Differences between an authentic Arduino Uno from Italy and a counterfeit board made in China, including a test of the functionality.
Since Arduino was released, there have been many clones made. Sometimes people refer to them as counterfeit or fake boards. The goal of companies making them is to take an advantage of Arduino’s popularity and their ability to produce them cheaper. That’s achieved by using lower quality components and cheaper production lines in Asian countries like China. Due to the open source nature they have a full access to technical specifications. However being open source does not mean anybody is allowed to use the Arduino trademark!
I purchased one clone out of curiosity, so I could see the physical differences and reliability of a fake board and compare it with a genuine one. In fact, I wanted to find out whether a clone even works (recognized by a PC, programmed by IDE). I ordered one Uno R3 directly from China for $8.
The clone has a deep blue board color in the front, while the authentic board is teal (could be a mix of green and blue).
The golden component (501K, 504S) above the voltage regulator (under the USB port) is made specifically for Arduino. Clones generally have a similar component, but in green color.
The images on real Arduinos are clear with sharp edges (especially the logo and the map of Italy).
The fake boards are “uglier” – the components and connectors are not perfectly straight and aligned, the soldering quality is lower.
While a typical Arduino Uno R3 price is around $25, the clone boards can be purchased for less than half (some already from $5).
Testing a clone
When I connected the clone to my PC, it was recognized by Arduino IDE the same way like a standard Uno board on a USB port. An upload of a Blink example code was successful and the LED started blinking. Then I tried more advanced code and connected some sensors (e.g. ultrasonic in the video) and a speaker to test outputs (including PWM) – again everything worked fine. Even a display with I2C bus worked. No difference comparing to an authentic board.
I don’t know about a reliability yet – leaving the board running for several days or in extreme conditions (temperature, humidity, high or low voltage).
There are mixed opinions about these products on Internet. While I understand the clones might be useful for testing or projects with limited budget, in general you should always buy a genuine board from official distributors. This allows the producer to develop new hardware, software, maintain the documentation, website and arduino.cc forum. If you decide to buy these counterfeit boards, then you might consider donating to Arduino.