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Description: This is a breakout board for the ATmega128RFA1. It includes an onboard 3.3V regulator, chip antenna, and DC input jack. The board can be powered with either a 5V or a 9V wall wart.

ATmega128RFA1 is an IEEE 802.15.4 compliant single-chip, combining the industry- leading AVR microcontroller and best-in-class 2.4GHz RF transceiver providing industry's highest RF performance for single-chip devices, with a link budget of 103.5dBm.

The ATmega128RFA1 features Wake-on Radio, 32-bit MAC symbol counter, temperature sensor, automatic transmission modes, 128-bit AES crypto engine, true random number generator, high data rate modes, and antenna diversity support.

Note: It is recommended to download BitCloud (below) for examples on how to use the board with ZigBee.

Note: If using JTAG with the board the TST pin should be grounded along with the CLKI pins.

Documents:

Comments 63 comments

  • Ouch! A bit steep pricing given the low component count and the pricing of the ATmega128RFA (without even assuming bulk discount). But it does seem like a potentially very interesting board …

  • Whoever ‘designed’ this board didn’t actually ever use it, as made obvious by the issues I’m having.
    1) If you solder headers into the battery (for hitec connector), ISP, and uart pins, you won’t be able to insert the ISP programmer connector - there isn’t any room! If you use this, put your battery/uart headers underneath your board. A bit silly, but no other choice.
    2) With nothing connected but a fully charged 6V battery, this board still has bad voltage drops when turning on the transmitter. You must solder on a capacitor between ground and 3.3V or it won’t work. I put a 20uF tantelum on it, and the resets went away.
    3) My first set of boards didn’t even work. Upon closer inspection, the QFN chips had cold joints and solder bridges. Sparkfun did however replace them for me. But it concerns me that they weren’t even tested …
    4) The traces look like someone used Eagle CAD auto-route and called it a day, without doing much of any touching up.

    • Wow, that’s quite shocking to hear… and nobody from Sparkfun even decided to comment. Hmm…

  • I’m working on an Arduino-compatible platform for the ATmega128RFA1 :-). It’s got some nice perks like range testing and OTAU built in, check out miniSWARM on Indiegogo for the details - http://igg.me/at/miniswarm/x/2714522

  • I am new to using microcontrollers. I bought this development board, the FTDI breakout board, and STK500 compatible USB programmer. I am looking for some suggestions on how I can program the uC. I plan to use AVR Studio (5 or 6).

  • please tell me how to burn the program in to the ATmega128 rf1a and how to interface with the external device

  • The price of this board is ludicrous. 55 dollars? even at BatchPCB’s consumer pricing, thats only about a 15 dollar board (worst case) plus 10 dollars without a volume discount for the micro, then, what, 10 bucks for the rest of the parts? You are making a 40% profit on this board worst case. I’ve never had a problem with SFE (or their pricing, anyone on the sfe staff can see my purchase record) but this seems a little insane.

  • I am trying to program this board using an Arduino Uno R3 as an ISP programmer. I keep getting the message “avrdude: stk500_getsync(): not in sync: resp=0x00”. I have tried a 10uF capacitor between reset and ground after having programmed the Uno as an ISP. I have tried a 100nF cap between reset and 5V. I’ve used COM ports 3 and 4. The only way I can get the error to disappear is by holding down the shift key while programming the target board. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  • I’m working on a legacy project with these boards. Is there a way to configure them for packet sniffing, or would it be easier to just go with a freakdunio and wireshark?

  • I try to read flash/eeprom atmega128rfa1 by JTAGICE but I can only read fuse bits, the readed flash memory is clear only ISP works fine. AvrStudio support JTAGICE and atmega128fra1 but I can’t use it to program. Does anyone has the same problem?

  • There is one basic problem in this board which I explored after using it for few days. The power track on the board is very thin and the voltage regulator (3.3V) cannot handle power reasonably. When I loaded it with a small moisture sensor, the regulator went off after programming for a couple of times. The power track is almost 0.3mm thick which is absolutely not sufficient to handle power consumption when the device is loaded with external components or when the ports are operating as output. Power tracks needed to be made thicker than the data tracks and the voltage regulator should have been able to handle at least close to an amp. These issues are inconsistent with the price of this board ($55).

