ESP8266: NodeMCU Dev Kit V1.0 Review

Do you like this post? A regular project like the PlaneSpotter Color takes many hours of my free time to develop and maintain. Would you offer me a beer for my hard work if I was your neighbour? Modern technology called teleportation makes it easy to send me a beer. Just click here. Thank you!

This post is due for a while now but I had so much fun actually using the NodeMCU that I totally forgot (or postponed) to write a review about it. So, let’s get started:

The new NodeMCU V1.0 Dev Kit module
Image Source: https://github.com/nodemcu/nodemcu-devkit-v1.0

The first “instalment” of the NodeMCU Dev Kit I reviewed had the version number 0.9. It was the first of its kind, since it came with an integrated USB-to-Serial converter and was fitting into a standard bread board. But both key features that would justify the higher price were tainted: at least on Mac OS X the USB-To-Serial converter did not really work well together with the standard tools, especially for firmware flashing.

While it was OK to flash it first with an external converter and then only use it to transfer files to the LUA firmware it was still a disappointment to me. The second problems was the size: it would cover all pins on both sides of the gap on a standard breadboard. This made it hard to connect it to other components. You could still use female connectors and leave the breadboard out in the first place but still, it was a design issue.

Size

It seems that the NodeMCU team learned a lot from the first version and also listened to the community feedback. The second instalment has the version number 1.0 and this truly reflects the maturity of the board. The size of the module has shrunk considerably, making it fit wonderfully in a breadboard: with a length of 48.5mm and a width of 25.6mm it fits also better in casings than the old version (47.1×30.6mm).

ESP8266 ESP-12E Module Riding Piggy-Back

The V0.9 version used the ESP-12 module which is a pretty common choice. For the new version the group around NodeMCU used the newer ESP-12E which comes 4MB of flash memory. This gives you a lot of space to store code and data. The interface to write to the memory also changed, which gave me some initial troubles until the “standard” tools were updated (read more here). Besides the upgrade in flash memory there seem to be more pins available. But I’m not sure to if and how these additional pins can be used. It looks to me as if the same amount of GPIO pins are available (see section below).

Serial-To-USB converter

As mentioned before the converter was a serious problem in the previous version.  The CH340 chip was not well supported, neither for Mac OS X nor by the tools. The new version comes with the CP2102 chip and it works really well and without hassle. Here is the dmesg output on Mac OS X:

com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::setPowerState - Waking up
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo - Part Number Found: 0x02
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo - UsbConfigurationDescriptor - 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .bLength = 9 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .bDescriptorType = 0x02 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .wTotalLength = 32 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .bNumInterfaces = 1 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .bConfigurationValue = 1 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .iConfiguration = 0 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .bmAttributes = 0x80 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::GetCP210xInfo     .MaxPower = 50 
com_silabs_driver_CP210xVCPDriver(.)::start - Sucessfully loaded the driver

A nice feature that I didn’t know/have before is that I don’t have to press the buttons or change jumpers anymore before flashing new firmware to the module. Together with the Arduino IDE this happens automagically. This saves you a lot of handwork when writing your code.

The Module Pin-Out

The available pins are very similar to other modules. It come in very handy that 3V3 and GND are available various times if you are operating on the “flying circuit”. There is also a Vin pin which takes +5V (according to the pin-out). I assume that it can take other voltage as well, because there is a LD33 chip on the module. If you know more about the range, please let me know.
The NodeMCU V1.0 pin out map.
Source: https://github.com/nodemcu/nodemcu-devkit-v1.0

Applications

I have been playing with the NodeMCU V1.0 for quite a while now and I have to say it makes a lot more fun than with the other available modules: less wiring, more coding, debugging, playing. I have used it together with the SSD1306 Oled 128×64 display on various occasions: first in a LUA based WeatherStation which has even been used in a beautiful 3D printed setup on Thingiverse (read more). 
3D printed case for NodeMCU, running my code (on the right side)
Then I have rewritten the hole code for the Arduino IDE and now I also have less problems with heap space running out. I could even attach two displays simultaneously and get an individual output for it.
Multi display output, driven by a NodeMCU V1.0

Summary

I can wholeheartedly recommend the NodeMCU V1.0 for you, especially if you are just getting started with the whole ESP8266 thing. It is relatively cheap, easy to use and beginner friendly. Later, when you are moving on to productising your idea you might focus on the ESP-12E directly and use that in your own design. For prototyping and beginners its just perfect!

