What Is Arduino Portenta H7 Module and How It’s Better? (Explained)

Arduino is a well-known brand in the IoT industry. For the uninitiated, it is an open-source hardware and software company which designs and manufactures programmable electronic boards. It has a worldwide community of around 30 million users and its products are used everywhere, from everyday objects to satellites and complex scientific instruments. At its CES 2020 event, the company introduced its latest creation, the Arduino Portenta H7 module. The device is targeting the IoT industry by providing businesses with an easy and cost-effective way to integrate IoT platform with their products. In this article, we are going to take a quick look at the Arduino Portenta H7 module to see what it offers, and how it’s going to affect the future of IoT devices.

What is Arduino Portenta H7 Module?

Arduino Portenta H7 module is the first member of the powerful low-power new Arduino Portenta Family which is designed for demanding industrial applications, AI edge processing, and robotics. The Portenta H7 leverages the performance and flexibility of the dual-core STM32H747 that can run tasks in parallel. It can simultaneously run a high-level code along with real-time tasks. For example, according to Arduino’s website, it is possible to execute Arduino compiled code along with MicroPython one, and have both cores to communicate with one another.

Arduino Portenta H7 Module

It is made possible by the Portenta H7 module’s dual-core processor made of a Cortex M7 core running at 480 MHz and a Cortex M4 core running at 240 MHz. According to Arduino, the two cores communicate via a Remote Procedure Call mechanism that allows calling functions on the other processor seamlessly. The components have an operating temperature range of -40 to 85 degrees Celsius (-40 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) which makes it perfect for industrial usage.

When it comes to software, the Arduino Portenta H7 module is capable of running Arduino code, Python, and Javascript. That makes it accessible to a broader audience of developers.

Arduino Portenta H7 Module: Tech-Specs

You can find the tech specification of the Portenta H7 module in the table below.

MicrocontrollerSTM32H747XI dual Cortex®-M7+M4 32bit low power ARM MCU (datasheet)
Radio moduleMurata 1DX dual WiFi 802.11b/g/n 65 Mbps and Bluetooth 5.1 BR/EDR/LE (datasheet)
Secure Element (default)NXP SE0502 (datasheet)
Board Power Supply (USB/VIN)5V
Supported BatteryLi-Po Single Cell, 3.7V, 700mAh Minimum (integrated charger)
Circuit Operating Voltage3.3V
Current Consumption2.95 μA in Standby mode (Backup SRAM OFF, RTC/LSE ON)
Display ConnectorMIPI DSI host & MIPI D-PHY to interface with low-pin count large display
GPUChrom-ART graphical hardware Accelerator™
Timers22x timers and watchdogs
UART4x ports (2 with flow control)
Ethernet PHY10 / 100 Mbps (through expansion port only)
SD CardInterface for SD Card connector (through expansion port only)
Operational Temperature-40 °C to +85 °C (excl. Wireless module) / -10 °C to +55 °C (incl. Wireless module)
MKR HeadersUse any of the existing industrial MKR shields on it
High-density ConnectorsTwo 80 pin connectors will expose all of the board's peripherals to other devices
Camera Interface8-bit, up to 80 MHz
ADC3× ADCs with 16-bit max. resolution (up to 36 channels, up to 3.6 MSPS)
DAC2× 12-bit DAC (1 MHz)
USB-CHost / Device, DisplayPort out, High / Full Speed, Power delivery

Arduino Portenta H7 Module: Features

In this section, we are going to briefly talk about the features of Arduino Portenta H7 module that we have not discussed. We have already talked about the module’s processor, operating component temperature, and the supported programming languages. Let’s see what else it brings to the table.

1. Graphics Accelerator

One of the best features of the Portenta H7 module is the on-board GPU, the Chrom-ART Accelerator. This GPU chip also includes a dedicated JPEG encoder and decoder. The addition of a graphics accelerator opens several possibilities for users. For example, users can now connect an external monitor and build their own dedicated embedded computer with a user interface. This was not possible before as you need a graphics accelerator to drive external displays. This addition alone is going to be a game-changer.

2. Connectivity

If you look at the tech-specs of the Portenta H7 module, you will notice that it comes with an onboard wireless module (Murata 1DX dual WiFi 802.11b/g/n 65 Mbps and Bluetooth 5.1 BR/EDR/LE /) that supports the latest WiFi and Bluetooth standards. Apart from the wireless connectivity, the Portenta H7 also comes with various wired connectivity options including UART, SPI, Ethernet, and I2C among others.

3. USB-C

One of the biggest addition to the new Portenta H7 module is the USB-C connector. Today all the modern smartphones and laptops are coming with a USB-C port as it offers tons of benefits and accessory support. You will be happy to know that the Portenta H7 module also comes with a USB-C connector. It is used as the board’s programming connector and can also be used to power the board, as a USB Hub, to connect a DisplayPort monitor, or to deliver power to OTG connected devices. The versatility of the USB-C port gives the module much-need flexibility.

4. Crypto Authentication Chip

If you are thinking of adding IoT to your business, one of the first concerns you might have is about security, and rightly so. After all, once a device is connected, it’s susceptible to online attacks. Thankfully, the Portenta H7 module comes with an onboard crypto authentication chip which gives the device a high degree of tamper resistance. Users get to choose from the Microchip ATECC608A and the NXP SE050C2 options when they are ordering the device. With onboard crypto chips, you can enable features like cloud authentication, firmware validation, accessory authentication, Intellectual Property (IP) protection, message encryption. and more to secure your IoT devices.

5. Multiple Configuration Options

The Arduino Portenta H7 will be available in different configuration options that you can choose depending on your budget and needs. The default Arduino Portenta H7 comes with following:

  • 16MB NOR Flash
  • 10/100 Ethernet Phy
  • USB HS
  • NXP SE050C2 Crypto
  • WiFi/BT Module
  • Ceramic Antenna
  • DisplayPort over USB-C

You can upgrade this default configuration to get a more powerful board. The Portenta H7 can host up to 64 MB of SDRAM, and 128 MB of QSPI Flash. You can also add an external UFL connector to get a higher gain-antenna and choose between crypto-chip from Microchip and NXP. The configuration options will go live when the board is up for order.

Arduino Portenta H7 Module: Use Cases

The power and versatility of the Arduino Portenta H7 module open it up for being used in various industries. While the company is targeting the product at SMBs and Enterprises, thanks to its affordable pricing, even individual tinkerers can get their hands on it to play with the device. According to the company, among other use cases, it finds the Arduino Portenta H7 Module to be most used in the following:

  • High-end industrial machinery
  • Laboratory equipment
  • Computer vision
  • PLCs
  • Industry-ready user interfaces
  • Robotics controller
  • Mission-critical devices
  • Dedicated stationary computer
  • High-speed booting computation (ms)

Arduino Portenta H7 Module: Pricing and Availability

The Arduino Portenta H7 module is available for pre-order with February being the expected delivery date. You can pre-order the device right now for $99.90. I could not see an option to customize the device as of now. I am guessing that the customization options will go live when the device goes live. If you cannot wait for the device, you can apply to become the beta customers to get it now. Note that the beta program is initially targeted to enterprise and SMB customers and professional makers.

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