  • I have bought this board along with pocket programmer. I keyed in the following in command prompt: avrdude -p m128rfa1 -c usbtiny It is showing me error that the device could not be found. I have installed drivers.

  • As far as compiling and running BitCloud 1.14.0 on this board, I did run into some issues. This post might help you if you are having trouble.

    Firstly I am using Atmel Studio 6, which uses AVR GCC toolset 3.4.0.65.

    If you run the stock binary from the “Evaluation Tools” directory then you will indeed see output from the UART.

    But if you try to build an image and load it up, nothing happens. (PS - Remember to use “STK600” as your boardtype). I found this thread helpful to resolve the issue:

    http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=984353#984353

  • While Sparkfun recommends using the BitCloud firmware, I would suggest using Atmel’s MAC package instead. The MAC package is NOT Zigbee, it’s really just a simple point to point 802.15.4 network, which is what Zigbee is based on. If you are trying to set up a simple sensor network between several sensors and a “home base” and don’t need a ‘mesh’ network (multi-hop repeating) then the MAC package may be easier to wrap your application around. The MAC package is also fully open source while BitCloud has open source wrappers around a binary blob. It IS possible to create a simple mesh network using the MAC package where each sensor node acts as a secondary network controller and repeater but how to do this isn’t documented very well (It requires such nodes to be active all the time and NOT sleep). Atmel’s MAC package comes with many useful examples to get you started and many use the atmega128RFA1 configuration.

  • Is the second revision planned for this board? I’d like to get one but I am not sure whether to wait for the next revision or to order now.

    • We may revise it, but there’s nothing specific in the works now. We will be building more of these, and will maybe someday revise this, but you’d be waiting quite awhile for a new one.

  • I’ve improved (the layout of) this board, hopefully addressing some of the complaints in this thread.

    Eagle files are at github. Or download the zipfile if git’s not your bag.

    See the README there for the latest status. When writing this comment (early March 2012), that board has been fabbed, but not yet fully populated (waiting for parts). It at least doesn’t burn itself up with the power circuits populated and powered on.

  • Okay, this may fill a need I have for a project I am working on. Can I hard wire the antennas together over a coax cable? The reason is I would like to use these as digital to digital extenders. The data rate is one concern and the other is how healthy would this setup be to the transmitters and receivers.

  • Thank you scharkalvin. Do you know where could I find some code and information about that?
    Regards,
    Gabriel

  • For simple applications the Atmel 802.15.4 MAC firmware will be a lot easier to get going then the Bitcloud firmware. The MAC is just the low level network layer without the routing and mesh stuff that Zigbee adds. However for a simple point to point network it’s really all that you need. It is possible to add simple multipoint routing (repeaters) to the MAC firmware by setting any device that will be a router/repeater to be a FFD and adding the support in the application code (I’ve already tried this and it works).
    The board is a bit on the expensive side, but laying out your own board that will actually work at 2.4ghz isn’t easy.

  • Hi,
    I acquired two DEV-09734 on sparkfun. I also have the AVR JTAG ICE XPII [AT JTAGICE mk2 emulator compliant] from eBay.
    Now I want to transmit one bit form one ATmega128RFA1 to the other one, using the BitCloud or RF4CE library. They told me that I should change some code of ZigBee library. What would you suggest? Has anybody did this?
    Thanks you

  • I think I found an design error on your board:
    Underneath the atmega128rfa1 QFN-Package you placed some vias as you can see here http://www.imagebanana.com/view/pqnaq0bf/1.png.
    QFN-Packages do have a large, conductive pad on the bottom, don’t they? How can you be sure not having any shorts?

  • Can anyone who owns one of these check if the Zigduino Firmware runs fine on this? https://github.com/logos-electromechanical/Zigduino
    This would make an amazing Zigduino Mini.

  • Not to take anything away from this board. But Synapse Wireless makes some firmware for the ATMega128RFA1 that run on this board and is intended for mesh networking. They also make two products around this chip, the RF200 and the SM200. While it may not sound appealing initially, it is very nice. You can upload code over the air. The code you program the nodes is python. There are nice features such as rpc calls that make it a very flexible system. If nothing else, check them out as an improved xbee replacement.

