Saturday, June 20, 2015

Comparing Microcontroller + Wifi Breakout Boards

There was a large interest in last week's post on WiFi solutions for microcontrollers.  These days Makers are often looking to choose development boards that contain both a microcontroller and a WiFi transceiver. There are many benefits:

  • The solution is pre-made and debugged - ready for integrating into a project
  • Size is often smaller
  • FCC certification is most often done for the module
  • Often cost is lower than separate WiFi and microcontroller breakout boards
With that, here is the comparison:
For a larger view, click here
and here are the caveats:
  1. The data is gathered via the whole web and the web is often wrong, so don't take every value as fact, use it as a value which you can check if interested.
  2. Some of the prices have a "+" next to them - those boards require additional circuit boards with breakout capabilities, power, etc.
  3. Some boards are due out in the next 3 months, noted in "Availability"
  4. Some values are not clear from manufacturer data, so the values may be from components or left as unknown.
  5. Prices can vary, they are retail prices and probably have shipping, taxes, etc.  For the ESP-12, they are available from eBay to retailers, the amount of Flash memory may vary depending on how they were manufactured.  Also FCC markings may or may not be valid depending on manufacturing to the tested configuration.  Companies using ESP8266 modules generally buy FCC compliant subsystems.
  6. Wireless boards that do not have 802.11 b/g/... WiFi were not compared.  That would be for a separate comparison.
  7. All boards were TCP and UDP capable (as far as I saw) and can do Client and Server duties so I didn't compare those characteristics.
  8. The data may change over time (especially price), and additional boards will become popular.
I didn't add the ESP8266 ESP-01 module to this list although it qualifies.  See last week's post and use the ESP-12 values with only 2 GPIO, no analog pin and costing a bit less.

I didn't add every board on the market.  I am trying to keep the list to popular and commonly available boards.  You can use the table to compare features with other manufacturer's boards.

Thoughts


I am very happy that we are not stuck with the status quo of 3 years ago, where adding a WiFi capability to a microcontroller board costs over $75.  Manufacturers know that the Internet of Things really needs small, low cost, programmable WiFi communications and control devices.

Some of these solutions have very good cloud infrastructures provided by the manufacturers to program and communicate.  These may help overcome the learning curve for programming and/or it may provide easier methods for Internet communication.  The downside could be if the manufacturer decides to leave the product, the web service could close.  

As for Arduino IDE programmable capability, this is as of today and is for the arduino.cc versions of the software.  Many boards are billed as "Arduino compatible" but that may be electrically or programmable via a similar language.  Personally I like the ability to take code from existing projects and libraries and use them on a different board.  I recently ported NeoPixel and LED matrix code to the Adafruit Huzzah.

Last


The choice of what product to use is up to you.  Everyone has their top requirements which could be compute power, connectivity. price, etc.  For a large segment of the market, price is a large factor.  Then again size for wearables may be a factor - all these modules are fairly small but may require larger batteries for long life.

If you like these comparisons, leave comments on what else would be good to compare.  And again, if there is an error, leave a comment and I'll look to change the inaccuracy.

Links


Here are primary links to the boards.  Some of the information in the table is from other sources web-wide.

  1. Adafruit Huzzah ESP8266
  2. NodeMCU Version 2
  3. Generic ESP-12 (not E)
  4. Electric Imp imp001
  5. Intel Edison
  6. Particle Core
  7. Particle Photon
  8. WiPy WiPy
  9. Digistump Oak