How does the Atmel ICE compare to the AVR Dragon?

Kanda is a company specialising in the distribution of high end programming equipment. This includes the new Atmel ICE. It is a potent development tool created for programming as well as debugging. You use it with Atmel AVR and ARM Cortex-M based Atmel SAM microcontrollers.

What is the Atmel ICE capable of?

It supports on-chip debugging and programming of each Atmel AVR 32-bit microcontroller. This is on aWire and JTAG interfaces. It is the same for every Atmel AVR XMEGA family device. This is on PDI2-wire and JTAG interfaces. However, it is capable of much more than that.

There are many out there who wonder how the ICE compares to the Atmel AVR Dragon, the model it replaced. For those who don’t know, the latter is a development tool. It set a new standard for low-cost measures and became a market leader. It is capable of supporting every programming mode for the Atmel AVR device families. Additionally, it has complete debugging support for the majority of AVR contraptions. However, a lot of people are now considering whether they should make the move to ICE.

Linking to target boards

Now that we know more about the pair, let’s compare how they link to target boards. The ICE comes with a pair of 50 mil 10-pin JTAG connectors. You electrically connect both connectors directly. However, the two adhere to two separate pinouts. These are the ARM Cortex and AVR JTAG headers. You should choose based on the target board’s pinout as opposed to the target MCU type.

With the AVR Dragon, you will require six wires at minimum to link it to the target board. The signals are GND, TCK, VTref, TDO, TMS, and TDI. The nSRST is the optional line. You don’t use the nTRST signal, instead you reserve it for compatibility with separate equipment. With nSRST, you utilise it to monitor and regulate the target reset line. This is not mandatory for proper debugging though. Yet, the application code can set the JTD bit inside the MCUCSR. If it does, the JTAG interface shall disable. If the Dragon has to reprogram the target AVR, it must have control of the Reset Pin.

The Dragon’s issues

The AVR Dragon may seem like a good option, but there are some issues you must be aware of. One relates to JTAG communication possessing packages in PDIP that have the CKOUT fuse turned on and operating over 3.5V. This could be unfitting if there is long wiring going to PDIP AVR from the Dragon.

Furthermore, High Voltage Serial and Parallel Programming may not work. This is if you have set the startup time to 0ms. This issue only worsens if you don’t set the CKDIV8 fuse. Not to mention, XMEGA PDI mode on the dragon won’t function for certain XMEGA contraptions. They include A3/D3 revisions B, C, and E.

Order Atmel ICE or AVR Dragon from us

At Kanda, we work hard to supply our customers with the perfect products. Our inventory is extensive so we can cater for various needs. There is also a custom design and modification service for those who require it.

Contact us if you require any assistance. We can help you to choose the right device, especially if you are considering the differences between Atmel ICE and AVR Dragon. With our advice you can get the right product for your project.

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