    • How exactly can I program the sparkfun ATmega128rfa1 board without the Synapse bootloader hex file?

      • I have managed to make the SparkFun demo board work with the Synapse Wireless. I ended up purchasing the license for the bootloader hex which was suppose to work on these boards, but they did not. I ended up using the hex file from Synapse RF200 board (RF200 uses Atmega128RFA1)and then I would change the MAC address so the Sparkfun board would have its own unique MAC in the network.

  • I just got these boards working using the BitCloud API. LQI 79 and RSSI of -49 with the boards one inch apart, LQI 6 and RSSI -91 at about 20 feet in an open room. In other words, the range sucks.

  • Is anyone having issues with the RX_CRC_VALID bit being incorrect? I am currently suspecting faulty silicon, but can’t be sure!
    To get around it, I am using RX_AACK_ON mode instead of RX_ON. This way the TRX24_RX_END interrupt is only triggered at the end of a valid packet (CRC checked and all!)

  • Has anyone else encountered problems with the POR and/or button reset on this board/chip? My trivial application code (which at the moment just lights an LED on PORTG immediately at startup) won’t run reliably every time after power on or pressing the reset button. Sometimes the LED lights, other times the board just seems to sit doing nothing.
    Fuse settings seem to be OK as far as I can tell from the data sheet… LFUSE=0x62, HFUSE=0xD9, EFUSE=0xF7
    I tried enabling BOD but it didn’t seem to improve the reliability. Programming with an Olimex ISP-500 and avrdude.
    Any suggestions much appreciated! Thanks

    • Yep, I’m having the same issue! Im using the Koala (PRT-08722) for power, usb and a bit of breaboard area.
      When it has been switched off for a while (a minute or so) and you then turn it on (plugged into USB or from battery) it will freeze up at some point in the next few seconds. One time it lasted about 4 seconds, but never longer.
      For me, pressing reset starts it off again and I have no problems after that.
      Using the arduino bootloader, it sometimes doesn’t even get out and into the app. sometimes it does.
      Using WDT and BOD both didnt help, and I attached the VCC to a storage scope hoping to see a nice little brown out, but nothing!
      Anyone at SF having these problems too?!
      Bit of a shame as I’ve bought 3 of these! :(

      • Thanks to Jörg Wunsch on avrfreaks.com, the problem is that the TST pin is left floating. After connecting this pin to ground, reset and power on reset works reliably.

        • This board was such a headache it was until I tied TST to ground. Thanks for the post!

        • awesome! cheers for that :)
          @sparkfun perhaps a consideration for v2? pull down on the TST pin, im using 1k!

    • I’m seeing the same problem as you. I’ve just posted in avrfreaks to see if there’s a solution to this boot problem. Is this problem on the chip or on the board? Has anyone reliably booted this thing?
      Here’s the link to my question on avrfreaks forum:
      http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=101839&start=0

  • Can you tell the reference of the balun you use?!
    1) 748421245
    2) 2450FB15L0001

  • hey everyone!
    I figured that others might like this too… I’ve ported the arduino bootloader to this AVR! woo!
    the source is freely avaliable here: http://bit.ly/fkoFaA
    Enjoy!

  • Problems with programming this board<br />
    <br />
    I’m using the pocket programmer (usbtiny) and this board. I was able to get a simple LED flashing program to work and so I know the setup is fine. However, when I try to upload the example from the ATMEL “BitCloud MEGARF 1 10 0/Applications/Blink” (which compiled fine with winavr), I get an error from avrdude after executing:<br />
    avrdude -c usbtiny -p m128rfa1 -U flash:w:blink.hex:i<br />
    <br />
    <br />
    avrdude: verifying …<br />
    avrdude: verification error, first mismatch at byte 0x10000<br />
    0xc7 != 0x0c<br />
    avrdude: verification error; content mismatch<br />
    <br />
    <br />
    avrdude is version 5.10.<br />
    <br />
    Has anyone actually gotten Blink to work from the Bitcloud example with avrdude? <br />
    Thanks!<br />
    <br />
    Note: from googling, there may be a problem with avrdude 5.10 with atmega series:<br />
    See: http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=674583<br />
    and I did patch avrdude with https://savannah.nongnu.org/bugs/?28744<br />
    and still no go.<br />
    <br />

    • The problem is with the pocket programmer. Using AVRIsp mkII works. There are also other changes in avrdude.conf which need to be changed. See http://www.avrfreaks.net/index.php?name … p;t=100752
      for more info.

