Meet Teensy, a Powerful Arduino Alternative
Table of Contents
What’s a Teensy?
The Teensy is a small and very powerful microcontroller that is able to do pretty much everything an Arduino does and more.
It was designed by Paul J Stoffregen to take full advantage of the Arduino environment and take it to the next level.
Today, Teensys are known for their powerful audio and speed capabilities, port selection, and easiness of use.
If you are interested in the full story of how Teensy came to be, Paul has a nice summary over in the Teensy 3.6 crowd-funding campaign page.
The Teensy family is composed of a couple members.
Let’s focus on the two main ones, the Teensy LC (Low Cost) and the Teensy 3.5 / 3.6.
I like to think of the Teensy 3.n as the grown up version of the Teensy LC. The father of the family.
First, I’ll introduce you to the small, but powerful Teensy LC.
I really love this cute little microcontroller, and you’ll shortly see why!
The first big difference is in performance.
All Teensy LC and 3.n models come with a 32bit processor, witch compared to the 8bit processor of the Arduino Uno is a lot faster.
For simple projects, you won’t really see much of a difference speed wise, but if you are looking for real time data processing, then the Teensy will certainly be a great choice.
According to their official website, super fast USB communication is also a big plus.
Now keep in mind I am not an engineer, so I didn’t really test this thoroughly, but on paper, the specs sure shine!
The next big difference is size.
The small form factor opens up a whole lot of possibilities.
It won’t go unnoticed the very small form factor that this Teensy has.
Don’t be fooled by it though, since port wise, Paul implemented clever solutions to ensure max connectivity (especially on the Teensy 3.5 and 3.6).
By now you might be asking “Well, if the Teensy LC is so good, why would I spend more money on a Teensy 3.5 or 3.6?”.
My simple answer is: for one of two reasons (or both).
You either want more speed (or processing power) or, in my case, you want more connectivity.
I mean, how amazing is it that this small board has up to 62 I/O pins!?
Another great reason to choose a Teensy 3.5 / 3.6 is, you guessed it, it has a microSD card slot built in!!
Now, to be fair, we can’t really compare a Teensy LC with an Arduino Uno for example, so let’s use one of the closest models in size and price.
The Arduino Pro Mini, developed by SparkFun, has a similar price point and size.
As you can see, the Teensy LC is a powerful contender to this popular Arduino board.
Now, if you are a beginner, you might be thinking “How about connecting things to it?”.
As you noticed by now, the Teensy doesn’t come with soldered headers, so if you intend to prototype on it, there’s gonna be some soldering involved.
The good news is that all the models mentioned so far are breadboard compatible, so if you solder male pins to them, you’ll be able to plug the board directly into the breadboard.
I personally have a spare Teensy LC with female headers for prototyping and I then use a standard out of the box one for the final projects.
If you think having to have a separate Teensy just for prototyping can get expensive, let’s talk about price.
For the price of an Arduino Uno, you get [almost] two Teensy LCs. It’s a great deal if you ask me!
On top of all of this, the Teensy also features a micro USB port for uploading the code and send HID (keyboard, mouse, etc) commands to the computer.
You can just use the same cable that you use to charge your phone to connect to the Teensy!
What can I do with a Teensy?
As said before, you can think of the Teensy as an Arduino on steroids, so you can expect to see people do similar projects to those based on Arduino.
Here are some examples to get you inspired:
USB Laptop Keyboard Converter
Build this project by following Frank’s instructable
Teensy Camera Intervalometer
Counter Strike Global Offensive with Wii Nunchucks
More details about the project in Dave's website
More Teensy projects can be found on Paul’s website.
How do I program it?
Programming the Teensy is just like programming an Arduino board, with a key difference.
On top of the Arduino IDE, you’ll also need to install a separate program to upload to the Teensy called Teensyduino.
Once you’ve installed it, the Teensy boards will appear on the Boards list in the IDE.
Many projects don’t require any type of special features, but sometimes you just need that extra connectivity or versatility.
This is when the Teensy boards come in handy.
For me personally, having a board laying around that I know will be capable of handling pretty much any project is what makes the Teensy LC so great.
Alright, hope you enjoyed this introduction to the Teensy world and I sure hope you have fun exploring it.
Comment bellow what you think of this versatile board and feel free to share projects you’ve made based on the Teensy! 👇