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Teensy vs Arduino — Which is the Best?

teensy vs arduinoIn the world of circuitry, there are a multitude of programming devices to choose from. Each one serves a slightly different purpose and is ideal for a slightly different niche.

There are quite a few well-known device names. Today, we’ll be looking at the theme “Teensy vs Arduino” and asking what purpose each serves best and which is, ultimately, the better overall choice.

Development Boards

Teensy and Arduino are two types of development boards that take an input code and translate it into an output action via circuits. This action could be running a motor, turning on a light, or virtually anything you can code and create the circuitry for.

Picking the right development board for your project is crucial. With the wrong board, you might not be able to program things the right way, build your circuits within a given space, or otherwise get the outcome you’re looking for.
And there’s a difference between each board, even within the same company — take the Arduino Uno, Micro, and Nano, for example. We’ll be looking at all three of those, as well as the Teensy 3.6 in the review “Teensy vs Arduino”.

What is Arduino?

Arduino revolutionized the microcontroller industry by creating an open-source platform for programming. Before Arduino, microcontrollers were often difficult to program and, therefore, not exactly user-friendly enough for beginners and/or children.

Arduino boards include a plethora of inputs and outputs (I/O) both digital and analog. They also tend to feature voltage reduction and USB I/O to make uploading your code to the board much simpler than its microcontroller predecessors.

Teensy vs Arduino Uno, Micro and Nano 2020

Since its inception, Arduino has developed and released a great many boards with different features and updates, making them competitive and relevant in a multitude of niches.

ModelIncludes 
Arduino Uno14 digital input/output pins, 6 analog inputs
Arduino Micro20 digital I/O pins, 12 analog inputs
Arduino Nano14 digital I/O pins, 8 analog inputs
Teensy 3.662 digital I/O pins, 25 analog inputs
We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers, and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer.

Arduino Uno R3

Arduino Uno R3The Arduino Uno is one of the most well-known Arduino boards. This is because it is a perfect beginner’s board and is one of the most common entry level development boards.

However, it is also favored by experienced users for its versatility and ability to satisfy multiple niches.
The Arduino Uno has a removable microcontroller unit, which makes for easy replacement if it is damaged during prototyping, and it is compatible with most SHIELDs.

It also has a variety of options including boards with WiFi enabled, a POE enabled and non-POE enabled ethernet capable option, and a surface-mounted ATmega328 option in the newest iteration.

Here are some of the key features of the Arduino Uno:

  • 14 digital I/O pins, 6 of which can be PWM outputs
  • 6 10-bit resolution analog inputs
  • 16 MHz ceramic resonator clock
  • 2 KB SRAM
  • 20mA max current draw per pin (200mA max for the ATMega328)
  • USB power (5V @ 500mA) or Barrel Jack power (9-12V @ 2A DC adapter)
  • ICSP header
  • Reset button
  • All IO pins can be connected with the 0.1” pin headers


Arduino Micro

Arduino MicroAs its name suggests, the Arduino Micro is smaller than the Uno by quite a bit — whereas the Uno is 53mm x 68mm, the Micro is only 18mm x 48mm. It also inherently consumes less power — 29mA as opposed to the 45mA the Uno consumes.

While the Arduino Uno uses an ATmega16U2 or ATmega328 depending on which revision you use, the Micro’s MCU is an ATmega32u4.

Designed to fit directly onto a solderless breadboard, the Micro does everything the Uno did but with a smaller footprint and lower power consumption.

It does not have the same DC Barrel Jack the Uno has, however, meaning it is powered solely through USB connection or the Vin pins. A 7-12V input voltage is recommended.

Here are some key features of the Arduino Micro:

  • 20 digital I/O pins, 7 of which can be PWM outputs
  • 12 10-bit resolution analog input pins
  • 16 MHz crystal oscillator clock
  • 32 KB flash memory
  • 20mA max current per pin
  • MicroUSB connection
  • ICSP header
  • Reset button


Arduino Nano

Arduino NanoIf the Micro wasn’t small enough for your project, Arduino also offers the Nano. It has some similarities to both the Uno and the Micro, in that it runs off of the ATmega328 like the Uno and has no DC Barrel Jack like the Micro.

It was also designed to fit on a solderless breadboard. Because of the small bootloader on an ATmega328, the Arduino Nano has more RAM than the Micro does.

It has similar functionality to another of Arduino’s boards, the Duemilanove. One thing to note is that it uses a Mini-B USB rather than a standard one.

Here’s a few key features of the Arduino Nano:

  • 14 digital I/O pins
  • 8 10-bit resolution analog input pins
  • 16 MHz clock
  • 2 KB SRAM
  • Mini-B USB connection
  • ICSP header
  • Reset button

So why choose an Arduino?

There are many advantages to using an Arduino board, no matter which you choose. The open-source nature of the programming therein allows for a variety of adaptations and has allowed for the development of a plethora of other microcontrollers.

