The Latest, Best WiFi Module Has Been Announced

A little more than a year ago, a new product was released onto the vast, vast marketplace of cheap electronics. It was the ESP8266, and this tiny and cheap WiFi module has since taken over the space of hobbyist electronics and become the de facto standard for connecting tiny microcontrollers to the Internet.

Now there’s an upgrade on the horizon. [John Lee], the public face of Espressif, the makers of the ESP8266, has announced the next product they’re working on. It’s called the ESP32, and if the specs given are correct, it looks to be the next great thing for the Internet of Things.

The ESP32 will now contain two Tensilica processors running at 160MHz, compared to the ‘8266’s one processor running at 80 MHz. The amount of RAM has been increased to 400 kB, Bluetooth LE has been added, WiFi is faster, and there are even more peripherals tucked away in this tiny piece of silicon.

The new ESP32 includes new, simplified APIs and unlike when the ESP8266 was announced, documentation in English.

Right now, Espressif is beta testing the ESP32, with about 200 boards manufactured so far. If you’re one of the few lucky people who have one of these boards on your workbench, we’d love to see your take on it.

85 thoughts on “The Latest, Best WiFi Module Has Been Announced

  1. Looks like an interesting module, but any word on price? (Couldn’t see anything in the links, although I may have missed it). The major appeal of the current ESP8266 is the extremely low prices (you can’t beat $3 on eBay!) If it gets pushed up to the range of $15 – $20 it will lose much of its appeal… even $10 is pushing it IMHO.

      1. What baffles me about the ESP8266 is that the IC by itself is basically the same price as a whole module. I have been trying to locate the IC’s thinking I would save money on my next project and most of the suppliers on Ali are quoting me $1.48 – $1.65 per IC. I am not buying really in “bulk” as I only need 300 or so (or at least to me that isnt really bulk), so I can understand the price not being optimal… but the fact the chip IC alone is being quoted at the same price as a whole module is strange. I know they got a bucket with millions of those things, i just need them to grab a handful and throw it in a plastic bag for me lol.

        1. Many times the prices are obscured because they are including “free shipping”. ESP8266 modules are really, really chip. This one is $1.40 and it won’t have FCC since it does not include an antenna. You will have to do FCC when you add your own antenna. http://detail.1688.com/offer/45690385252.html?spm=0.0.0.0.1I62kx

          Stick with the ESP12 if you need FCC certs, it includes an antenna. About $1.55 here…
          http://detail.1688.com/offer/45572782659.html?spm=0.0.0.0.XVoFgY

          These prices do not include shipping so that makes it easy to separate the two. Sites on 1688.com also don’t like selling 1-2 pieces, 1688.com is more for 100+ units. Use taobao/aliexpress for onesies.

          At $1.55 for a FCC approved module, why mess with the chips?

    1. I really hope they can keep the $2-5 per module price point too. I think it’s due to a low chip price and very little required external components. Hopefully most of the work put into things like the arduino compatibility will transfer over too.

    1. When the CC3000 debacle gave way to the CC3300, they moved all the power conditioning to passives that took up way too much board space. So much so that it would no longer fit in our application. 40 GPIOs is great (for someone) but if it has to grow too much to make that happen it might not be worth it.

          1. I’ve no idea, but since Bluetooth and Wifi both use 2.4GHz, and are packet-based, I’d guess they share an antenna and the chip takes turns sending whichever type of data. Just a guess.

          2. @Greenaum I understand that BT 4.0 is basically BT over WiFi,

            And talking of BT, I see that nokia invented LE (aka ‘smart’) years earlier, it was then merged into BT4.0 and then the first phone that had LE was the iphone. Sort of amusing how that goes.

          3. No, BT 4 isn’t BT over Wifi. There is a combo mode though, where Bluetooth is used to negotiate an ad-hoc Wifi connection between two devices, so you get the ease of pairing of Bluetooth with the bandwidth of Wifi. It’s just that Bluetooth (old and new) and Wifi use the same frequency band, so you only need one antenna to do both.

            While it’s possible for Bluetooth to transmit at the same time as Wifi, using different specific frequencies within the band, I dunno if this chip can do that. It’d require 2 sets of radios, or 1 really complex one.

    2. with the price so low and all that IO, you pretty much won’t need an arduino anymore… i’m already switching over all my projects to esp8266 even if i dont need the wifi, and only breaking out the avr programmer for attiny projects for space/price concerns…

  2. “The ESP32 will now contain two Tensilica processors running at 160MHz, compared to the ‘8266’s one processor running at 80 MHz.”

