Skip to main content
Topic: Sure Electronics PICkit 3 (Read 37981 times) previous topic - next topic

Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Hey everyone,
some time ago there was this blog post about the PICkit 2 clone. A few weeks ago I bought the PICkit 3 clone from the same manufacturer - here is my experience with it.

Until then my experience with PIC programmers was a homebuilt JDM serial programmer (about a decade ago...) and a loaned Microchip ICD 3 that I used for an uni project.


First impression

This clone is really cheap - I could get about two for the price of a single genuine Microchip PICkit 3. Nevertheless it comes in a sturdy box and includes both a single row 6-pin female to female and a 6-pin modular connector ICSP cable. There's also a 1x6 pin male header, a right-angle 1x6 female header and the Mini-USB cable included.

The case looks pretty much like the one in the blog post linked above; it seems reasonably sturdy and to open it you just have to slide your fingernails along the groove. The pcb is held in place by four thin plastic posts. To separate it from the upper shell you might have to push a bit on the leds from the outside - they sit very tight in their cut-outs.

Because of the black solder mask it's a bit hard to make out how much flux residue there's on the board. Especially on the bottom, around the pins of the buttons there was definitely residue. I encountered maybe one or two bits of stray solder but all in all I've seen worse. The socket you connect the programming cable to seems a bit weak; applying small pressure is enough to bend it upwards and maybe snap the pins if this happens too often. Although, with the case in place bending it upwards is not really possible.


Use

MPLAB v8 was already installed on my machine, so I just had to connect the clone and select it as a PICkit 3 programmer/debugger. At that time I had a board with a PIC24F nearby and sure enough, after MPLAB had finished downloading the appropriate firmware, almost everything worked as it should.

There was one bit that was bugging me. In MPLAB there's a dialog box for the PICkit where you can configure the Programmer-To-Go feature, enable power supply by programmer and monitor V[sub:]DD[/sub:] of the connected board. Well, the reported voltage was not correct. Instead it reported approx. V[sub:]DD[/sub:] x 2.2.

It seems that MPLAB actually doesn't care if the reported V[sub:]DD[/sub:] is too much for the selected device but if you use the programmer to supply power the reported V[sub:]DD[/sub:] can't be too much below the set value. If it is, MPLAB reports that it has recognized a short circuit on either V[sub:]DD[/sub:] or V[sub:]PP[/sub:].

Next, I tried the clone on an old PIC16 which needs about 13V V[sub:]IHH[/sub:] to enter programming mode. MPLAB informed me that it can only read 00000000 as device id, which isn't what it was expecting... Long story short - the programmer is only supplying about 6.1V V[sub:]pp[/sub:].


Contact with Sure Electronics

... was a bit difficult. In the package there was a small card with an email address on it in case there were any problems. After a few days of waiting and trying a different way of contact I managed to get a response.

I explained the problems I was experiencing and suggested that there might be a hardware problem with programmer but as answer I got sent some links I had already seen entering the MPLAB error message into Google. I also had to confirm a few times that I had indeed connected the ICSP correctly (an understandable question but I think one time is enough).

Next I was provided with a firmware file (I assume in case the PIC24 inside the clone had been corrupted) which I unfortunately couldn't try as I didn't have the ICD 3 anymore.

After that a suggestion for addition of an resistor to the PCB arrived but doing this changed neither the wrong V[sub:]DD[/sub:] display, nor the inability to generate a high enough V[sub:]PP[/sub:].


Fixes/Improvements

A schematic of the genuine PICkit 3 is provided in Microchip's DS51795 document. The clone does not deviate too much from this.

My first bet was a wrong reference voltage (VREF_2.5). It turned out to be alright.

Next, I backtracked my way from the ICSP connector to RB2, where V[sub:]DD[/sub:] is sensed. There's a voltage divider involved where VDD_FBACK originates. On the clone these two resistor had different values compared to the schematic but they did have the correct ratio. Tweaking this ratio quickly lead to a correct V[sub:]DD[/sub:] display in MPLAB.

The situation for V[sub:]PP[/sub:] is similar. It also has an associated voltage divider and careful changes combined with monitoring this voltage during the phase were MPLAB tries to read the device id got me where I wanted to be.

If you want the clone to supply power it also makes sense to modify the gain of the amplifier which is tasked with regulating VDD_INT; this was a bit off on my device.

The dual colour status LED was not working on it's green side, I'll also have to replace this one.

I'm not sure why these fixes were necessary in the first place although I can imagine a reason or two...


Conclusion

I still think that the price/performance ratio for this clone is not bad but if I knew that I had to invest a few hours looking for the cause of this defects, writing emails and questioning if the problem was maybe even PEBKAC on my end I would have bought the genuine product.

