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Which ESP32 SoC to buy? ESP32 S2,S3,C3,C5,C6,H2...

The ESP32 line of electronic products has become a mainstream platform for makers & industrial applications. But, in the last few years, Espressif have been releasing a ton of different application-specific ESP32 SoCs. So much so that it has become super confusing to choose the right Espressif SoC for your application.

  1. ESP32-H2

  2. ESP32-C3, C5, C6

  3. ESP32-S2, S3

In this blog we solve this confusion once and for all! We will obviously not cover the normal ESP32 variant.

Let's start with the ESP32-H2. ESP32-H2 is the first ESP32 Chip that started to embrace other wireless protocols. On top of WiFi & BLE connectivity it adds Thread and Zigbee protocols available. Furthermore, the combined availability of ZigBee and BLE connectivity enables building devices for the Matter protocol, which intends to bring interoperability for smart-home devices across different ecosystems. Also, this SoC comes with an integrated DC-DC converter that enables ultra-low-power, energy-efficient operation. Thus, ESP32-H2 is best suited for the following applications.

  • Smart-Connected Devices from Different Ecosystems.

  • Thread border routers/Zigbee Gateways /Matter Border routers

  • Ultra - low power industrial applications

Now let's talk about the 3 SoCs in the ESP32-C Series. Namely ESP32 C5, C6 & C3. ESP32-C3 is a single-core Wi-Fi and BLE 5 SoC, based on the open-source 32-bit core RISC-V. This is the first RISC based SoC from Espressif, and the key aim was to be a replacement for ESP8266. It is multiple times more secure than ESP8266, It supports BLE 5 with long Range mode support; It consumes way less power, larger memory and more stable support with ESPIDF than ESP8266. Espressif claims it's super easy to migrate from ESP8266 to ESP32-C3. So now the potential applications are.

  • Upgrade existing ESP8266 line-up of products you already sell

  • Consider this over ESP8266 if you are building Smart Home or Smart Office products

Now let's look at the ESP32-C6. It's just ESP32-C3 on steroids. Well on steroids in terms of connectivity, I mean. The ESP32-C3 has Wi-Fi 4 while the ESP32 C6 replaces that with Wi-Fi 6 capabilities while maintaining backward compatibility. It's already certified by Wi-Fi Alliance out of the box. That is one less thing to worry about for a developer. WiFi 6 is faster, low power, secure, reliable, and more devices can be connected at the same time, which is essential for IoT. So now the potential applications are.

  • Creating Future Proof Smart Devices

  • Industrial Applications where a lot of devices are involved

Next let's look at ESP32-C5. ESP32-C5 is Espressif’s 1st Dual Band + WiFi 6 MCU ESP32-C5 packs a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 radio, along with the 802.11b/g/n standard for backward compatibility. ESP32-C5 is already supported on Espressif’s open-source ESP-IDF. Furthermore for people who would like to use ESP32-C5 as just a communication co-processor with an external host, ESP-AT and ESP-Hosted SDKs are also available. ESP-AT provides a simple AT command-based interface, whereas ESP-Hosted provides a standard 802.11 interface for Linux hosts. ESP32-C5 is not meant to be used as the main microcontroller for your project. So now the potential applications are.

  • To add WiFi 6 & Dual Band Capabilities to your existing Project

  • As a communication co-processor with an external host

Finally lets look at the two ESP32 SoCs in the S series. The ESP32 S Series is like a direct upgrade to the mainstream ESP32 lineup. The upgrades include Faster Processor Architecture, More Security, & On chipAI Capabilities. Let's look at the ESP32 S2 SoC first. The ESP32-S2 is a low-power, single-core Wi-Fi SoC, designed to be secure and cost-effective, with a high performance and a rich set of IO capabilities. The ESP32 S2 comes with a more powerful RISC-V Based ULP Coprocessor along with the newer Single Core Main Processor. The lack of a dual-core processor is somehow balanced by the faster single-core LX7 Architecture core. ESP32 S2 is also capable of dynamically turning off the Wi-Fi when not in use to save power. These 2 features make it highly energy efficient. It also provides a lot of new hardware-based security features. So where can ESP32S2 be used? If your application does not need the power of dual cores to do FreeRTOS, but would benefit a lot from the cool security and power features of S2, you can replace the ESP32 with an ESP32 S2. So in a way Just like how ESP32 C3 is a replacement for ESP8266, ESP32 S2 aims to be a replacement for ESP32.

Now lets finish off by discussing the ESP32 S3. ESP32 S3 is specifically aimed at AIoT Products. It's an upgraded ESP32 S2 with dual-core processor Xtensa 32-bit LX7 clocked at up to 240 MHz, and features AI vector instructions, as well as a reliable security encryption engine. Developers can take advantage of these vector instructions through ESP-DSP and ESP-NN libraries to optimise their applications. ESP-WHO and ESP-Skainet SDKs will also support this acceleration. The ESP-32-S3 series modules can also handle high-speed Octal SPI flash & PSRAM making AI applications much smoother. Use cases include:

  • Offline Voice Recognition Applications

  • Computer Vision Application

  • Wake Word Detection applications

  • Multi Dimensional Human Machine Interface

I hope this blog has give you more clarity to choose the right ESP32 for your application.

For Video Version of the above Blog Check out the link below: (Note. ESP32-C5 is not covered in this video as it was released later)

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