  • I have a couple of these boards and am trying to program them with a JTAGICE mkII and am not sure which ports on the board need to be hooked up to the JTAG programmer?

  • Oh heck, if any of you guys at SparkFun are listening, here’s my wish-list for a hypothetical future revision of this board:
    1) Drop the regulator, or make it an optional DIY addition.
    2) Make all of the break out pins on the top and bottom aligned to a 0.1" grid.
    3) Add a JTAG port in addition to the ISP port. Feel free to use a 0.05" pitch connector for the JTAG port is space is tight.
    4) Add a U.FL connector (or at least the landing pattern for it) to the board, so that I can solder off the chip antenna and add a Real antenna without too much headache.
    The result would be a more affordable and more desirable product. I’d by another one. Or two.

  • @JeffC: No, this is an 802.15.4 chip—you can’t do 802.11 with it at all. But if what you are trying to do is use IP for networking your wireless sensor network, then you could use 6LoWPAN. Check out http://www.sics.se/contiki/
    @societyofrobots: I used a right-angle header for the ISP socket on mine. I can use it with everything connected on the top. I agree though that this board layout seems…unfortunate at best.

  • I am learning my way into embedded devices/programming. I already own two Arduino Pro boards, but I’d like to try out this board. What hardware do I need to get started? I am guessing that 2 of these boards along with a PGM-09825 Pocket AVR Programmer and a DEV-09046 AVR - ICSP Adapter cable should be enough. Is that correct? Could I even use my DEV-08772 FTDI Basic to program the ATmega128RFA1?
    Thanks!

  • My suggestion: get rid of the power jack and then by careful redesign a similar board can be made small enough to fit in a breadboard, maybe even cheap enough for some of the people complaining about the high price tag.
    Also, please add it to the wireless category.

  • The data sheet’s all about 802.15, but has anyone looked into whether, with (possibly a good bit of) extra software, this little guy could be convinced to talk to an 802.11 system? Are there any fundamental hardware limitations aside from maybe transmitter power?

    • No, 802.15.4 and 802.11 are too different. They’re both (usually) in the 2.4GHz band and both overseen by the IEEE 802 committee, but that’s where the similarity ends.

  • It’s overpriced in my opinion :S
    http://www.dresden-elektronik.de/shop/prod111.html?language=en that is just 22? the only diference is that isn’t open-source but is half price.

  • That will teach me to use square brackets in a web environment… it was supposed to include this quote :
    Furthermore, with a transmit (TX) output power of +3.5 dBm and receive (RX) sensitivity of 100 dBm, the ATmega128RFA1 enables a range of several hundred meters in open space. This is an exceptionally high range for IEEE 802.15.4 compatible devices. A further increase in range can be achieved with the help of an external power amplifier, whose control can be supported by the device if required.

  • From another site through google :
    Dear SF, can we have a circuit and hardware for that amplifier (better yet : the whole thing as an accessory) ?
    Dear SF, can we have a circuit and hardware for that amplifier (better yet : the whole thing as an accessory) ?

  • What’s the indoor/outdoor range on this?

  • This little chip would work well in my world, replacing several stand-alone ATMEGA168/XBEE projects that I have. However, I am stuck in Arduino land. I’m assuming to program this chip, I would need something like AVR Studio and an AVR programmer? Does anyone know a good place to go for more info on how to program this?

    • Well, luckily for you an Arduino can be used as an AVR Programmer. Check out this tutorial:
      http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/tutorial_info.php?tutorials_id=200
      You can get AVR Studio as a free download from Atmel. Another option is to use WinAVR (also free), which is what we use at SparkFun.
      One note though, and I hate to play the party pooper, but Zigbee is much, much more complicated than XBee. Unfortunately you don’t get to just send a serial string to the wireless module of the 128RFA1; it takes some work manipulating the registers associated with the wireless part of the board. I’m sure if you hit the forums up somebody will make it easy though. Good luck!

