Advantages and disadvantages of Arduino clones

One of the first things we should do when we start a new Arduino project is to look for a free board. Then we have to disconnect what we had on the board to make room for the new development. Of course, the ideal would be to have a couple of dozen Arduino boards, but that would cost us a small fortune. Luckily we have the possibility of using Arduino clones although these have some advantages and disadvantages.

Arduino Nano original and its clones.
Original Arduino Nano (left) along with two clones. The middle model is the one that includes the first prototype of Bike Pixel Rear. The one on the right is totally modified being all the elements on one side so it is the least thick.

During the project I used both original plates and clones. In testing and developing the prototype, I used an original Arduino UNO board and a Nano. For the final assembly of the prototype I opted for a clone, directly soldering the connections and components over it. This choice was due to the fact that the original Nano plates include by default welded legs. In our case this was the first advantage of the clone board but can be also a disadvantage as the welded legs facilitates the connection with other elements and we can do without the welder.

Advantages of Arduino clones

Because the mission of the Arduino project is the education and creation of free and open source hardware anyone can build their own board of the different available Arduino versions. Taking advantage of this, different manufacturers have seen the opportunity to get a share of the business and for years present us with the option to buy a clone Made in China. For a price several times lower than an original board is possible to get a fully functional one. Sometimes this price difference can be up to 10 times less. In the table you have a couple of examples:

BoardOriginalClone
Arduino UNO   $19.75$1.91
Arduino Nano$18.00$2.34
Arduino Mega$28.50$5.89

This price difference might seem a bit suspicious, but you have to consider that the price of manufacturing electronic components in China is very low. It should also be borne in mind that the price of the original Arduino boards is higher because part of the profits obtained go directly to support the community.

Disadvantages of Arduino clones

Leaving aside the great advantage of the price and the subject of the legs or other design nuances, the use of clone boards also has some disadvantages between them:

  • Lack of Arduino community support. When we buy a clone, we no longer support the development of all the activities carried out by the members of the Arduino community. These include the development of new versions or the important educational work they do.
  • They are Made in China. Most of the original boards are usually made in Italy (where the project comes from) or in the United States. So buying them in a way contributes to the development of the local economy. Even so, any manufacturer can sell original Arduino plates. To do this, you only need to purchase the necessary licenses for the commercial use of Arduino brand and logo. This obviously also helps to support the community. The Arduino project has long licensed the brand to Chinese companies. Because of that we can also find original boards directly shipped from China but still original.
  • Worse finishes. Although not always, some of the clones have poorer quality finishes. For example, in one of the clones I used in the Bike Pixel prototype, the metal around the USB port entrance has bent slightly from both inserting and removing the cable to connect the battery (but still works perfectly).
  • Technical problems. For example, from time to time it is not possible to send the compiled code to board. The solution is usually to use the reset button or simply restart the Arduino IDE.

So you decide. But before that don’t forget to consider all the advantages and disadvantages of using original Arduino boards or clones. Ideally, I suppose it is a compromise to buy both original plates and clones.


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