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PiFace Control and Display - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 8
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 9
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: 56 / 60
  • RoadTest: PiFace Control and Display
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Independent Products
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes

  • Detailed Review:

    Summary:

    Fantastic little thing, feature packed with a simple to use library.

    WP_20140125_15_29_50_Pro (Medium).jpg

     

    Pro:

    - Great library, really easy to get started.

    - Well designed board, I really like the attention to details.

     

    Con:

    - It takes up all the GPIO ports, will need to do tests to see which ports are free.

     

    # Hardware

    I was genuinely surprised when I took it out of the box and checked out all the features it has, I was especially excited about the navigation switch because it reminded me of my first mp3 player around 12 years ago.

    The infrared receiver looks awesome, but I don't have anything that I can test it with me at the moment.

    WP_20140125_15_30_57_Pro (Medium).jpg

    The screen itself looks nice, the ratio is good for rolling display, but it would also be nice if there's a third row too.

    The backlight is bright enough indoors, though not great under the sun, that's fine with me.

    WP_20140212_02_23_14_Pro.jpg

    The board went on top of the Pi smoothly, and it fits tightly as well.

    My favourite bit is the extended piece of PC, that rests on top of the ethernet port, which provide stability to the top board. Who ever designed that is a genius.

    WP_20140212_00_22_37_ev1_Pro (Medium).jpg

    I was disappointed about the GPIO ports though, there isn't any run-through pins that I can use on top of the board, and it looks like all the pins might be occupied. This rules out quite a few projects that I really want to use this module for.

    WP_20140211_01_10_45_Pro (Medium).jpg


    # Software

    Installation guide here: http://piface.github.io/pifacecommon/installation.html#enable-the-spi-module

    Clear and simple instructions, easy to follow.

    While the Pi is rebooting, I went ahead and read up on the examples and first steps here: http://piface.github.io/pifacecad/example.html#basic-usage

    When the Pi finally started up, I jumped the gun a little bit, and forgotten that there are other steps in the installation and started trying out the commands. Alas, it errored out because I didn't enable SPI. But the nice thing is that the error message told me exactly what was wrong, even included a link back to the documentation on how to enable SPI, wow, you guys are spoiling me

    error.png

     

    Once I have everything running, I tried out all the commands in the example page. They are powerful, easy to understand and rather self explainatory so I won't go into too much details.

    The one thing that I have done in my code is to make `lcd = cad.lcd`, because I am too lazy to type the extra bits lol.

     

    There's also a tool to help me generate drawings/icons/words in the documentation, and I love it: http://www.quinapalus.com/hd44780udg.html

     

    The one thing that I would love to see though, is a list of GPIO ports that the PiFace is using, or not using. Because I actually planned on plugging in an ADC to read sensor value from, now I'll have to test every pin to see if I can use them.

    Saw some guy who did test out the pins, which should point me to the right direction if I really need to use the ports. http://raspberryalphaomega.org.uk/2013/11/09/detective-work-on-piface-control-and-display/

     

    # Conclusion

    Unfortunately I didn't get the time to build a real solution (work got pretty intense the last few weeks), but I am definitely going to release a project based on this. The lack of access to GPIO ruled out using this for my car dashboard, but one idea I had was to make a simple YouTube viewer for my TV. (sure, I could just put XMBC on there, but it's just not the same, you know?)

     

    I love the device, well done on the fantastic documentation and the API.

    The hardware was designed well, with ingenious attention to details.

    Though it would be great to access the GPIO ports.


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