  • I’m about to place an order for 4 of these great little boards… however 1 thing springs to mind. The holes don’t seem to be aligned to a .1mil grid. It would be nice if these boards could be used on a prototyping board with straight pines (PRT-00116) without needing to add slightly bent wire jumpers! :(
    I’ve run into this before…
    pic: http://attie.co.uk/box/alignment.jpg

  • I would buy two or more of these right now if they were at $40. I could afford the $80 for development, but not the $109.90. But as with yzf600, I understand the development to get the radio section to work correctly.
    Please drop the regulator in the next version. Or at least the barrel plug. I would love to see a SparkFun version of:
    http://www.dresden-elektronik.de/shop/prod127.html

  • I had been looking for a way to get my hands on this chip. Very hard to source in single quantities. Looking forward to playing with it.
    But really though… I could have done without the regulator. A BoB with just the ATMega128RFA1, chip antenna, crystals, and passive components would have been plenty—and it would have been more flexible, IMHO.
    Perhaps for the next rev, also include the traces for other antenna options?

  • Is this board functionally equivalent (firmware-wise) to the Atmel ATZB-24-A2 module (originally the Meshnetics board before Atmel bought them)? I would love to be able to develop an application using BitCloud on a couple of these DEV-09734 boards, but after I get it working and want to perhaps deploy a couple of dozen using my custom peripheral circuitry, the ATZB-24-A2 OEM module makes a lot more sense. The ‘dev kit’ for those modules is hideously expensive (in the $500 area), and I don’t think it really gives me anything more than I would get with this board and BitCloud.
    I am not too interested in dropping all the way down to the chip level on my (eventual) custom PCB as I hate working with QFN packages and don’t know jack about chip antennas, baluns, etc, which is why I am looking at the ATZB-24-A2 module instead.
    Anyone have an opinion on this option?

    • I hated QFN packages as well until I came up with the right technique. Now I actually prefer QFN packages—much faster to solder.
      My technique is this: Pre-tin the pads on the board you are going to solder the chip to, and do the same to the pads on the chip itself. Apply lots of flux to prevent bridging. Then carefully place the chip onto the pads and use a hot-air gun (cheaply available at Home Depot) to attach the chip to the board. You know it’s done a few seconds after the chip “wiggles” as the solder melts.
      Some practice is necessary to get it perfect, but once you do it is worth it.
      Just be careful not to overheat.

  • I agree with JackFrost’s pricing comment :(
    But 1 word… AMAZING!
    There is one thing that I would like confirmed though…
    The datasheet implies operation up to 16MHz, and I assume that this avr and its radio are running off the 16MHz resonator that I think I’ve spied.
    What is the 32kHz crystal for? (pins 17 & 18) - would I be right in saying it is used for accurate clocking of Timer/Counter2? Is that all? Is it really worth the crystal? (just asking!)
    Ta!

    • The 32.768 Khz crystal is for an internal real time clock (RTC).
      Give sparkfun a break on the pricing. That micro is almost $6 in 100 unit quantities from Digikey. They are selling you a unit ready to program. You didn’t have to tune the RF section or learn how to reliably solder a 0.5mm pitch QFN.
      Being the cheap bastard that I am, I decided to make my own RF boards based upon the this same chip when it was announced last fall. If I could just get working on making kapton stencil, I could solder the puppies down and start slinging some code.
      As a side note, the Contiki OS should run on this chip with a little modification. Contiki did the heavy lifting and already ported their OS over to the Atmel Ravens boards (which were basically a 2 chip precursor to this chip). IPv6 over wireless ! You could get a Raven USB stick to bridge from a computer to this board.

      • Well, same could be said for any of the Arduino boards and yet those boards sell for a far more reasonable price even though they have higher total component costs.
        I just think that Sparkfun could, by judicious pricing, be sitting on the next Arduino: wireless access, greater memory and larger number of pins. What’s not to like?

      • Fair point. I am indeed very glad that I didn’t have to play with the Rf to get it right.
        And thanks for the answer :)

        • Can anyone confirm that the RF is indeed tuned correctly? The datasheet for the balun has some very specific recommendations, to the level of a set pattern of vias that should be placed near directly adjacent, and it looks like this board doesn’t follow them.

          Does anyone that’s used this board have any anecdotal evidence about how reliable the RF is?


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