The ESP8266 and ESP32 are both microcontrollers developed by Espressif Systems, and they are designed for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. However, they have some key differences that make them suited to different kinds of projects.
- Smaller form factor and lower cost compared to the ESP32
- Has a single core, 80 MHz microcontroller
- Offers a smaller memory size of around 80 KB of SRAM
- Has limited GPIOs (General Purpose Input/Output)
- Offers 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity
- Lower power consumption compared to the ESP32
- Larger form factor and higher cost compared to the ESP8266
- Has dual core, 160 MHz microcontroller
- Offers larger memory size of around 520 KB SRAM
- Has more GPIOs, making it more suitable for more complex projects
- Offers 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi connectivity
- Higher power consumption compared to the ESP8266
In summary, the ESP8266 is well-suited for simple IoT projects where cost and size are the primary concerns, while the ESP32 is a better choice for more complex projects that require more memory, processing power, and connectivity options.
The ESP8266 is what I started with for controlling my home Christmas lights. I flashed them with the WLED project and they worked great… until they didn’t. As my home automation system got more complicated, the Christmas light status was being displayed on various dashboards and were linked to multiple automations… sunset, on before the bus came and off again at sunrise. It turns out that the ESP8266 can get easily confused if it gets polled too frequently. Once confused it will disconnect from the network for awhile and at some future point in time re-connect. This is not ideal for something that is supposed to be controlling your Christmas lights. What if you need to quickly turn them to red and blue because the Patriots won a game, or have them twinkle during the first snow fall. Useless if you open your home automation app and find out the lights are offline.
As a cheap stand alone controller that you don’t reference that often, they are great, however for a few dollars more I recommend going with the ESP32 above. The ESP32 has more memory, a faster processor, and I have yet to see my lights go offline.
These are cheap controllers at around $18 for three but for the difference, I would recommend going with the ESP32.
The ESP32 is versatile controller with many different uses. I also have three of them. One is controlling the Christmas lights on the house. One is controlling the Christmas lights on the shed. The third is sitting on my desk taunting me to start a new project and put it to use.
There are many sites that can provide you with ideas on what to do with these. https://randomnerdtutorials.com/projects-esp32/ has a list of 160+ such projects.The software that I use for my Christmas Lights is from AirCookie and is called WLED. Their website is https://kno.wled.ge/ . I also will be creating a page to talk about the Christmas Light project using these controllers.