IMST iC880a LoRaWan Backplane Kit Review

IMST iC880a LoRaWan Backplane Kit Review

As part of my new blog I plan to review most electronics purchases I make.

Overview

One of the improvements I've been recommended to make is to get a PCB to connect the Pi I'm using to the LoRa Concentrator board. Of which the most popular one seems to be this one by user Gnz on Tindie.
![]2016-11-11T14_17_58.797Z-IMG_20161111_151930
Photo by seller GNZ On Tindie.

https://www.tindie.com/products/gnz/imst-ic880a-lorawan-backplane-kit/

I ordered it on the 30th of December and it arrived Today. Pretty good going for the fact it was the Christmas Period!

The primary idea of this kit is simple, Instead of using jumper wires to connect your board up to the Pi a simple PCB can help out and make it easier with counting of the pins on both sides.

The secondary part is that its argued that it could reduce interference caused by the jumper wires being used. Some people argue this causes the concentrator to reset however I haven't experienced this but will see if my RSSI increases a little.

I would also argue that the ground plane of the PCB could reduce external interference more than the use of jumper wires does.

Assembly

The board arrives in a kit with the headers, these are two 3 Pin Headers, 1 2x13 Pin Headers, a 20 Pin Header & a DC Barrel Jack Connector.
IMG_20180108_140221784

Pictured above is all of the headers excluding the barrel jack as Mine is powered using the MicroUSB Port on my Pi.

Soldering is very easy, Solder the Raspberry Pi Header with the pins being soldered on the side with the OSHW logo on top, And the IMST Headers soldered on the other side. And it should look like below.

IMG_20180108_141156060-1
Top Of the Board
IMG_20180108_144919887
Bottom Of the board
IMG_20180108_143306137
Board on a Raspberry Pi 3, Model B

My Review

This board does look very good for it's intended use and can save you a little bit of time in assembly, I've also noticed while I haven't had any clear interference from the jumper wires sometimes they do feel a bit loose like they're going to disconnect easily.

One thing I noticed is that you will definitely require to use standoffs with the board as I noticed the pins used to supply power to the IMST Board can press onto the HDMI Port if you're not careful. Insulating this should also avoid this issue. (I will be conformal coating my board).
![]IMG_20180108_143345751

I then went to connect it to my Pi. Instead of a Raspberry Pi I had a few Orange Pi Zero's sitting around spare which so far has been working ideal. However unfortunately this board won't fit with it due to the ethernet socket blocking it so instead I decided to use my Red Raspberry Pi Model B+

IMG_20180108_195909205
Raspberry Pi Model B+, Backplane PCB, IMST ic880a Stack.

After then quickly re-configuring the Raspberry Pi with the required software I put it back in its current box and connected it to the antenna.

But has it improved anything?

To do this I will review each point
1) Easier to do than jumpers , Yep I agree. It took me about 10 minutes to solder and it was ready to go. It's also more of a reliable connection that I feel comfortable putting in my gateway case when I move it outside.

2) Reduces interference , While I never experienced any resetting issues It'll be interesting if this and another modification to my gateway will improve the range at all.

However if I didn't originally have jumper wires sitting around I would have used this straight away. It's a much more elegant solution and does feel a lot better to use when you're already spending ~ £150 on the IMST Board, £10 inc postage is not a bad deal at all.

If I were to improve on it I would prefer if it was moved over to be slightly over more towards the USB Ports like a HAT. It feels a little unbalanced sometimes because of this however I suspect this was to keep original Pi Compatibility.

Therefore I give it 4/5! A little improvement possible but reasonable price and good design for what's included. It saved me either designing and / or ordering a PCB and sourcing the headers myself.


Enjoy this blogpost? - I'm currently funding for a RAK831 LoRa Concentrator. This will lead to another series of blogposts on setting up a different LoRa Board and possibly include a development series of a Backpane I'm developing. You can donate via Ko-Fi by using the button below

Comments