Links  

Posted by squix78

51 comments

  1. Observation, you could pull the weather icons from the Weatherunderground server rather than host them yourself. I think they do-not apply any read quotas.

    Did embedding the icons in flash prove to be too great an overhead?

    1. Hi David. If I’m not mistaken these icons are from a 3rd party (which reminds me to put their credits up). So I’d have to host it somewhere anyway. I currently also only use uncompressed bmp format and I doubt that any reasonable person still has them around for normal use;-). And then: downloading has the advantage to be easier to change compared to embedding in the firmware… But it was a design decision. Comparing pros and cons…

    1. Hi Stephen. I plan to upgrade the plane spotter project to the color screen, so yes, it’s definitely possible. Just a question of time:-)

  2. Hi,

    I have a working esp8266 weather but the small LCD only.
    im trying this one as i have the exact LCD lying around. i saw the “settings.h” where values need to be changed. (i.e. wundeground API, country, city, etc).. the only one that i was not sure and I did not see any explanation was the ThingSpeak value.

    May i ask what is the purpose of the Thingspeak value? i tried to view it but I think its a private channel.

    Anyway, i uploaded it on NodeMCU and when i inspect the Serial monitor, i can get to the part where it downloads the pictures.
    Here is the last bottom lines on the Serial.
    There is a line that says “connection failed.”…. Im guessing it has something to do with the Thingspeak..or maybe something else..

    …….(lots of downloding lines here…………..)
    Downloading http://www.squix.org/blog/moonphase_L19.bmp and saving as /moon19.bmp
    Downloading http://www.squix.org/blog/moonphase_L20.bmp and saving as /moon20.bmp
    Downloading http://www.squix.org/blog/moonphase_L21.bmp and saving as /moon21.bmp
    Downloading http://www.squix.org/blog/moonphase_L22.bmp and saving as /moon22.bmp
    connection failed
    connection failed
    connection failed
    connection failed

    Loading image ‘unknown.bmp’
    File not found
    Loading image ‘/mini/unknown.bmp’
    File not found
    Loading image ‘/mini/unknown.bmp’
    File not found
    Loading image ‘/mini/unknown.bmp’
    File not found
    Loading image ‘/moon0.bmp’
    File not foundconnection failed
    connection failed
    connection failed
    connection failed

    1. Hi Glenn,
      The purpose of the Thingspeak channel is to display (say) your own local temperature and humidity. So I have an ESP8266 and BME280 sensor running that reports every 10-mins to thingspeak the current temperature and humidity in my garden. Therefore I provide the keys for my channel and it gets reported on the weather display. Ideally there would be a software (compile time) switch to remove that option.

  3. Please ignore the comment below.
    I was able to solve it. Apparently, the wifimanager didn’t connect successfully to my router, so i had to manually connect and put the static SSID and password.

    So its working now, yey! i can see the pictures and the icons properly.

    im still dumbfounded with the Thingspeak channel in the settings.h.
    May i know if that is really needed?

    1. Hi Glenn, I’m a program newbie and met same message from serial port, but I struggled for long time but cant overcome this issue, do you mind give me some suggestion?

      Thanks!

  4. Hi,
    Is there any chance regarding tutorial how to call bitmaps using WiFi connection?
    I want to prepare own set of icons but I don’t know how to use it in your script 🙁
    As well I have a question reagrding screen refreshing, as I see that is the issue when the time is updated and some pixels are not removed?
    Thanks in advance for help.
    Piotr

  5. Very impressive weather station, works great!
    If it could automatically update summer/winter-time, it would be absolutely perfect.
    Have fun with the beer 😉

  6. I was able to get this running, but wanted to mention a small issue I ran into. (Sounds like the same one Mike McRoberts references.) The bitmaps require more than 1M of SPIFFS, so if you were like me and had selected only 1M at compile time, you run out of space to download all of the bitmaps, and many of the moon-phase bitmaps will fail to download, or will be perhaps truncated or corrupted. I went back and changed to 4M (3M SPIFFS) in the IDE and was able to solve this. Still having a bit of overlay issues with the time updates, but as Daniel mentioned, the code may still need a little work.

    Thanks for all the effort on this…now to add some of my own tweaks!

