Mini Review TL866 Programmer

EPROM EEPROM SRAM NVRAM Flash chips, reading/writing hardware and software
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Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby festy » Thu Mar 10, 2016 1:33 pm

Up until recently I've been using a Willem PCB3 clone eprom programmer, but finally decided I needed to upgrade.
The PCB3 uses an LPT port plus a separate power supply and needs a bunch of hacks to get it to talk to win7, but mainly I was sick of having to flip DIP switches and move jumpers every time I changed chips.
After a bit of research, I ended up with a TL866 Mini Programmer for roughly $70 delivered, including a bunch of adapters for PLCC, ZIF SOIC etc.
I couldn't find much discussion on this forum about these programmers, so I'm posting my thoughts on them.

There's two models available - the TL866CS and the TL866A. The A includes ICSP support, the CS does not. Apart from the unpopulated ICSP header, the only difference is the firmware (and price).

The software and firmware are being actively improved, with more chips supported with each release. There's something like 14,000 supported chips claimed, but they count every variation of a chip so in reality there's a lot less.

This is what $70 will get you from any one of the ebay sellers who stock them:
TL866.jpg (66.6 KiB) Viewed 1056 times

A lot of the smarts is done in firmware, so when you first install the program and connect the programmer you'll probably be prompted to update the firmware. And don't bother installing the windows program from the supplied CD, it will be a few versions behind so better to download the latest version from the start.
It doesn't need external power, just a single USB cable.

The GUI is pretty reasonable, but a few minor complaints. First, when you click "read" it opens a window with a few options, and two buttons - "read" and "cancel". Click read to read, but once that's complete you then have to click cancel to close the window. This is a common theme across the program, and a little annoying but not a huge issue.
My second gripe is that it IDs the chip prior to a read, and if you've selected the wrong variation of a chip it fails with an incorrect ID. It shows the ID bytes and you can then consult google to work out exactly what chip you have, but it would be handy if the program said "chip type xxxxxx detected". You can also skip the ID check, but still....

This is the interface - it has all the features you'd expect like read, blank/blank check, verify, pattern fill, file and buffer offset, serial number increment, auto-ID serial flash etc. It can also program a variety of Atmel and PIC MCUs, and test 4000 and 74 series logic ICs.
TL866_sw.jpg (237.06 KiB) Viewed 1056 times

So I threw every ROM I could find at this thing, ranging from 93xx and 24/25xx serial eeproms, 27/28/29/49 series DIP and PLCC flash, old eproms from 64k to 4mbit, and every NVSRAM I could track down.
The only chip that it didn't support was the infamous CAT2444 from the VN Level 3 clusters but I wasn't expecting it to.
I also tested my collection of dead DS1245s and it managed to program two of them. One failed to verify an hour or so later, but the other one is still going. I'd suspected the PCB3 might not have been doing a very good job with the NVRAMs.

One very surprising thing I found - this chip below still works perfectly. I pulled it from a decommissioned medical robot 5 years ago, but check the date code - they don't make 'em like that anymore :shock:
DS1230.jpg (44.69 KiB) Viewed 1056 times

Oh - and the CS vs A thing... there's a easy to use tool available that 'upgrades' a CS device to an A model, so you then just need to solder the ICSP header on and you're away.

My verdict so far: Great little programmer for the money, pocket sized so perfect for taking to the track.
The GUI is easy enough to navigate, the device is fast at reading and writing, and supports all the chips we commonly use. :thumbup:

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby Holden202T » Thu Mar 10, 2016 8:57 pm

very nice write up!

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby ejukated » Thu Mar 10, 2016 8:57 pm

how do you find it compared to the Willem G4X

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby festy » Thu Mar 10, 2016 9:43 pm

I've never used a GQ4X so I can't really compare them.
My previous programmer was a Willem PCB3, which was probably cutting edge technology back in the early 90s.

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby The1 » Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:49 pm

nice writeup.

Only thing id say with willem gq4x is dont buy their plcc adapters had contact issues, just buy em elsewhere or make your own.

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby festy » Mon Mar 14, 2016 12:39 pm

A couple more pics of the interface.
It remembers the last 10 chip types you've selected, which is a nice touch.
TL866_hist.jpg (231.24 KiB) Viewed 972 times

And gives you some control over the voltage selection:
TL866_VPP.jpg (241.42 KiB) Viewed 972 times

VPP isn't infinitely variable, but should cover most applications well enough.

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby antus » Fri Sep 08, 2017 9:56 am

While my original and only GQ4x is still working fine and has never had a problem, I finally got around to trying a TL866CS. I was quite impressed with the read and write speed testing with a DS1245 nvram - more than twice as fast as the GQ. Running latest software/drivers from which are currently v6.6 (came out in may 2017). Installed and running on windows 10 (10.0.14393) with signed drivers that shipped with the software. My device shipped with firmware 03.2.58 and updated to 03.2.80 cleanly from within the minipro app.
Have you read the FAQ? For lots of information and links to significant threads see here: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1396

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Re: Mini Review TL866 Programmer

Postby jenko » Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:43 am

I had been looking at those but I just purchased my Willem GQ4X yesterday. As always purchase something and straight away some one will tell you about a better cheaper option :roll:

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