ESP8266: ESP-201 breakout board review

ESP32 Development Board WiFi+Bluetooth Ultra-Low Power Consumption Dual Cores ESP-32 ESP-32S Board
Integrated antenna and RF balun, power amplifier, low-noise amplifiers, filters, and power management module. The entire solution takes up the least amount of printed circuit board area. This board is used with 2.4 GHz dual-mode Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips by TSMC 40nm low power technology, power and RF properties best, which is safe, reliable, and scalable to a variety of applications.

Today finally a new package from China arrived containing an ESP8266-ESP201 bought on aliexpress. I had ordered two pieces and each came in a little plastic bag and stuck in protective foam. The bag also contained a tiny antenna that can be plugged into the connector on the board.

Pin layout to your convenience: when plugged into a breadboard
you cannot read the labels on the lower side of the PCB
Please Note: GPIO15 remains connected even after flashing

Board

I ordered the ESP-201 board because I was looking forward to finally own an ESP8266 module which was compatible with my bread board. Annoyingly the connectors for power supply and serial connection are placed in a way which by default doesn’t fit into a normal breadboard. You can however use pliers to bend the four pins in a 90 degree angle so that you can attach the connectors right to it (see picture):
ESP8266 ESP-201: bend TX, RX, 3.3V and GND
pins to fit the module into a bread board
Another annoying design mistake is that the labels for most of the pins are on the bottom side of the PCB. You can’t read the labels when the module is sitting on the bread board. Because of this I drew up the pin layout above. I hope it will help you…
The bottom side of the ESP201. As
you can see, the pins are nice labeled,
just on the wrong side

Flashing Firmware

It took me a while until I figured out that I also had to connect GPIO15 to ground in order to get the board running. After that flashing worked fine and I could transfer the NodeMCU firmware without further problems to the chip.

Available Pins

It seems that all the usual pins are available. See this table here for mapping from the labels on the bottom of the field to the once often used in forums and other sources: https://github.com/esp8266/esp8266-wiki/wiki/Pin-definition
Especially noteworthy is the availability of the T_OUT pin which is the analog-digital-converter (ADC). I’m not 100% sure what the D0,D1, D2 and D3 pins are for. It might be that the are used for the SDIO mode, where you boot from a SD card.

Antenna

The board appears to have a built-in antenna but also offers a connector to the antenna that came with the package. The following table shows the average signal strength of (anonymized) access points in my neighbourhood after running the wifi.sta.getap command on the lua firmware 100 times. Once with the external antenna and once without:
# of access point listedavg signal strength [dbm]
w/ ext antennaw/ow/ ext antennaw/o
AP-110097-70-82
AP-29318-88-92
AP-320-92n/a
AP-4941-86-94
AP-540-93n/a
AP-6160-89n/a
AP-79997-80-84
AP-8190-91n/a
AP-950-92n/a
AP-10100100-31-32
AP-11100100-31-32
AP-129887-89-91
AP-13400-92n/a
AP-1440-91n/a
AP-1510-91n/a
AP-16160-93n/a
AP-17130-93n/a
AP-188192-89-92
AP-19220-90n/a
AP-204738-91-92
AP-219975-78-89
AP-229587-81-89
AP-2360-90n/a
As you can see, 12 access points were not even visible without the external antenna. All others had significantly worse signal strength without antenna. I realize that this test is not highly scientific but it might give you an idea how valuable the external antenna is.

Chip

My two boards are equipped both with the newer ESP8266EX chip. If anybody knows what the difference is to the version without “EX” please let me know. Nodemcu’s node.info() returns these values:
flashisizeflashmodeflashspeed
512040000000

Quality

The board looks well processed but one of the two pieces came with pins not 100% perpendicular to the PCB. However, this doesn’t affect usage since both rows of pins are equally skewed.

Summary

If you don’t mind adapting some of the pins with pliers you get a great test board for a really good price (I paid $4.69, by now it’s even cheaper). Once adapted the module fits nicely into a bread board and you have one row of connectors left on each side of the board. It is a pity that the pins are only labeled on the bottom side but that might be changed in the future. However, for a price only slightly higher than a ESP-01 it is a pretty good module and has many pins more broken out as well. Especially the ADC offers new possibilities for experimentation. Just remember that the ADC measures values between 0 and 1V. The external antenna and the connector on the board is another aspect on the plus side. It is quite impressive how much more sensitivity this 15cm wire yields.