  7. Hi Daniel,
    i tried to flash the script but i will receiving all the time the following error:
    *******************************
    In file included from esp8266-weather-station-color.ino:34:0:
    C:\Users\Jens\Documents\Arduino\libraries\esp8266-weather-station-color-master/WebResource.h:25:31: fatal error: ESP8266HTTPClient.h: No such file or directory
    #include
    ^
    compilation terminated.
    Fehler beim Kompilieren.
    *******************************
    I added the ESP8266HTTPClient-library to the Arduino 1.6.5 but there is still the same error.
    Do you have any idea what i can make that the script will runing?
    Jens

  8. Unfortunately Banggood.com are no longer stocking the 2.2 Inch Serial TFT SPI Display ILI9341 display! Can it be obtained from another supplier? Or can an alternative be used?

    I would like a bigger screen for my PlaneSpotter project so that I can enclose everything in a case with the lcd screen acting as a box top : )

  9. Dani, excellent! Built this over the weekend (preparing to teach another IoT class this week) and almost worked flawlessly (2.4″ TFT + Wemos D1 Mini). Couldn’t get the WifiManager to connect, tried a few different things then finally went manual mode. The 199: timeClient.updateTime(); would sometimes hang, changed the .h to use “us.pool.ntp.org” instead; didn’t do a lot of troubleshooting, was more in quick-fix mode. Maybe later this month I’ll try incorporating Neptune’s daylight savings code back into this (thanks btw for the link to that). PS will try to get some pictures with the kids doing projects over the session the next two weeks. Regards, Mike

    1. Mike, you stated that you changed the .h to use “us.pool.ntp.org”. What is the path/filename to that .h file?

  10. Dani,

    I’ve been adding some of my own enhancements to your original code for several weeks now, and thought I’d share some of my changes in case anyone was interested. I’ve posted these on GitHub if you’re interested…https://github.com/fowlerk/ESP8266-Color-Weather-Station-v8 .
    This version includes many enhancements to the displays (see the README on GitHub), along with Neptune’s enhancements for daylight savings time. The code could stand some clean-up, but otherwise seems to work well.

    Let me know what you think…I’ll post some photos of the displays when I get a chance.

    Keith Fowler

    1. Hi Keith

      You put some really nice things into the code! I knew that the WifiManager had this configuration UI feature but never got around to use it in my code. Now with your code I have a very nice example to use it;-). Thank you a lot for sharing! I just posted your fotos on Twitter and linked to your repository, I hope you don’t mind.

      I am working ATM on a 2.4″ display with touch. This would allow to switch screens or similar…

      Dani

      1. Dani…I don’t mind at all, in fact I’m honored. One thing to note, which I pointed out in the README on the repo, is that I have added a few fields over the past few months that may (or may not) have made it into the Weather Station library for the Weather Underground functions. Not sure how exactly to go about getting those into the master. (You may even be able to spot these on some of the displays.) I did not put those library changes up on the repo.

        I’d also had my eyes on those touch-screens and had similar thoughts on using them to control the screen displays. I’m anxious to see what you end up doing with it. Your projects always give me more ideas to try ;).

    2. keith, can you ples tell me what i need to download in the the IDE program to set this up there are so many files i do not know what one i need ! thansk

      1. Andrew…yes, sorry for not making this more clear in the documentation. I’ve (mostly) just used libraries that others have contributed and were already referenced in Dani’s examples, but you’re right that the list has gotten relatively long and may take some digging to find all the sources. Give me some time today and I will add the links to the documentation on my Github repository.

      2. I have updated the README on my repository with info on the contributed libraries and links to make it easier to find these. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  11. Hey Dani and Keith, I just tried this out a few days ago and love it. Just wanted to confirm that when I tried to use Keiths’ version, it failed to compile due to the changes in the Weather_Station library. I would really like to try out this version if one of you could point me at the correct library.
    This was my first project with an esp8266 and I am really surprised at how powerful and easy it is to use.

    Kevin

    1. Kevin…yes, sorry, I knew that would bite someone. I really wanted to get the changes merged into Dani’s master library rather than start off on another branch. In the interim, I have uploaded the two changed library files for the Weather Underground components to a separate folder on the repo if you want to download those to (temporarily) replace the original ones in the Weather Station library. That should allow it to compile. Let me know if that doesn’t work for you. Hopefully I’ll figure out the right (permanent) solution to address the changes soon.

      Keith

      1. Thanks for the update Keith,

        I got the new code and everything works great. Now I just have to figure out how to make it work with a bigger screen, maybe 7 inch. My eyes ain’t what they used to be. 🙂

        Kevin

        1. Glad you got it working Kevin…and I know what you mean about the old eyes! I’m right there with you. I’m torn between the compact size and being able to read all the data displayed without my glasses ;). Let me know if you find a bigger option that works well for a reasonable cost.

