First Thoughts on the Pixel Mini

Despite the apparent collapse in the diversity of form factors amongst micro-controller boards, there’s sometimes still a surprise or two waiting. Enter the Pixel Mini, an Arduino Zero-compatible smart display board now raising on Kickstarter.

The Pixel Mini. (📷: Rabid Prototypes)

The Pixel Mini is the latest in a long line of Kickstarter projects by its creators, Rabid Prototypes, and is about 25% smaller than their last Arduino-compatible display the Pixel 2.0. The board is based around a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0+ micro-controller running at 48MHz with 16kB of RAM, and features a 0.95-inch (24mm) color OLED screen with 96×64 pixels.

The Pixel Mini running its demo code. (📷: Rabid Prototypes)

The board is just 1.3 × 1.3 inches (33mm × 33mm) in size and has 12 digital I/O pins, 10 of which support PWM, along with 2 I2C pins.

There are 3 analog input pins with a 12-bit ADC, and a single analog output pin with a 10-bit DAC.

The board is entirely Arduino-compatible, and communication with the display and the onboard micro SD Card are handled through the SPI bus.

The Pixel Mini is also compatible with Adafruit’s graphics library! This library provides functions for blitting images, drawing primitives like lines and circles, and even includes bitmapped font support!

Tilting my head slightly to one side, the Pixel Mini reminds me a lot of the MicroView by Geek Ammo. It was also a tiny chip-sized, and breadboard-compatible, Arduino with a built-in OLED display that was on Kickstarter back in 2014 and somewhat notoriously shipped to its Kickstarter backers without a bootloader.

The MicroView. (📷: Geek Ammo)

However despite the superficial similarities, the screen in the Pixel Mini is a lot bigger, 96×64 pixels compared to the MicroView’s 64×48 pixel display, and multi-color to its monochrome display. While the MicroView was also Arduino-compatible — it was a member of the Arduino At Heart program — it was based around the ATmega328P rather than the beefier ARM Cortex-M0+ at the heart of the Pixel Mini.

The Pixel Mini is fully funded on Kickstarter with just over a week to go before the project is closed to backers, and costs $45 plus $5 shipping. The team behind the Pixel Mini are estimating that it’ll ship to backers in October. But if you’re intrigued by the MicroView, perhaps you hadn’t heard of it before, it’s still sold by SparkFun and costs $39.95 plus shipping.

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Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Scientist, Author, Hacker, Maker, and Journalist.