arduino and others are expensive as well :wink:


@ Bec a Fuel - When you say the article “has a major bias” are you referring to the original HaD post, or Ian’s response?

Looking at:

It looks like the SBC you mention is nearly twice as expensive ($150) as the interface board the original author used. My guess would be that the author was either unaware of the SBC, or decided to use the interface board to keep the costs reasonable.

Phidgets may well be a good solution for some scenarios, but if the cost of entry for a solution that doesn’t require a full-time PC connection, before you buy any modules, is $150, then it’s not a solution that’s going to play in the same arena as either Arduino or NETMF.

That may make the comparison apples-and-oranges, but I don’t think it’s unfair to make the comparison at all.


@ Bec a Fuel - I’ve never used Phidgets personally and its nice to know about those features you enjoy. The purpose of my article was only to duplicate the tests from the original article using Gadgeteer. So, I assume your complaint is with the design of the original tests. You may want to publish something similar showing the winners/losers in a network connected scenario.

I agree 100% that networking in NETMF/Gadgeteer is overly complicated and I believe that with a little work we could make it as simple as you demonstrate with Phidgets. Let’s add that to our 2015 to-do list… Even a Gadgeteer + ENC28 module (or WiFi module) is still going to be less than half the price of the Phidgets solution, though.


Of course, I was refering to the original article, not Ianlee’s addition.

What was not clear in my post, though, is the “networking” part. One should understand that there is network inside each Phidgets board AND sensor, which has almost nothing to do with networking like connect to internet or sending http requests (for example).
Phidgets sensors are designed to communicate with one or many “hosts”, a host being either a PC or a SBC. This is not the case for “simple” sensors like those we are using in the actual NETMF world.

About the SBC, I would see it more like a mini-PC rather than a top-fuel Arduino/Gadgeteer. It has a real OS, with all its features, and also add I/O capabilities : either connected locally or accessible via its “internal”(*) network.

So, at $150, it may seem expensive but it is not. I did not check which hardware and software would be needed to build something similar with Arduino/Gadgeteer but I am quite sure we would not be far from those $150 if not higher. And we still would not have the same software features :wink:

Anyway, I do not want to fight about this. My only purpose here was more to outline the fact that Phidgets are not the adequate tools to blink leds and that such a comparison may not be appropriate.

@ devhammer : in this regard, I agree : they do not play in the same arena. For environments where a PC is used or is mandatory, though, I think that the Phidgets ecosystem is unbeatable. Although I would like the modules to be cheaper, I admit.

But from a company point of view, this small cost increase may save hours of software debugging that could be way more expensive.

FYI, if SBC had been using C# internally instead of C when I played with it, I would even not have turned my eyes over FEZ/NETMF :wink:

(*) I put quotes around the word internal because there are (easy) means to access this network, via Bonjour for example. It is not a closed network.


We’d like to thank Ian for his contribution. :clap:

His video was added (with his permission) to the bottom of the Gadgeteer technology page.



Just FYI, on that same page, just above the new addition, is the following typo:

“shows a model of an acrylic case that could be laster cut.”