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I'm new to the robotics and electronics world, but I'm willing to dive into it. I'm a software developer and I want to create a project that uses GPS and Accelerometer data to show as a layer on Google Maps after transferred to PC.

My doubt is about which controller to get. In my country, there are generic controllers based on the Atmega328 that are being sold with a massive difference of price from the original Arduino (talking about the UNO model).

Should I start with an original model?

Should I expect to break the controller, fry it, or break any components by connecting them wrong?

Would the experience with a generic controller be less exciting than with the original Arduino one?

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If you're just starting out, you should probably use the original Arduino instead of a generic.

Let's say you follow an Arduino example using a generic, and things don't work the way you expect. How will you know whether your Arduino code (or circuit) is the problem, and not the generic board?

In all actuality, a generic board will probably work fine. The best choice for you will come down to how confident you can be in troubleshooting.

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  • $\begingroup$ A "SainSmart" is a very well built Arduino-derived board. I'm just as happy with their quality. Otherwise, as @Ian said, stay away from generics. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Loggerythm Jul 7 '15 at 19:04
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Many of generics works fine but there are difficulties like FTDI driver, working frequency, regulator voltage differences, etc. I'm still using imitations with many different projects. I couldn't fry any of them. But do not connect over 5 volt.

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I find that the off brand Arduino boards work as well as the original. A lot of the off brand ones have the same schematic but are made super cheap in china. For your application you probably will not have any problems with an off brand arduino and it will save you a few dollars.

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If the price is cheap enough I'd recommend always buying an extra. Similarly for the GPS/GPRS modems. So for whatever reason one stops working you can always fall back to the spare. You don't have to get an original arduino, you can get a compatible one (clone/w.e) but it would be great if you can ask the vendor if there is any warranty and driver support for the same.

Also you need to take care of the polarity when you power up anything. The only non exciting part would be the board not working or getting some other part of your loop damaged (eg: short circuit/over current draw from your USB port).

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