ESP8266 Killer?

We’ve seen rumors floating around the Twittersphere about a new integrated microprocessor and WiFi SOC: the NL6621 from Nufront. Details are still scarce, but that doesn’t seem to be because the chip is vaporware: you could buy modules on Taobao.com¬†and eBay right now for between two-and-a-half and three bucks, and Nufront’s website says they’ve produced a million modules since 2013.

The NL6621 WiFi SOC is powered by a 160 MHz ARM Cortex-M3 with 448 KB of RAM, and everything else is integrated in the SOC. The module has 32 GPIOs, SPI, I2C, I2S digital audio, and most of the peripherals that you’d expect. They say they have a completely open source SDK, but we can’t find a link to it anywhere. An English-language forum has sprung up in anticipation of the next new thing, and they say that they’ve contacted Nufront about the SDK, so that’s probably as good a place as any to lurk around if you’re interested. With an ARM core, it shouldn’t be long before someone gets GCC working on these things anyway.

It’s also worth noting that we’ve announced ESP8266 killers before, and it hasn’t come to pass. The mixture of community and official support that (eventually) came out of Espressif seems to be the main factor determining the ESP8266’s success, and we don’t see that yet with the NL6621. So take the question mark in the title seriously, but if this turns out to be the next big thing, remember where you heard it first, ok?

Thanks [David Hunt] for the tip!

46 thoughts on “ESP8266 Killer?

  1. Looks promising, it will indeed probably depends on the community around it.
    Espressif will perhaps come out with an even cheaper version, as they introduce a faster expensive one.
    The one thing that bothers me with all these cheap “io” modules is that none of the support lower frequencies and mesh networking.
    Still great though at such prices.

  2. The boards linked on EBay do not break out all the available I/O. Nor do they have a socket for an external antenna. When you compare them to the ESP-07 module they still have a way to go. The I/O connector is also not suitable for a breadboard.

    Whoever is putting these modules together seems to be making the same mistakes as with the early ESP modules.

    Looking forward to seeing these in something like the NodeMCU format – then it will be game on !

  3. I want to see a real datasheet and SDK first….

    ESP8266 output power is 22 dBm, check FCC reports. hat about the NL6621?

    You can find an ESP12F for 11.50 RMB ($1.75), and the NL6621-Y1 (more ESP01-like) for 14.50 RMB ($2.20) on TaoBao.

    And the dual 160 MHz core ESP32 is announced for April this year, price unknown.

  4. This thing is interesting, especially the large amount of RAM makes it a lot more suitable for certain tasks than an ESP8266, but the ESP already has a very active and rather sizeable community behind it — once the ESP32 is released I’m thinking ESP8266 will be taking the low-end and the ESP32 will be taking the high-end spots of these WiFi SoCs and this one’ll struggle even more than it is struggling now at gaining momentum.

  5. i like the pin count and the fact that it has spi and i2c, and it has enough ram to run a camera module, which is nice. bonus points if the mcu has usb to make programming it easier. ultimately i want something i can just stick a sensor on and pass commands over wifi without having a damn inferior mcu telling it what to do.

    i guess direct programming over wifi would be the holy grail. it would need to default to ap mode, by a jumper or reset switch or something, so you can get on it and configure wifi how ever you want. then on reboot send code over wifi.

    1. So, you want an ESP8266? At least when using Arduino IDE to program it you can just use ArduinoOTA to upload new sketches, and you don’t need a “damn inferior mcu” with it, either. It even has an SPI-bus and I2C.

        1. never used that firmware. will definately look up ArduinoOTA. of course i only got the 01 version of the module, so even if i can do ota programming, theres not a lot of gpio to work with.

        2. Using the NodeMCU with Lua was incredibly discouraging; even with super simple code I was getting erratic behavior and I ditched it for a photon. 3 months later and I try Arduino and holy crap, such a drastic improvement!

  6. Yeah, these things are essentially useless w/o an SDK. You’d think that the Chinese would want to get one out there/English support for sales, but they’d rather do their secretive internal thing where you can only get info if you can pretend to be a Chinese company, just ask Bunnie.

  7. This looks like a clone of the Marvell MC200 + wifi platform (older version of what is in wifi barbie). The thing is you can already get those modules from parts brokers in China for $9 in single units and $5 in hundreds of units and I think they’ll even supply you with a dodgy copy of the SDK (which is mostly made up of BSD licensed components anyhow).

  8. There are lots of ESP8266 alternatives out there that offer more pins, more peripherals, more familiar CPU architectures such as the Cortex-M series, better documentation etc, or worse documentation in some cases. Especially if you’re willing to accept the price a little higher. It depends on what your requirements are, exactly.

    The CC3200, EMW3165, MT7681 are all examples that come to mind.

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