Atmel Power Debugger – First impressions

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This week, I received my new Atmel Power Debugger. In this post, I will share my initial impressions of that tool.

Build quality


The programmer itself seems of good quality. You have 2 USB connectors on the left. The one on the top is for the debugging functionalities while the other one, at the bottom, is to power your projects and also enable current measurement which is the new cool feature of that programmer.

On the right side of the programmer, you have a large 20 pins connector that is intended for code instrumentation and serial communication. The next 2 connectors are 10 pins headers (one for AVR and another one for SAM micro-controllers) that are used to connect to that adapter:

Then, we get to the section containing all the connectors related to current measurement. There are 4 pins giving access to the 100mA high precision current measurement sensor. Then, after the 2 ground pins, you have another set of 4 pins to be used with the 1A current measurement sensor. Finally, at the bottom, there is also a USB connector. So, if you are working on a USB powered device, you can power it from that connector. If using the USB connector to power you project, you can use jumpers to redirect the current to that USB connector. On the picture at the top, you can see the 2 red jumpers that I used to power the USB connector with 1A current.

I am much more concerned about the wires provided with the programmer. The wires are of a very small guage and I am afraid they will break easily. I must admit that I am used to work with a TinyUSB programmer and this is my reference. Maybe all high end programmers are using that kind of wires? I compared those wires with some 24 AWG wires and the 24 AWG look something like twice as big as the wires provided with the Power Debugger… :-S

Basic Power Measurement

Let’s see how this programmer can be used to measure the power consumption of an Arduino Uno in Atmel Studio:

Start Atmel Studio version 7+. Previous versions will not support that feature, from what I understand.
Click the Tools | Data Visualizer menu option.

You will get that screen.

Press the “Connect” button.

Click the tick box in the “Power” section.
Press the “Start” button.

By default, the 2 current sensors are measuring the current. To turn off Channel A, which is the 100mA sensor, simply uncheck the checkbox named “Current” in the Channel A section at the right of the graph.
So, it sounds like my Arduino project uses something between 56mA and 70mA of current!

Since this is bellow 100mA, let’s see what it look like if I use channel A (100mA) instead of channel B (1A) to measure current.

After powering off everything, I started by change the jumper position on the programmer:

Then, I did the same steps as before in Atmel Studio, except that I enabled Channel A instead of Channel B.

Oups… the Arduino doesn’t turn on… ?
It looks like Channel A’s voltage is too low.

Finally, that’s simple to fix!
Click in the settings button in the “Power” section at the top of the screen.
It will open this popup:
You can see that I disabled channel B and changed the output voltage to 5V, which is what the Arduino is asking for.
If you look at your debugger, you will also notice a new green LED turned on to indicate that power is supplied to Channel A.

Another thing I had to do was to drag & drop the “A Current” and “A Voltage” connectors from the “Power” section to the “holes” in the “Channel A” section.

The, I pressed the “Start” button again, at the top of the screen and this is how it look like now!

We now see that the current consumption is more around 64mA, which is much more precise than the measurement we did with Channel B (1A sensor).


That programmer seems very promising, but I still have a lot to experiment with:
– Doing code execution and current usage correlation.
– Debug a program, using breakpoints in Atmel Studio.
– How to wire an project, on a breadboard, and use the programmer to program, debug and measure power consumption.
– The various data that Atmel Studio can provide from the current readings, including how long batteries would last for a given project.

That’s all for now!

4 thoughts on “Atmel Power Debugger – First impressions

    1. Francois Post author

      If you are looking at a more permanent solution, where you will be measuring your project power consumption, I would suggest you have a look at the ACS712 or MAX471. The chip and also Arduino breakouts with that chip can easily be found on eBay. But, you will need to look at the chips specifications and make sure they are compliant with the project you have in mind (are you measuring something in the uA range or 15A?).

  1. mirmit

    Thanks François for this first look at this tool. Do you have any indication on the hardware solution for the measurment ? Have you looked at the other side of the board ?

    1. Francois Post author

      Hi Mirmit, I sadly haven’t yet. I had to take a long break from my hoby to take are of one of my kids. I will soon look into this!


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