Links

 

Related Products:

FT232RL FTDI USB To TTL Serial Converter Adapter Module For Arduino

$3.55 Read more

ESP8266 ESP-12F Remote Serial Port WIFI Transceiver Wireless Module

$3.99 Read more

ESP8266 ESP-201 Remote Serial Port WIFI Transceiver Wireless Module

$5.45 Read more

Posted by squix78

26 comments

  1. Hello Dani,
    cool thing and a rather fascinating story! If I did not already have one kit I would order one…
    But one thing: On the label stuck on the bag is written “NodeMCU V3” but in the text description you write “NodeMCU V1”.
    Perhaps you can sync this?
    Best regards and successful business!
    Thomas

  2. Hi Daniel;

    Awesome! I got my kit and I loaded up the WeatherStation sketch and everything was working 🙂

    I then went on to add the DHT11 code and that’s when things stopped working. I suspect the firmware was over written or something bad … bricked I suspect.

    From the Arduino IDE …

    warning: espcomm_send_command: didn’t receive command response
    warning: espcomm_send_command(FLASH_DOWNLOAD_BEGIN) failed
    error: espcomm_upload_mem failed
    error: espcomm_upload_mem failed

    I then went on to try and reflash the NodeMCU firmware using ESP8266Flasher.exe … from there I get ..

    Note:Serial port connected.
    Note:Begin find ESP8266.
    Note:ESP8266 ACK success.
    Note:ESP8266 ACK success.
    Error:Set ESP8266 Address timeout.

    Similar problems directly from the esptool

    c:\Python27\Scripts>esptool.py –port com5 write_flash -fm dio 0x00000 nodemcu_integer_0.9.5_20150318.bin
    esptool.py v1.2.1
    Connecting…

    A fatal error occurred: Timed out waiting for packet header

    … in fiddling around the board is alive .. it does send this out the serial port at 75K baud… could it be a baud rate issue? I assume not as I understand it’s autobaud detecting.

    ets Jan 8 2013,rst cause:2, boot mode:(3,7)

    Questions –

    o Do you have any suggestions on next steps?

    o Could it be power? I gather power is important for FTDI boards but the NodeMCU has the 3v3 regulator and it’s running off a PC with “good” USB current .. and it did work fine before it did not 😉

    o I’ve had no success in pressing the RST and FLASH buttons — I as I understand them, the RST/CTS lines put the board into to bootloader mode at any rate .. thoughts?

    … thoughts?

    1. Hi David

      Here sone thoughts
      – try another USB cable, the can be reason for your symptoms
      – try another USB port or restart your PC (or Mac?) I had situations where my Mac would only show the device after a restart
      – unplug the DHT11. Maybe your wiring is wrong and you accidentally switched VCC and Ground. Not sure about the longterm effects of such a switch. Such a switch was actually the only way I could ever brick an ESP8266

      If these tips don’t help feel free to get back to me

      Cheers, Dani

      1. Thanks Daniel —

        I’ve tried multiple USB cables and multiple USB ports (Windows).

        I did go back to just the bare board .. no display and no DHT11.

        I’m now trying to see it the ESP AT command set even works … and no luck there yet. I do get this when I press the reset button so it is alive a least a bit 😉

        ets Jan 8 2013,rst cause:2, boot mode:(3,7)

        but nothing in response to AT ….

        ??

        Cheers David

        1. According to this post it might have to do something with your reset pin: http://www.esp8266.com/viewtopic.php?p=2096#p2112
          I’m not sure what that means;-).
          With which baud rate are you trying to flash the ESP? I your example from your last comment you did auto-sensing, right? Try to use a fixed lower rate like like 115200 or 57600. It often is something like the “-b” parameter.

          When you say you went back to the AT firmware: so did you manage to flash the AT firmware? After flashing the ESP8266 with the new firmware the AT binary has been replaced…

  3. Thanks Daniel — I just received another NodeMCU board as I’ve wasted enough time on the dead one 😉 If I manage to get the dead one working again, I’ll let you know.

    HNY, David

  4. Thanks Daniel, You sent me a trial kit and I purchased 2 others from Amazon. Some minor problems (outlined in Bryan Miller’s comments on Amazon). it works great but I still could use a fix to be able to get the screen to reverse from top to bottom your current variable didn’t work.

    I also located a free case plan that I had 3D printed and it fits and looks good. I found a local printer and picked it up today ($9) and it was a good fit, BUT the pins to hold the OLED were slightly out of register. I think I’ll have to cut them off and tape or glue the display in place. There is a ledge for it to fit in so i don’t think that will be a problem. I’m going to get another one printed for my local (Grand Rapids , MI USA) and I sent the plans off to my son in Atlanta, GA USA for him to use. I built the Squix kit with them over our Thanksgiving Holiday and now it will have a much better case than the plastic box it came in. Thanks for your good work and I did send off a tip. This case fits the slightly smaller SQUIX version of ESP8266 -12E.

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1720314 for the plans

  5. I have my kit, and am following the directions, but even after 4 cable swaps, verifying all setting from the getting started guide, and checking my IDE for errors, I cannot seem to get a valid up load.