  12. Dani…just made a pull request on your repository to add some of the changes I had made to your Weather Underground library. Let me know if you have questions or issues.

  13. Dani, I just made another pull request for some new updates to the Weather Underground client library. These include changes to support some additional enhancements I have been working on recently that display weather alerts (as per the WU API call “/alerts”), as well as the addition of probability of precipitation (PoP). I have uploaded a new version to my repository on GitHub that shows these additional enhancements (see the README for further details), along with screenshots.

    As always, let me know if you have any questions or issues, and best wishes for the upcoming holidays!

  14. Hi Daniel. I don’t like the Ardunid IDE because of the lack of debugging with breakpoints. Therefore, I’ve just started with VisualGDB and JLink debugger and ESP8266. I have quite some difficulties.

    Do you have any experiences with VisualGDB?

    By the way: I am situated near Zurich and I like your projects! Great work!

  15. I have been having a lot of fun working through the examples with your weatherstation library. I bought your kit, which was an easy way to get started with the ESP8266.
    I am working through the WeatherStationDemoExtendedDST, for some reason updateData is not firing every 10 minutes. updateDHT is working fine, fires every minute.
    I think this is where the problem is, it isn’t setting readyForWeatherUpdate to true. However, it looks exactly the same as your other examples.
    if (readyForWeatherUpdate && ui.getUiState()->frameState == FIXED) {
    updateData(&display);
    }
    Thanks for any help.

  16. Figured it out. Apparently you can’t attach two events to a single ticker? I created two tickers, and now it works.
    tickerUpdateData.attach(UPDATE_INTERVAL_SECS, setReadyForWeatherUpdate);
    tickerUpdateSensor.attach(60, setReadyForDHTUpdate);

  17. I have problems getting it to run with Arduino 1.8.1, esp8266 2.3.0 board plugin and an SPI display. I have to slow down SPI to 250 kHz, otherwise I get all but pixel trash. But when I set OLEDDISPLAY_REDUCE_MEMORY I get a blank screen.

    Do you know of any problems with given setup? Can you recommend a good working combination of Arduino IDE, ESP plugin and SPI settings?

    1. I am a bit confused: which project are you referring to? The OLED Weather station or the color weather station which uses an TFT? Since you posted this in a Color Weather Station post I assume you are referring to the color code? But why then use the OLEDDISPLAY_REDUCE_MEMORY? Can you share a gist which shows your ino file?

      1. I’m sure, I posted that to “ESP8266: SSD1306 Oled Library Release”. 🙂

        Well, I’m just using your examples for the SSD1306 driver. Using a Wemos D1 mini R2 and “SSD1306Spi display(D0, D2, D8);”

        I had it working some weeke before. In the mean time I updated a lot of software, including IDE and board definitions.

        So, there are few choices left: the software combination I have is broken or D1 or display are broken.

        Can you or anyone else report that Wemos D1 mini R2, Arduino 1.8.1 and esp8266 2.3.0 are working with this SSD1306 library (unmodified)?

        Thank you!

        1. I’m still not sure, if my hardware or software combination is broken. But I finally got it all working. Key was reducing SPI speed. In SSD1306Spi.h we have a SPI.setClockDivider (SPI_CLOCK_DIV2), which means 8 MHz. It seems, the (just my?) display can’t handle that, I get mostly pixel garbage. If I reduce that to SPI_CLOCK_DIV64 (which means 250 kHz), it all works. I can even skip the yields() in SSD1306Spi.h’s display() routine. And I can get some speed back with replacing the SPI.transfer-loop for non-double-buffer cases with “SPI.writeBytes(buffer, sizeof(uint8_t) * DISPLAY_BUFFER_SIZE);”

  18. Thanks for making this template availble in the public domain. It has proven to be very valuable. As an improvemnet, would it be possible to have the NodeMCU pin assignment names on the PCB board, similar to the arduino one.

  19. I am having problems with the Weather Station. First screen (time) works well. Second screen says “N/A C”, Third scrren shows N/As, Fourth screen (temp, humid) works well. I have tried installing the latest github code and it doesnt solved the problem. Any tips?

  20. I have bought the Weather Station on Amazon. It came with a DHT11 in a board with a pull up resitor. I am following the pdf with instructions. When pluging this board, the figure at the pdf looks like inverted. My litthe dht board is (from left to right): data, vcc, gnd. It took me a while to figure out this. Also, by printing the read temp and humid values, I saw half of them come as nan. Any tip for improving this?

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