    The ESP8266 can run at 160MHz too.
    Just call the right function to switch the speed.
    No hardware mods required.

  3. The SSL is a great thing. My colleague was doing a job for a client (a sensor net reporting some environmental measurements) and he had to ditch ESP8266 in favor of ridiculously expensive Wiznet modules. So bye bye “expensive because we say so and our main customers are ‘it’s the company cash so cost doesn’t matter’ ” Wi-Fi modules.

    1. No idea, but whatever it is, I’m reminded about that article on how it depends on where you source the parts, how some parts the chinese make ‘fakes’ of are functionally the same as originals but they use more power.. So it’s something to keep an eye on when you get them in your hands. Measuring is better than trusting spec-sheets in such circumstances.

  4. Crikey that’s a lot of horse power in a little package. Anyone doing security audits, packet sniffing, etc. Not to get all tin-foil-hatty but, I can’t help but wonder what kind of easter eggs are in those things…

    1. if they release the full source, it shouldnt be a problem, but with so many hackers putting these things through their paces, not to mention everyone getting FCC certification for it… shouldnt be too hard to suss out mischievous functions…

      that said the company probably stands to make much more money by being trustworthy than getting kickbacks or something from the state by including backdoors… if this takes off, it would really make the straight and narrow the most desirable path money-wise (yay capitalism!)

      1. > if they release the full source

        you are kidding right? espressif has no idea what opensource means. The SSL accelerator, far from being a good thing is actually quite worrying as people will blindly trust it.

    1. Yeah, I really want this! I am hardening my home network and one of the measures was WPA2 Enterprise with the radius authentication to my domain controller. Now, I have to poke a hole in it for my ESP boards.

  5. Probably the same one would expect in any modern network adapter, or its driver, be it wireless or not: listening to magic packets that trigger the capability to relay data, kill switch, etc.

      1. They will eventually create their own WiFi SoC if there’s enough demand. It might seem rocket science to us but would be trivial for their fabs to produce a similar or better version.

    1. Killer miht be taking it a little far – remember Arduino is far more established, documented, supported and not to mention the community that has already put work into it.

      Looking at the 8266, even using their own tools/code/libraries, there are some glaring stability issues. Using my ESP-12E, I had to essentially PLAN on the module randomly disconnecting to the point that I coded in an auto restart to deal with it.

      It will be a great module (if the price is right), but calling it an Arduino killer might be expecting a little too much ;p

      1. I can see your point, Arduino is as much about the simplicity of the IDE and community as it is about the Hardware. It is the defacto standard for casual makers and that is something that would take some budging. However if ESP keep the innovation flowing I think people will move on. The other issue is price, While I have bought a few genuine arduino’s to help the community I really wish they would drop the price too something more affordable. I don’t expect them to compete with the chinese clones but if they dropped the price I would buy official each and every time.

        1. re: buying “legitimate” boards – I feel the same way :-/ When i’m browsing parts on e-bay and I see shit like the $85 (?!) Ethernet shield, the official Mega costing over $50…. It’s just crazy compared to getting the clones for sub ~$10.

          Heck, another huge issue I see with their ecosystem right now is their supply issues. The last few times I’ve gone on Arduino’s store page, just about everything is out of stock, at least as far as “current generation” boards (I’ve seen maybe a single Arduino M0 for sale anywhere the past couple months!). With the seemingly huge surge in the “maker movement” as far as giant corporations like Intel and Microsoft jumping on board, sparse availability would be more nails in the coffin than the ESP itself.

          Someone further up in the replies mentioned too getting an RTOS running on the ESP which I feel like should be pretty high priority. I can see it going either way right now really. I’ve been trying to get some of my friends to pick up uC’s as a hobby, offering Digispark clones plus passives to get them started.

          Interesting time to be involved with the hobby, that’s for sure. Before the ESP there wasn’t any super cheap Wifi for an embedded project – in 2015 no less! Now, you can spend ~$10 and have an “IoT” weatherstation/climate control/lamp. Compare that to commercial offerings coming in over $100, crazy!

          1. I’m glad it’s not just me who feels that way about pricing, They should definitely lower it and by doing so I think they would make more cash because of in increase in sales. They are never gonna be able to beat chinese clones ever, It’s a fact of life anything you canmake china can make it infinitely cheaper But if they lowered for example on the Uno from $25 to $15 max it would seriously make me think will I buy clone or official everytime I get one. I won’tlie I still prob wouldn’t buy official everytime but I would make a point of doingit more often.

