Simple Alternatives to Arduino

Has anyone used these different boards? If so, what did you use them for and why? Which are appropriate for controlling LED's and playing audio files? I'm looking for something basic and cheap that can be permanantly installed in a project.


  • TI LaunchPad MSP430


  • Tinyduino

  • Ardweeny

  • AVR Butterfly

  • Build your own - AVR chip (ATMega328) + programmer & 6-pin header

  • Other suggestions?

Project Requirements


  • Play different audio files at specific times (every hour and half hour). The audio files would be set, play automatically, and never change.
  • Light up/flash LEDs based on a timed loop. One section of LEDs are lit for 1 hour, then those turn off and a different section of LEDs light up for an hour. Sections would cycle through every 12 hours

Don't Need:

  • wired interent connection
  • wireless internet
  • bluetooth
  • IR
  • remotes
  • sensors

Background Info

I know there are lots of clones and different versions. I have zero direct experience with any of them. Arduino seems like what you would use to build and test prototypes, then use it to design and test something esle. I'm looking for something fairly simple that I use once and then permanently put in a project. I don't need (or want to pay for) all the bells and whistles.

Edit: Link to previous question describing project as suggested

Best way to sync LED's to light NES figures on a wall clock?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "what was your experience" is insta-close. We deal in facts, not feelings. \$\endgroup\$ May 14, 2015 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should link your previous question since this question is related to the project you had questions about previously. Also Arduino is perfectly fine as a permanent solution. It might not be the most space conservative, but you can easily make a stack up to prototype, test and finalize, then shove it in a box and leave it forever. \$\endgroup\$
    – I. Wolfe
    May 14, 2015 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the suggestion, I added the link. I agree an Arduino board could be a permanent solution, but for my project I'm thinking it's probably overkill. I haven't used any boards before, just starting out, so I thought there might be a simpler and cheaper solution. \$\endgroup\$
    – meggatron
    May 14, 2015 at 16:41

2 Answers 2


As Passerby said, any of them will work for sure for blinking LEDs. If you decide to go the MSP430 route, make sure you pick the variant that can do the math required (for example, if you want to do some fancy filters on your audio, get one capable of floating point math...).

MSP430 is fairly easy to program, and the Code Composer IDE is Eclipse-based, and relatively bug-free.

I would add an STM32 Discovery board to your list of possibilities. They have ARM cores, run at higher frequencies (if you want to do more math, or something), and are relatively inexpensive ($12-$20 for a fully functional board with a built-in programmer). It might be a bit of an overkill for the application, but it leaves some possibilities open as well. You can develop code for these boards in Eclipse using a plug-in - it works well (I've been using these for a few months). There are lots of code examples available (by STM) for peripherals and functionalities you might be interested in.


Any of those will do what you want. You might want one with more gpio in order to directly control the leds instead of needing another ic like an led driver or shift register. Nearly all of these can work as a real time clock directly with some accuracy issues, but there is nothing about your project that requires a heavy duty microcontroller.


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