A little more than a year ago, the ESP8266 WiFi module showed up uneventfully in Seeed Studio’s store. Since then, the documentation has been translated to English, a proper development environment for this chip was created, and everybody is using this cheap but powerful chip for the latest Internet of Things things.
The company behind the ESP8266, Espressif, is not one to rest on their laurels, and for several months they’ve been working on the next generation of powerful WiFi-enabled tiny, cheap systems. They have their silicon, and already 200 lucky people have their hands on the very first test units of the ESP32, the next generation of Espressif’s WiFi chips. The teardowns have begun, and [LadyAda] streamed her initial experiments with the chip to the Intertubes (available below). [Martin] is also one of the guys who received these early beta chips, and he was kind enough to post his thoughts on Espressif’s newest chip.
A little bit of information on the ESP32 has dribbled out, and [LadyAda] and [Martin]’s demo unit confirm all we’ve suspected. There are two Tensilica L108 processors running at up to 160MHz, a lot of peripherals including ADCs, DACs, I2C, SPI, I2S, and PWM, more RAM, AES and SSL for security, and Bluetooth Low Energy. WiFi has also been upgraded, and the ESP32 will support speeds up to 150 Mbps.
The beta units that were handed out to developers are actually Espressif’s in-house development units labelled ESP31B, and the form factor of the current board isn’t confirmed as what will ship. These beta units are boards with castellated pads with a 1.27mm pitch; this isn’t exactly a user-friendly package, and people have already destroyed beta boards.
While the features are great, Espressif has said the ESP32 is not a replacement for the ESP8266. They’re different markets, and if you just wanted to add WiFi to a project, there’s no reason not to choose the ESP8266.
With this new chip comes a lot of new possibilities. The folks at Espressif are doing a lot of experimenting with their internal beta version (ESP31). [Sprite_tm] is working for Espressif, too, so you know there’s going to be some very cool demo projects, like a Sega Master System emulator, with video. This is just a port of the SMSPlus emulator to the ESP31, with the LCD being driven at 15fps over SPI. All the code for this is available over on Github.
With cool new hardware comes the obvious question: when will it be released? That question is hard to answer, but the best guess is, “soonish”. This chip is coming though, and when it’s released it will put a lot of processing power, WiFi, and Bluetooth into a lot of projects. It’s already shortlisted as the best new chip of 2016, but other than that, there’s not much more information.