            The shortages are due to the whole Arduino vs Arduino debacle, It really isn’t good enough though when i want a product I will find an alternative if you can’t supply. It is really damaging for their reputation. Like you said the big boy’s have thrown hats in the ring and this couldmake or break Arduino on what looks like a massive future growth market.

            I just hope all the competition leads to innovation & low prices as all these companies fight for market share.

      2. If somebody ports the Arduino software to this chip, it’ll kill Arduino by becoming Arduino. There’s already ARM Arduinos. It would make sense that Arduino grows out of it’s 8-bit origins. It’d bring the advantages Arduino has, easy development and big existing codebase. Then add a bootloader on the chip, and a Wifi option in the Arduino programming app.

        1. Arduino already supports the ESP8266. Someone put in the time and effort to build the Xtensa toolchain for linux, windows, OSX, port the Arduino middleware to use the Xtensa timers and peripherals, and even some of the socket library to get the wifi working.
          If this is the same CPU core, everything should pretty much work. There might be a different chip support library, but well written software would be mostly agnostic to that, or it would only require a minimal re-configuring.

          And then the paradoxical brilliance of the Arduino IDE is that the new extensions interface allows people to publish & install whole toolchains and support libraries with one click. It is still a horrific IDE that is a genuine impediment to progress, but nothing else has/can come close in terms of working right out of the box.

          Arduino support will likely be available for this chip within 0-2 weeks after the modules are available.

          Now, the two-core programming model will have to be figured out. Pretty much no one has figured that out! I don’t even know if mbed support both cores on all their Cortex M4 boards. Even in professional contexts of using an M4 and a full IDE like Keil,I don’t know how they manage the two separate cores.

          1. And there’s the Visual Studio Arduino plugin that pull’s in the entire toolchains from the Arduino IDE and adds real IDE features like intellisense, syntax coloring, templates, source control and even adds a rudimentary level of debug over serial.

    2. While my experience is only one person and appears not to be the norm, I had a hell of a time getting my ESP8266 modules working (still haven’t)

      I ordered 4, 2 of each module and have had a somewhat difficult time getting them to do anything. It’s probably easier with the windows gui tools (I was doing it in linux)
      Maybe I got unluckly with some bad chips or a bad ftdi cable, not a big deal when it’s less than the coffee I drank while trying to get it working.

      On the other hand Arduino is stupidly easy to get going which is one of it’s main strengths – you plug it into usb, stick on a shield run some demo code and bam you did it!

      Things are sounding positive though for the next esp providing the price stays under $5. (anything more and the impulse buy goes away)

      Also remember not all gpio pins are made equal ;)

      1. I think you have been unlucky as all the ones I’ve had are pretty good, I find that they are hard to break aswell so perhaps you just had a bad one. I have used the Arduino IDE to program them and it’s really easy that way. There are loads of other softwares you can use too. Your right about the $5 it is a great price for something so cool I don’t think I would mind even it it hit $7 or $8.

        While I don’t like to knock Arduino because I think they are amazing and have helped a lot of people (myself included) get into programming chips. The offical pricing is way too much and just encourages people to buy clones, While we all knock the Arduino IDE for being a bit crappy it still makes programming a chip as easy as writing a small & simple C++ application. The community is amazing with people who will literally take an hour out of their day to help you out.

        1. I’ve had quite an enjoyable time playing with my NodeMCU v1.0 unit actually, and was fine with the $11.99 price tag too! I’ve really only used the ESPlorer and Lua with it from my RPi, and despite some lag issues I was able to get a stable weather station running within a couple of days including the time it spent to familiarize myself with Lua!

          Heck, the only reason I’m using a couple of Photons for some christmas gifts I’m making this year is because of their easy to use, robust cloud platform. I’m a complete noob when it comes to programming, so having something like the Particle cloud is completely worth the extra $7 versus the NodeMCU board.

    1. USB in silicon would require them to pay royalties to get a vendor ID, this could be the reason for not implementing it, though it could probably be added later as software implementation.

    1. For a game controller, there are far better options than this chip…

      Will BLE work? Most new bluetooth controllers are using BLE. If so, some example chips that may work with low power consumption:
      PSoC4 BLE
      nRF51822

  6. when you can buy a fully assembled, rootable smartphone, with gps, battery, charger, USB, Bluetooth, Wifi, sensors, display, camera(s) and all that for like $10.. wouldn’t it be more economical to bend the smartphone to your will? and if weight is a factor, trim it down by removing non-vital mass.

