Review: Nordic NRF51822-BEACON Dev Kit

This week Phy ‘d gotten our hands on the Nordic NRF51822-BEACON development kit and decided to give it a whirl.  And despite our general excitement for all things Nordic – especially the 51822 – we’ve must confess this board left us…more than a little puzzled?

For a super cool device (and the NRF51822 is definitely one of them!) the board seemed almost incomplete…Something completely uncharacteristic of  Nordic, who are far and away unique in their forthcoming-ness with content including reference designs, datasheets, source code, examples, what-not.  In fact, it’s hard to find a better example of a more engineering-friendly player amongst those building wireless devices, at least when it comes to access to resources and moreover, just a general pragmatism and familiarity with what drives engineers bonkers (ask Broadcom or Marvell for a datasheet or worse, a reference design sometime and you’ll soon appreciate the “Nordic-difference”).

Also, the cost had us confounded, though I have a theory about the high $30-40 pricetag I share in the video to follow!  If it holds (my theory) this could explain the higher cost and could prevent a run on these boards that prevents Nordic from meeting demand and puts them in competition with their customers.  Again, it’s just a theory.

Nevertheless, what started out this week as an unboxing and (hopefully) a “bring it up” post, instead is a top level view of the design..and when we finally get around to soldering on the programming headers (cough…meh…cough) we’ll spin up  a walk thru of the software resources and such.  <Sigh>

Have a look at the video and read on for more details about the board.

Board Details:

This BLE beacon uses the NRF51822 combination BLE transceiver and ARM Cortex M0 SoC.  The beacon board measures 20mm in diameter (similar to a coin cell battery) and includes 2 buttons and a single RGB-LED.  Programming pins are broken out to SMT pads though the board we had did not include a programming header.  SMT pads for 10x GPIOs also exist though located in pretty random locations around the board (wherever they could break them out).  The device supports “full” over-the-air firmware updates and software examples including Android and iOS examples are both available.

Complete details can be found at the Nordic Semiconductor website.

3 thoughts on “Review: Nordic NRF51822-BEACON Dev Kit

  1. Great review on the Nordic NRF51822-BEACON Dev Kit, my question is can i program the board without having to connect to it? Can I use Nordics app to program it via bluetooth? Or do I have to wire it up?
    Thanks
    Jay

  2. I found your review of the beacon to be very much worth the watch and read. Thank you.

    I have a project that I currently use an Arduino Uno + Red Bear Lab BLE Shield. I wish to replace this with a nrf51822 solution. Do you have any advice or recommendations on 3rd party modules (e.g.: like the ones referenced here: https://www.nordicsemi.com/Products/3rd-Party-Bluetooth-Smart-Modules)

    Right now all I know how to do is order from digikey or Adafruit.

    If you were to pick an nrf51822 module for a project, which would you pick (and if possible – why)?

    Thank you.

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