    The error I encounter is espcomm_upload_mem failed;

    Now I verified that the chip on the board shows a CP2102, so that is the USB driver I installed;
    I restarted my computer (windows 10) to ensure driver is loaded;
    I see a com3 show up when I apply power with the USB cable, so that is the port i chose;
    I loaded the libraries as indicated, and select the board nodeMCU 1.0

    I also updated from the 1.6 to the 1.8 arduino IDE too;

    I am lost to what else I can do to get the base sketch uploaded?

    1. Hi. From distance it indeed sounds like you did everything fine. On one hand it is a good sign that the COM port shows up is a very good sign, it means that you have the correct driver installed. On the other hand there are reports of problems with the CP2102 on Windows 10. Could you check please if you have the latest driver? See these forum posts:
      http://community.silabs.com/t5/Interface/cp210x-USB-to-UART-driver-problems-windows-10-code-31/td-p/146924
      http://community.silabs.com/t5/Interface/Windows-10-VCP-Driver-Now-Available/m-p/161629
      Feel free to contact me again if that should not solve the problem, please also let me know if it does so I can adjust the instructions…

      Regards,
      Daniel

      1. Daniel,

        I did download from that site the latest drivers, then I un-installed and re-installed just to be safe. That did not cure it, but I also think you have pointed me in the right direction, I duplicated the installation on an adjacent windows 10 computer and have the same result. Both computers can reach an Arduino UNO with no problem (from the same USB port), so I will continue to explore the device drivers. Thanks for your response! Once I resolve this, I will advise you for your documentation.

        Regards,

        Bruce

        1. Daniel, happy to report that the drivers with Windows 10were fine. Unfortunately the nodeMCU appears to be bad. I ordered a couple more of these and they came in todays’ mail; I plugged one in to the windows 10 system and it fired right up tonight. Now I can add the sensor and the oled and play, woo-hoo!

          Thanks again for your quick response!

          Bruce
          Kentucky, USA

  6. Only ever been using 8266 as a wifi board for an arduino. This sounds much more interesting.
    I really want to buy your handy box, but I live in Sweden. Any chance of finding way for us Europeans?

    1. Hi again,
      I now noticed that you also had your own shop. Order is now completed. Please disregard the above. Thanks.

    1. Very nice. I was hoping that the winds could be included and looks like you nailed it with an arrow and value. Still waiting for my color display in the mail so can’t wait to see how it works.

    2. Am having trouble compiling your code, keep getting the following error:
      Arduino: 1.8.1 (Windows 10), Board: “NodeMCU 1.0 (ESP-12E Module), 160 MHz, 115200, 4M (3M SPIFFS)”

      Build options changed, rebuilding all
      C:\Users\Danny\Documents\Weather Station Bodmer\esp8266-weather-station-color-masterbodmer\esp8266-weather-station-color-master\esp8266-weather-station-color\esp8266-weather-station-color.ino:44:58: fatal error: TFT_ILI9341_ESP.h: No such file or directory

      #include // Hardware-specific library

      ^

      compilation terminated.

      exit status 1
      Error compiling for board NodeMCU 1.0 (ESP-12E Module).

      This report would have more information with
      “Show verbose output during compilation”
      option enabled in File -> Preferences.

      I have all the libraries loaded, but still cannot determine why I am getting this compile error. I have set up the display wiring according to your example.
      Thanks,
      Danny

      1. Bodmer thanks for your post on the fork of Daniel weather station color. I must have had some garbage in my IDE folder, have corrected the problem and have your version up and running. Thanks again to you and Daniel.

  7. Hi, there! considering the shortage on IL9431 display (even Banggood) and some vendors sending IL9225 (176×220) to anyone, is someone worked/working or willing to work on porting the code to use such display even sacrificing some graphic features? I can start to work from zero but my time availability is so short that to the time of progress it will be too late or other more thrilling things will be out there.

    1. This is an issue introduced with an update to the Adafruit ILI9341 library I believe. Try reverting back to a previous version (1.0.2 worked I think). I ran into this a month or so ago and it took the better part of a day to track it down. The issue may have been fixed recently, but I haven’t tried the most recent release of the library.

  8. Funny. I just two boards of which I think are ESP-01s. I can’t understand the comment about shorts in a breadboard. Their 8-pin connectors have 2.54mm or 0.1″ pitch. So they’ll fit well into a common breadboard.

  9. I uploaded the World Clock demo an hour ago and noticed at 10:30pm CDT it was showing New York time as 15:30. What caused this? Where is the time zone (+ or – hours from UTC, and DST enable/disable) information set? Now as I type this at 11:40pm, it is now showing NY time as 00:40. What happened to correct the NY time (I assume the other world times were and still are correct)?

  10. Hello, I’ve tried the trick to power the screen through the digital pin and I’ve run into trouble : my wemos was not able to communicate by serial link anymore. Moreover, the final size is so small that the USB cable is heavier than it and I’ve difficulties to maintain the whole assembly on my desk, turned to my direction.

Leave a Reply