    1. Someone has already ported FreeRTOS to the esp8266. There is some indication that the company that did it is a “stealth mode” startup, so at some point there will be some sort of product that hits the market using esp8266+freertos internally. Or maybe they are just going to do middleware or monitoring or something like that … shrug. The patches exist, though.

      The lack of a debugger is a big deal, though. Is there an ESP8266 debugger? I really don’t know.

    1. It is a good module, but the software support is totally missing right now, as far as I can tell.

      I think the company that designed it is MXCHIP, and they used to have a ton of software on github, but it got taken down. I don’t know what the status of it is … maybe they ran out of funding? I have a guess that because it uses a Broadcom wifi chip internally, they may have hit a bunch of licensing and open code problems. They have one archive of code for it, in Chinese, on their site.

      If you look at emw3165.com , there is one dude who is charging ahead on it. But all the code is still based on the Broadcom SDK, which takes a sign-up and EULA to download. I really don’t know what a solution would look like, or how much pain it would take to bring arduino or mbed to it from the ground up.

      If anything, this is a testament to how helping the community helps you. Espressif has been fairly open with their documentation and SDKs, and the community has quickly brought Arudino support to it, units are being sold like mad, the whole Lua system was put together, we’re seeing usage in the field, etc. But Espressif can do that, since their wifi core is in their chip, whereas EMW3165 uses that Broadcom chip.

  7. I never thought I’d see BLE and WiFi in the same package. (It’s about price points: There’s not a lot of use cases that _require_ both radios, so I assumed very, very few products would splurge for having both.)

    It seems small, but I’m looking forward to being able to configure WiFi over BLE.

    1. There are a lot of single chip WiFi + BLE for the tablet/mobile market. Both of them uses 2.4GHz with different encoding/protocols, so they can certainly share the RF analog circuits + antenna.

      What is nice is the API for both are baked into the firmware. Unlike the TI part, the compiler is free and do not require a special programmer beyond a $1 serial dongle.

  8. 1 price???
    2 power consumption? is it any better than current one(without turning off radio for 300ms)? fine grained tx power control?
    3 dma for gpio?
    …..
    ..
    ..
    10 lower level access to radio stack? a lot of smart people could find new ways of utilising your chip if you let them hack away at the hardware level. At the very least raw 802.11 frames would be a start. Something easier than reading Tensilica disassembly in ida.

  9. The ESP8266 was/still is a nice chip but..

    1. SPI Slave mode never worked
    2. That 300mA surge on power on/tx was just a killer for small batteries

    I Dont really care for more memory/dual cores myself but I really hope they get these points addressed

    I have now use 433mhz tranceivers which are the same cost, easier to work with, better range and without the power overheads of wifi and the range issues of bluetooth, theres an extra layer to get onto the internet but at least that extra layer can be mains powered

    My 5c

  10. Hi guys
    i am happy for the ESP8632 alias “ESP32” with Core L108 from Tensilica. The 40nm CMOS node is same like ESP8266. My 5 ct will be, that different infos are here and there about RAM and GPIO and Package Size, so i will confuse here a little about my knowing :)

    I find little help to sort out this in John Lee and Teo Swee-Ann sweetys and postings.

    It thems that the ESP32 have Local 128 KB Instruction RAM and 2x 128 KB Data RAM for Local Data Ram0 from 0 – 128 KB and Local Data Ram1 from 0 – 128 KB, that near 400 KB RAM ( 384 KB ). The most Theme that is spoken is the 40 GPIO – i think there are 32 real GPIO for RTL, FIFO and Memory.

    My most interessting will be in the eMMC and crypted Flash. The QFN Factor is cheap and to solder easy way, the package is posted in QFN 48.

    I hope for an fairly price in jan 2016 for ESP8632 ( ESP32) under 2.00 USD, perhabs 1.80 USD. I think ESP8266 will be cheaper in this time perhaps 0.90 USD.

    I will let me be surprise and wait now after christmas for response – “yeaa get a beta board”. if so – i hope we have luck and we get one too :)

    happy coding!
    best wishes
    rudi ;-)

    btw, the chip layers are 50

  11. Thanks for the info rudi! I am most excited about NodeMCU making this chip into a “Node32” board. The people at NodeMCU and Smartarduino.com are a huge driving force when it comes to the esp8266 hobby market, so a big thanks to those guys!

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