Of course, Arduino won’t be the answer for everyone, but with how much of a game-changer it’s proven to be, their microcontrollers are certainly worth consideration.

Pros
  • Easy-to-learn, user-friendly software
  • Large and always-growing community thanks to its open-source nature
  • Quick to set up and get started with
  • Still flexible enough for advanced users
Cons
  • Less powerful than a single-board computer
  • Generally for simple, repetitive functions (though this could be good, too!)
  • Lacking in debugging capabilities
  • List, map, and object file directories are hidden

The Teensy

What is a Teensy?

Teensy is a microcontroller that is not made by Arduino or any Arduino clone manufacturers. It was designed by Paul Stoffregen, the co-owner of the Teensy’s manufacturer, PJRC. What Stoffregen essentially did was combine the versatility of the Arduino and the power and flexibility of ARM-based microcontrollers. And so, the Teensy was born.

Teensy 3.6 with Pins

Teensy 3.6There are, as with Arduino, a few different Teensy boards. The Teensy 3.6 is one of the more common models and is often compared with the Arduino Uno.

Instead of using an ATmega328, the Teensy 3.6 uses a whopping 32-bit 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 with floating point unit.

Here are some of the key features of the Teensy:

  • Compatible with Arduino software and libraries
  • Supports any type of USB device
  • Single pushbutton programming
  • Includes microSD card slot
  • Works with Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux
  • Available with or without pins for a solderless breadboard
The Teensy also has an application that makes loading code onto the microcontroller easy, the Teensy Loader. It’s a very simple app, in which you press the reboot button for the processor to run the HalfKay bootloader.

There’s an automatic mode that downloads and reboots to load the code as soon as the HalfKay is detected on your computer, making it highly efficient.

Teensy Benefits and Drawbacks

As with any microcontroller, the Teensy has some niche uses and areas in which it excels as well as some things it may not be as good for. Here’s a basic overview of that.

Pros
  • Compatible with the more common Arduino IDE
  • Very small footprint, as the name implies
  • Powerful 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 with floating point unit
  • Easy to use code loader with automatic mode
  • Direct USB connection for improved efficiency
  • MicroSD card slot
Cons
  • May be awkward soldering on headers because of proximity to main processor
  • Teensy 3.6, specifically, is only 3.3V tolerant
  • Shares some of Arduino’s software limitations because it takes directly from Arduino IDE

Teensy vs Arduino – Buyer’s Guide

Which is better overall?

When it comes down to the battle of Arduino vs Teensy, it’s important to take into account all of the pros and cons of each. That being said, it becomes fairly clear when directly comparing the two that the Teensy is, in the end, the overall better option.

This is for a multitude of reasons, the most major of which is the simple fact that Teensy was designed from the get-go to be, essentially, a better Arduino. It is compatible with Arduino, meaning you can code for it in the exact same way, but it improves upon a lot of the drawbacks therein.

Another major area in which the Teensy excels when compared to Arduino is its sheer power. By using a 180 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 with floating point unit rather than an ATmega328 or similar processor, the Teensy is simply capable of more than the Arduino Uno, Micro, or Nano.

Which is best for robotics: Teensy vs Arduino Nano, Micro, Uno?

Overall, the Teensy is also better than the Arduino Uno, Micro, or Nano for robotics. This is due to its small form factor, capable processor, processing speed, and it has more than enough I/Os for most projects.

Which is best for beginners: Teensy vs Arduino Uno?

When it comes to beginners, the Arduino actually wins out. The Arduino Uno, in particular, is a fantastic choice for those just getting started.

This is because of its simplicity. It provides everything one would need for a very basic project and they have wonderful starter kits that allow people to get a basic understanding of programming a microcontroller. Teensy, on the other hand, builds off of the Arduino IDE.

Conclusion

Every microcontroller has its advantages and drawbacks. Many of them excel in particular areas or were designed with specific uses in mind.

Such is true of the multitude of Arduino boards there are in the market and, as you can see, there are significant differences even between similar Arduino boards such as the Uno, Micro, and Nano.

That being said, sometimes something comes along that is simply an upgrade to that which already exists. In the case of Arduino, that is, essentially, what the Teensy is.

Paul Stoffregen took the best parts of Arduino and the more advanced ARM microcontrollers alike, combining them with easy-to-use software to create the Teensy. Now, even the Teensy has multiple iterations.

There are a great many microcontrollers out there, but it is important to know what you’re choosing and what you’re choosing the microcontroller for. That could be the difference between picking up an Arduino Uno for a beginner and hunting down the right Teensy microcontroller for your next great prototype.

Damon Coleman

Entrepreneur, robotics fan. I have a Diploma in Technical Education, interested in robotics. My favorite platforms are Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Welcome to the world of robotics!

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