The XINO basic for Atmel from Cisesco is a low cost Arduino compatible board supplied as a kit. At only £3.49 (+£2 P&P for one and 50p for each thereafter) it really is unbeatable value and short of building your own it is the cheapest way I know of to get a functioning Arduino compatible board. The kit is supplied without an AVR MCU so you will need to supply a 28 pin ATmega chip of your choice and assuming you aren’t planning on using the internal oscillator you will also need a couple of 22pF capacitors and a 16MHz crystal. An ATmega 328 (as used in the Duemilanove, Uno etc) pre-loaded with the Arduino bootloader seems to go for around £4-£5 normally but Proto-PIC currently have them on special offer at £2.39 so now is a good time to get a few for stock, I have. Alternatively, if you have another Arduino available you can buy a blank ATmega and burn the Arduino bootloader yourself.
The XINO board is the standard Arduino size and uses the familiar Arduino header layout so it is fully compatible with regular Arduino shields. There is also a nice side mounted reset switch that won’t be hidden when a shield is attached, a power LED, a 6 Pin ICSP header, a 5 Pin programming header and a jumper to switch between 3.3V and 5V inputs.
There is also a really useful prototyping section in one corner which has a grid of holes with standard 2.54mm spacing for through hole components as well as SMT pads for two SOT23 devices and one SOT235-6 device.
There are no voltage regulators so this board will need to be supplied with regulated 3.3V or 5V depending on your requirements or you could always add regulators and capacitors in the prototyping section if needed.
The board itself is well made and with so few components assembly is a breeze, no instructions are included but all you need is the picture of the completed board to see where everything goes, just make sure the LED is the right way round (short leg towards the edge of the board).
To program the ATmega chip you will need to use an FTDI adapter (or use another Arduino as one) or program the ATmega in another Arduino and pop it into the completed XINO. For ease of use I made up a small stripboard adapter to convert the 5 pin connector into 6 pin FTDI so I can just use my standard USB FTDI cable. All you need to make this are a couple of strips of header pins, a 100nF capacitor, a few short wires links and a small 7 hole by 6 strip piece of stripboard. I’ve included a stripboard layout below (shown from the top top side of the board).
I’m very impressed with the XINO Basic kit, it’s a very cost effective solution for any Arduino projects that don’t require ethernet (for that there is the Nanode) and it is certainly a lot less hassle than making your own Arduino clone. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Here are some more pictures showing the kit as received, assembled and with the FTDI adapter (click them, they get bigger!).