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    What I end up doing often is using the Arduino as an AVR prototyping board (i.e. I have an AVRISP2 programmer that uses the 6-pin header). Once I get some of what I’m doing locked in, I can start figuring out which AVR MCU is going to be the best fit. Some of the ATTinys are really cheap (an 8-pin ATTiny25 can be had for 1.05USD), and you using the Arduino to prototype, you can check how many I/O lines and how much memory you actually use.