Email contact with Sure Electronics was not exactly what I hoped for - there was this initial delay and in the end I had to find a solution myself - but I do have to say that the person I was communication with was polite and relatively fast to answer (after communication was established).

I hope that some of you have already tried out either the Microchip PICkit 3 or a clone and can provide some insight. In particular I would like to know if you've encountered similar (or different) problems and if you stumbled upon any difference between the Microchip schematic and a genuine PICkit 3.



EDIT: The socket for the programming cable is indeed not very sturdy. It's pins just snapped.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #1
I got the same as you, but without much of the trouble. the quality is a bit low (the shell keeps falling apart, the connector is weak) but what you can expect for that amount of money. Also the powersupply is a bit too weak, but setting it a bit higher does help (and work better :))

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #2
Thanks for the review.  May I post the entirety on the blog?
Got a question? Please ask in the forum for the fastest answers.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #3
[quote author="Sjaak"]I got the same as you, but without much of the trouble[/quote]
So do you get the correct target voltage displayed on the Status Page in the PICkit Settings dialog?

[quote author="ian"]May I post the entirety on the blog?[/quote]
Sure.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #4
Thanks!
Got a question? Please ask in the forum for the fastest answers.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #5
My Sure Electronics PICkit 3 doesn't seem to have these issues. Curiously, my PICkit3 case is identical to their PICkit2 case, except 3 replaces 2 and their name and logo are omitted altogether. Is that the same as your case?

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #6
[quote author="dpropicweb"]My Sure Electronics PICkit 3 doesn't seem to have these issues. Curiously, my PICkit3 case is identical to their PICkit2 case, except 3 replaces 2 and their name and logo are omitted altogether. Is that the same as your case?[/quote]
Yes, my case looks exactly like you describe it; the font for the "PICKIT" text was also changed. It matches the photo on their web store.

I suppose that hardware wise my device is identical to the ones you and Sjaak received. Could either of you check R36/R41? They are located to the left on the bottom side of the pcb. On mine these were 4k7/2k7 at the time I received the device (before modification).

If these are indeed the correct values then my next guess is that somewhere (maybe on the 25lc256) are calibration constants which are applied to the raw ADC values. If theses constants were wrong that would explain why I was getting wrong values.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #7
For those that might be curious, here are two pictures of my own PK3-clone from sureelectronics:




I've had it for more than a year or so now, and I'm very happy. I also have issues with the voltage regulator, as it puts out a lower voltage than it should. I had problems with a PIC32 which wouldn't get programmed at the 3.3V setting because it was only putting out 2.9V. It worked after setting it to 3.6V (3.2 real volts)

As you see my resistors are also 4k7 and 2k7

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #8
Sorry for the late reply but mine are also 4k7 and 2k7.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #9
I also just ordered a PicKit3 clone from this seller, looks like it's the cheapest with free shipping.

I already have the iCP02 PicKit2 clone from piccircuit.com so I'm not too worried about flashing older 13V stuff but I came accross a new project where the PicKit2 clone just wouldn't work.

For now I'm planning to use the new PicKit3 only for when it really is required but I'm actually hoping I might finally one day ditch the iCP02 or reprogram it into something else as you have access to the programming headers once you remove the heatshrink coating.

I'm just wondering, beside quality and the above mentioned problems, if there is anything else to look out for?

And finally, I'm starting to think about also getting the ICD3 kit. Are there any cheap clones for this as well or is that a Microchip propriotary design?

P.S. Here is a pic (from the ebay site linked above) of the PicKit3 clone for anyone else who might be interested....


 

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #10
Has it arrived yet? Are you happy with it?
Got a question? Please ask in the forum for the fastest answers.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #11
I just got mine two days ago. It does seem to do what it's supposed to do but I didn't have time to fully review the thing or even open the case. Once I had a chance to play with this thing for more than a few minutes I'll write a review on my new blog.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #12
My pickit3 fall yesterday, due that some resistors became lost. I suppose the were bad soldered.
I came here from google image search, but the image links are broken.
Could anyone reupload that nice HQ pcb images? They would be very useful for me for repairing it, knowing what were there..
thanks in advance :)

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #13
The image(s) linked above are not broken, but I'm not sure they'd help you anyway.
Better to tell us which R numbers on the PCB are now missing and someone can tell you what values you need.

Re: Sure Electronics PICkit 3

Reply #14
There is also a schematic in the origina PicKit 3 manual, although I am unsure if the clone is 100% schematic compatible, what I mean is, I am unsure if the part nameing on the clone is identical to the original
best regards FIlip.