The NXP MCUXpressso IDE Release V11.2.1 gave a hint about a coming new debug probe, the MCU-Link which is available now:
The new MCU-Link is listed on Mouser.com (search for ‘MCU-Link’) for price around $10/€10/CHF11. I two from Mouser but because Mouser is still adding it to the inventory, NXP has sent me two probes directly (thanks!).
The MCU-Link is a compact and inexpensive debug probe for NXP ARM Cortex devices (Kinetis, LPC, i.MX RT). It currently supports SWD debugging with SWO trace and includes a VCOM (Virtual COM, UART-2-USB). I’m typically using a broad range of different debug probes: from NXP LPC-Link2 to commercial P&E and SEGGER debug probes. I appreciate to have a choice, especially because that way I can use the debug probe for my projects which fits the best. So a new probe is always a welcome addition to my growing inventory of debug probes :-).
💡 Want to use the MCU-Link with OpenOCD? See https://mcuoneclipse.com/2020/12/15/openocd-with-mcu-link/
The MCU-Link arrived in a small box:
Inside the anti-static box there is a reference guide, the PCB, three jumpers, 3pin (UART) jumper cable and the 10pin SWD/JTAG debug cable:
The MCU on the MCU-Link board is the LPC55S69, (dual ARM Cortex-M33/150 MHz):
On the bottom there are footprints for an extra push (Reset) button and a SWD debug header for the LPC55S69 (see schematics at https://www.nxp.com/downloads/en/schematics/MCU-LINK-SCH.pdf). On the bottom of board there is a header for 4 GPIO pins of the LPC55S69: So I could use that board as a minimal universal and inexpensive LPC55S69 board too 🙂 :
The box comes with a Quick Reference Guide:
The new MCU-Link costs only around $10, so half the price of the previous NXP LPC-Link2. The new debug probe is much more compact too:
The debug probe is automatically detected in the MCUXpresso IDE and shows up as CMSIS-DAP debug probe:
The probe is supported on Windows, MacOS and Linux (I’m using Windows 10 here).
Below I’m debugging a Kinetis K02 board with the MCU-Link debug probe:
Basically it should support all the devices which are supported by the NXP LPC-Link2.
I did not compare the performance yet, but I feel it is faster than the LPC-Link2 too.
Another great thing is that the probe supports SWO trace and profiling too:
The MCU-Link uses the LPC55S69 ISP bootloader and update mode. The MCU-Link board I have received had the firmware V0.078 loaded.
The firmware update utility is found on the MCU-Link web page:
At the time of this article, the most recent firmware is V1.098. Download the .zip file and extract it to a folder on the host.
Put the MCU-Link into ISP programming mode: Power the board with the Update jumper J3 installed:
Then run the program.cmd:
Remove the J3 jumper and re-power the MCU-Link. Now it is recognized with the new firmware in the debugger:
The MCU-Link features a VCOM (UART to USB) bridge which is useful with an UART on the target. The connection includes GND, Rx and Tx.
Note that the lower pine is the Rx from the target to the MCU-Link and the middle pin is the Tx to the target from the MCU-Link:
For example I can use the MCU-Link with the ESP32:
I have been able to use the VCOM up to a baud of 115200: above that the connection was not working in a reliable way (I tried up to 460800):
Not sure if it is a problem on my side (it works well up to 460800 for other UART adapters I’m using).
Custom 3D Printed Enclosure
The MCU-Link comes as bare board. Not to mess with other parts my crowded desk, I prefer to have an enclosure or at least some shrink-tubing around it. I have quickly designed a 3D printable design.
The enclosure features ‘in place printed hinges’. So everything is printed in one piece. There is an empty space inside hinge to make it movable after removed from the print bed.
You can find the design files on GitHub. I printed it with white PLA on Ultimaker-2 without any support and 0.1 mm settings:
Inside the box there is a place for a ‘cheat sheet’ showing the jumper and UART connection pins:
With two 2.5mm screws and two magnets the enclosure nicely keeps closed:
Below the MCU-Link board installed which snaps into the enclosure:
The enclosure features a space to keep the UART cable inside the box:
And to keep things compact, the debug cable fits into the enclosure too:
Below how the box looks closed.
Maybe I do another design to put a micro-USB cable inside the box too.
Overall the enclosure is very useful for me: it provides protection, keeps all cables in place plus includes a cheat sheet :-).
If you are looking for an inexpensive, small and still powerful debug probe for NXP Kinetis, LPC and i.MX RT MCUs, then have a look at the NXP MCU-Link. Compared to the LPC-Link it is not only smaller, it costs only half the price and comes with a handy USB-2-Serial adapter cable. And I hope the 3D printed enclosure (design available on GitHub, see links below) is something you find useful too. I’m definitely going to add more of these probes to my inventory, and I’m sure students will like it too.
Happy Linking 🙂
- NXP MCUXpresso IDE v11.2.1
- NXP MCU-Link web page: https://www.nxp.com/design/development-boards/lpcxpresso-boards/jtag-swd-debug-probe:MCU-LINK
- Community article: https://community.nxp.com/t5/MCUXpresso-Community-Articles/MCU-Link-is-now-available/ba-p/1178373
- GitHub repository: https://github.com/ErichStyger/mcuoneclipse/tree/master/MCU-Link