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Okay, having decided to pitch myself at the PIC family (including dsPIC), I now have a question about programmers. I've been hearing a lot of bad things about the new PICKit 3, and am wondering if I should get that or the apparently more venerable PICKit 2? If I want to be able to use the newest PICs, I think I might need to buy the latest, but I'm not so sure. Thank you!

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I think the main reason behind PK3 hate is from this review by D.L. Jones. If you read (watch?) between the lines, D.L. Jones is upset because, well, the PK3 isn't the PK2. My response: It's a PIC chip programmer for hobby use, not for production work! Yes the physical UI is different between the two, but hey, your'e getting a OEM-supplied programmer for very little money that programs just about everything in their lineup (PK2 doesn't), so I wouldn't complain. Take what they give you! In the not-too-distant past, programmers were waay more expensive.

At work, we use ICD2 and ICD3 "hockey pucks" and the main reason we don't use PK2 is because the PK2 didn't support a particular micro we wanted to use in the past (the PK3 supports it now), so they had to upgrade. All of my coworkers said PK3 is probably a good way to start, since the part support problem seems to be resolved.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How's that for a coincidence, both of us linking to the same review within a minute of each other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Amos
    Commented Mar 10, 2010 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have used the PK3 and love it. I think it is the only way to go. The full USB makes programming large hex files fast! \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Commented Mar 13, 2010 at 10:41
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I had to make the same decision a while ago when I broke my old PICKit2. Finally I decided to buy the PICKit2 again. Why? - it supports most Microchip devices -you can even program AVR MCUs with it see here http://pickit2.isgreat.org -you can use the PICKit2 as a USB to serial converter (see link above) -has its own PC programming software and the pk2cmd command line tool (Linux support too) -PK3 is not mature yet

Its not like buying a house.. if you dont like it, buy the other one.

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I have had a PK2 for nearly 4 years now and I'm pretty happy with it. It works for low end PICs as well as the 18F usb series which are all I have at my disposal. The UART and logic analyzer are really useful tools, but I have yet to use the PK2-to-go option. I think these are all the tools any starting PIC hobbyist will need and because it's an older model than PK3 I guess you might be able to get hold of them cheaper.

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You need the PK3 if you are going to use the latest chips, as the PK2 software isn't being updated. You can see if the chips you want to use are supported by either unit by checking from within MPLAB. The main thing that people don't like about the PK3 is that the useful applications for the PK2 that configure it as a simple logic analyser and serial I/F haven't been ported to it. The ICD 3 I use is another option. It works with all Microchip devices and is a lot faster than the PK2/PK3, but costs a lot more. It's also replaced free if it ever develops a fault, even if I do something silly to it.

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There's a video podcast here where David L Jones an Australian Electronics Design Engineer compares the PICkit2 and PICkit3 (he prefers the PICkit2 and rants uncontrollably about how Microchip have stuffed up with the PICkit3). He has a tendency to rant in many of his podcasts but is very funny in the process (he swears a lot as well so be warned).

I have a PICkit2 and am very happy with it.

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Get the PK3. Microchip has responded to the rants with some rollbacks and improvements. Also you get a safer system with less zapping of target boards and better future compatibility.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the tip. I think I'll just go with the PK3 and get on with the fun stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – Darren Landrum
    Commented Mar 14, 2010 at 3:42
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Like Leon I also use an ICD3, but I want to try a PK2. The PK2 has a PK2-to-go option that allows you to download a hex file to the programmer and then program a microcontroller without a PC. This is an important feature for my company since we sometimes want to do firmware updates in the field. I think the PK3 has the same feature, but I have not been able to confirm that from just looking at the microchip website. Is there anyone out there who has tried both the PK2/PK3?

Just tried the PK2. It's good, but there are a few things that don't exactly meet my expectations:

  • PK2-to-go option limited in supported hex file size < 100kb
  • PK2-to-go option still requires power via USB

Haven't tried the PK3 yet.

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