Microchip ICD3 + Explorer 16

Let me quickly introduce the Kit DV164037 from Microchip, which contain an ICD3 programmer/debugger and the Explorer 16 Board. This kit is available from RS-Components through the article 687-2741 (Click here). 

In my opinion, this kit is the best suit to start with 16 bits Microchip processors, from PIC24 to DSPIC. The ICD3 is able to program any microchip processor, so can be used more than only for this Explorer 16 kit. Let me first introduce ICD3, next Explorer 16, my rating, and finally a 3 minutes video to see demo program.

ICD3, programmer and debugger

The ICD3 is able to program any Microchip microcontrolers, and can be used to debug most of these µC. This device is updated thanks to new MPLAB release, which flash the firmware with the newest available. So, you will always have a programer able to play with old, current and futur devices.

The debugger let you interact with you target microcontroler, and let you STOP, PLAY, STEP BY STEP, and read every registers from the target, connected into your final board. All these functions are included into MPLAB interface. This function is really amazing when you implement a complicated program, and that you need to understand your software interaction with your board (not everything can be simulated).

The programer/debugger plug consist on a RJ11 connectors, with 6 conductors :

  1. MCLR/VPP
  2. VDD (VCC)
  3. VSS (GND)
  4. PGD
  5. PGC
  6. LVP

It’s powered by USB (ICD2 was powered with external 9V supply), and is able to powered the target board with voltage from 3V to 3.5V. The VPP supply is provided by a switching converter from USB. NO NEED FOR EXTERNAL SUPPLY (very good thing). datasheets are available from Microchip website (click here).

Explorer 16, with PIC24 and DPIC33

This kit include two microcontroleurs soldered on two Microchip PIMs :

  • PIC24FJ128GA010
  • dsPIC33FJ256GP710

You can find all theses peripherals on the board :

  • LCD display
  • RS232 + MAX232 like
  • USB through a PIC18LF4550
  • ICD Connectors (to connect ICDx)
  • +5V et +3.3V regulators
  • Pictail plus (plug and receptacle)
  • 4 switchs + Reset
  • 8 Leds + 1 for power
  • 1 potentiometer
  • 25LC256 (I2C memory)
  • JTAG connector

Both microcontrolers are ready to use with demo program into, so you can easely start with the board. The software project, provided into microchip website (click here), include everything to play with peripherals of the board.

You can plug other peripherals through the PICTail connections: audio, buck/boost converter, graphic, ethernet, IR, Wireless, etc. Click here to see all the PICTail kits, and click here to order some from RS.

Demo program video

At the end of this page, you’ll find a video of both microcontroler demo program.

Conclusion and Rating

Out of the Box Experience

Was the development kit easy to use straight out of the box?

Absolutely, just connect the 9V supply or the ICD3 to USB and the board run, even with the PIC24 or the DSPIC. Ready to run.

Did the development kit contain adequate instructions and documentation?

I didn’t really take care of the documentation, the kit is ready to use, and I already used an ICD2 in my previous job. Anyway, all the docs are available from Microchip (Click here).

Functionality

Did the kit meet your expectations in terms of functionality?

Almost yes, I only regret not to find simple connections to add custom peripherals. If you need to connect something extra on the board, you need your soldering iron.

How easy was it to install the software development tools?

The PC software needed is MPLAB, I already installed it before. the µC software contain a lots of comments, more comments than line code.

How easy was it to use the software development tools for the first time?

Just open the right project, click to « Build All » and « Program ». The board will start directly.

How good was the support documentation included with the tools?

The online documentation is full of details, schemas, datasheets, demo softwares with comments, application notes, etc. Like always with Microchip. Really usefull (Click here to see).

Overall Review

A very good kit if you need to start with Microchip, especially if you look for a debugger and 16 bits board. If you are a beginner and want more easy µC, consider kits with 8 bits microcontrolers (DM164120, DV164101, etc.).

My rating

  • Out of the box experience : 5/5
  • Instruction and documentation : 5/5
  • Functionalities : 4/5 (I would appreciate easy to connect µC pins)
  • Software tools : 5/5
  • Overall : 4.75/5

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