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Review of Texas Instruments C2000 Digital Power Experimenter Kit (DPEK) and Blackhawk Emulator

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 6
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 8
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 9
TotalScore: 53 / 60
  • RoadTest: Texas Instruments C2000 Digital Power Experimenter Kit (DPEK) and Blackhawk Emulator
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards
  • Was everything in the box required?: No - User has to provide an RS232 adapter as current computers do not have a serial port.
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: None, as they were not available.
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: 1) Power problems with the board 2) 4V max output was not enough to do extensive testing

  • Detailed Review:

    Hello everyone!

     

    First I want to thank all the people at element14 and TI for letting me test out this kit. And I have to tell that I am sorry as I couldn't write this review earlier. Aftermath of an earthquake (Big Tohoku Earthquake) is not a really good time to move into a new house. Also this earthquake, and related radiation fear, diverted me into different projects that needed more attention at that time. I tested this kit about 2 months ago but decided to wait until I write my review as I was not satisfied with it at that time and I was hoping that I'll be able to test it more with help of some projects that I was working on (which couldn't happen).

     

    That being said, here is my review:

    Kit Contents

    I was really satisfied with the contents of the kit. The kit was packed really good in order to protect it during transportation. I was especially pleased with the power supply that came with it. It had different plug attachments for different countries.

     

    2011090505060002.JPG

     

    That was really helpful as I didn't had to get an adapter to convert it or look for a power supply with the same specifications.

     

    Also if you look at the pictures of the board, you can see some 7-segment LEDs, which is actually a digital multimeter display. Most people have a DMM but connecting it to the development kit might have been problematic (by wires & alligator clips which lead to shorts and lots of clutter on my limited desk) so it was really nice to have it. I was really pleased with this.

    Installation of Development Software

    I decided to install the development software that came with the kit as most development software from TI has code size limitation and I was not sure if the examples would work with them, which was Code Composer Studio v3.3 C28x 32kb Free Version. However, it didn't support Blackhawk Emulator, so I had to install an update for it afterwards. I can say that the installation was smooth, and without problems. One thing to watch out is when prompted select "Custom Install" and unselect DSP/BIOS feature. I selected "Typical Install" and had to wait for a long time for installation to finish.

     

    Then you have to install example software provided by TI. This requires two steps: One called "Baseline" is for the microcontroller boards used for development kits and the other one called "Board Specific" is for installing the programs and example code. These packages are formed really good as they include both software for quick start and hardware files for those who need them.

    Running GUI

    Before diving into code examples, I wanted to test out the GUI for this board. It is a nice option to have as you can check quickly test this board out. The source code is also included. But this is where my problems started:

     

    I was not able to power up the board for some reason. My first suspect was of course the power supply as it has different plugs which might have a connection problem. A quick check with a multimeter revealed that the power supply was running fine. Probing different points on the circuit board I verified that the connection between the power supply and power jack was also fine. I still don't know what the problem was but turning the power switch off and on a couple of times solved the problem. This was really frustrating and happened a couple of times. But I was able to play around with the GUI once I managed to power up the board. Another thing to realize is you need a serial port to try out the GUI. I happened to have a USB-RS232 adapter so that was not a big problem for me. But a serial port connection through an FTDI IC would have been better in my opinion. Also during these tests I realized a big limitation of this kit: The maximum output voltage you can get is 4 V, which is pretty low. I was planning to power some guitar effect pedals with this board to check out the noise at the output but as they require 9 V input, I was not able to. Other than that the GUI is well designed and allows testing the board by changing all possible parameters.

     

    2011090504120001.JPG

    Running CCS Examples

    CCS examples allow you to connect the board with the emulator and check out the code. Although from time to time I had the same power problem while running different labs I didn't run into any other problem. This proves the point and importance of including a GUI for a quick start, you can see all possible problems and limitations before you start doing more advanced trials. I tried all three labs in the documentation and I can say that the labs are well formed and the code is really well written: it is divided up into several files which makes it easier to check out the code and also it is really well commented. There are even some commented out code segments which allow you to quickly try out different options or check out different possibilities. I was really impressed while checking out the code, one of the best commented, well written and easy to read codes I've ever seen. This makes future developments easier so it was a nice move from TI.

     

    2011090505020000.JPG

    Conclusion

    This is really a well designed kit for both testing out the power modules from TI and also their C2000 series microcontrollers. The code examples are well written, labs are well formed and all hardware related sources are present if you want to design your own product.

     

    The material is somehow outdated, some of the links are moved around so it would be better to update the PDF files but that does not create too much problem.

     

    Also the power problem was really frustrating. I am not sure if the power switch is defective or there is another problem present but it can hurt TI's reliability if this problem is present with other evaluation kits too.

     

    PS: If anyone has specific questions, please ask in the comments. I would be glad to answer them if I can.


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