Using the Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V

Contributors: Jimb0

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What It Is (and Isn't)

So what differentiates the Arduino Pro Mini from the Arduino Uno? Well, the most obvious difference is the form factor. The Pro Mini’s pretty…mini, measuring in at just 1.3x0.70". It’s about ⅙th the size of the Arduino Uno. The compact size is great for projects where you may need to fit the Arduino into a tiny enclosure, but it also means that the Pro Mini is not physically compatible with Arduino shields (you could still hard-wire the Mini up to any Arduino shield).

Pro Mini size comparison

Comparing the size of a standard Arduino Uno with the (aptly named) Pro Mini.

The Mini packs almost as much microprocessor-punch as the regular Arduino, but there are a few major hardware changes you should be aware of before you start adapting your project to the Mini. The first glaring hardware difference is the voltage that the Mini operates at: 3.3V. Unlike the Arduino Uno, which has both a 5V and 3.3V regulator on board, the Mini only has one regulator. This means that if you’ve got peripherals that only work at 5V, you might have to do some level shifting before you hook it up to the Pro Mini (or you could go for the 5V variant of the Pro Mini).

Another major variation from the standard Arduino lies in the speed at which the ATmega328 runs. The Pro Mini 3.3V runs at 8MHz, half the speed of an Arduino Uno. We put a slower resonator on the Mini to guarantee safe operation of the ATmega. That said, don’t let the slower speed scare you away from using the Mini; 8MHz is still plenty fast, and the Mini will still be capable of controlling almost any project the Arduino Uno can.

Speed grades of ATmega328

One last missing piece of hardware is the Atmega16U2-based USB-to-Serial converter, and the USB connector that goes with it. All of the USB circuitry had to be eliminated for us to make the Pro Mini as small as possible. The absence of this circuit means an external component, the FTDI Basic Breakout, is required to upload code to the Arduino Pro Mini.

The FTDI Basic Breakout

Schematic and Pin-out

The schematic of the Pro Mini can be broken down into three blocks: the voltage regulator, the ATmega328 and supporting circuitry, and the headers.

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The Pro Mini’s pins surround three of the four sides. The pins on the short side are used for programming, they match up to the FTDI Basic Breakout. The pins on the other two sides are an assortment of power and GPIO pins (just like the standard Arduino).

Annotated Pro Mini pins

There are three different power-related pins: GND, VCC, and RAW. GND, obviously, is the common/ground/0V reference. RAW is the input voltage that runs into the regulator. The voltage at this input can be anywhere from 3.4 to 12V. The voltage at VCC is the voltage supplied to the Pro Mini. If a voltage is applied to RAW, the voltage here should be a regulated 3.3V.

Four pins are actually not located on the edge of the board: A4, A5, A6 and A7. Each of these analog pins is labeled on the back side of the board.

Back of board

A4 and A5’s location may be very important if you plan on using I2C with the Pro Mini – those are the hardware SDA and SCL pins.


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