Which is the "best" ESP-32?

  • Hero Member

    I know there are different version of ESP-32 out there, and I haven't followed the evolution of them at all because some of the early releases seemed half-baked. However, enough time has passed that hopefully by now the newer releases are fully baked and not an awkward work-in-progress. For that reason, I'm ready to finally try one now, but I have no idea which one to try or which ones to avoid. Some have dual processors, and some are just one processor. Are two processors really any better? Which model can use the least amount of battery current? Alternatively, which model can wake the fastest from a cold start (if, say, controlled by a trig board)? Is the bluetooth easy to use, or is it (like most things bluetooth) still overly complicated? In short, which one should I get, and why? Any suggestions and/or recommendations?

    I've used ESP8266 successfully as part of MQTT gateway devices (ESP-LINK has been a powerful resource for that purpose, but AFAIK it doesn't run on ESP32 and most likely never will). Is ESP32 meaningfully better as a gateway, or is it overkill? Is it more secure or less secure? Is it a game changer, or just meh? Is now the time to jump in, or is it still better to wait for an improved version to roll out?

  • @NeverDie I don't know. While I've added them to a couple of projects, I wasn't the one that ended up doing the programming, so I'm not as familiar with them.

    Though I thought that the options were either 2 or 3 cores. They usually only talk about the high speed ones, but there's also a low-power co-processor. This is not the one that the application usually runs on, but I think it can be used for doing some simple things while the main parts of the chip are asleep. This should open up some nice possibilities.

    As far as all your other questions, I just don't know. I think the idea of the multiple cores is that one can be dedicated to either wifi or bluetooth, allowing the other to run the application. But even the single core is able to do those, so maybe a large percentage of the single core is used up by radio housekeeping stuff, which would limit the useful application size/complexity?

    Once again, this is mostly from what I've picked up on the side, not directly programming them myself, so don't take any of this as gospel.

  • Hero Member

    My guess is that ESP32-C6 will be "best", because AFAIK (?) it will be the only one that's wifi-6 compliant, which means it includes Target Wake Time. It was announced in April, 2021, but seems not yet on the market. So, maybe I should just wait for that one. On the other hand, being their first entry into wifi-6, who knows if it will be full of bugs or not. Then again, for ESP-NOW, does wifi-6 capability even matter or mean anything? I'm guessing not. So, at least for ESP-NOW, maybe one of the current ESP-32's would be just as good?

    For that matter, will Wifi-6 with Target Wake Time largely obsolete ESP-NOW? I can imagine that it might. And, if so, maybe you wouldn't need a custom gateway but could instead leverage any wifi-6 compliant AP. Maybe you can see now why I'm having a hard time deciding. Although it can be fun to be bleeding edge, I lean toward best of class hardware that "just works" without hidden gotcha's that require workarounds.

  • @NeverDie Yeah, that's a whole lot of trade-offs to consider. I hadn't heard of the C6 variant. I believe the highest number I know of is only C3. But I would have to look up specs of any variant anyway, since I don't know by heart any of the meanings.

    I've heard rumblings of wifi-6 and its use cases for battery powered devices, but I haven't had anything to do with it, either on the engineering side or just as a consumer. Wouldn't you also need a compliant AP for it? That's the only way that makes sense to me, but I only know the faintest bit about it yet. I'm glad that more low-power options are being worked on and will be available, but until they're something I can get my hands on and have spent time with, I just don't always have enough time to read up on everything coming.

    Heck, I don't have time to finish half the projects I have going at the moment! 🙂

  • Hero Member

    @ejlane Yes, you'd need a wifi-6 apto take advantage of it. IMHO, it's worth upgrading: generally both better performance and better security, at least in my experience so far.

  • @NeverDie I'll have to do that next time I upgrade the wifi point. Now based on our chat I've started to look into them, and this might push me into doing an upgrade fairly soon. I see that quite a few of our end devices actually already support it, so I would be well served to swap the router over, too. I guess I had really lost track of the state of the art and thought most of our devices were in sync...

    What do you mean by better performance? Is that better bandwidth, or longer range, or something else?

    Thanks for the feedback on it! I really appreciate a first hand account!

  • Hero Member

    @ejlane I don't have concrete irrefutable evidence with links and citations, but it just seems to work better, faster, less laggy, better range and coverage. Having said that, it may just be that the new hardware that I happened to buy was better implemented than the older hardware that I purchased previously.... At any rate, the newer equipment uses the third, newer, more secure encryption scheme. Forgetting the name of it now but something like tk3-aes256 or something like that. From what I've read (and I'm no expert) the older schemes were cracked.

  • @NeverDie Oh, sorry, I wasn't trying to get proof or anything.

    I just was asking for your personal experience. Not doubting, just looking at them now and wondering how it had been for you. Do you mind saying which one you have that you are so happy with? I've been looking at different 'best' lists, and getting some conflicting info on them.

    I'd just like a little more input before buying one, but with seeing all the improvements, and how many devices we have that could use it, now I'm wanting to do it sooner rather than later.


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