ESP32 – mixed feelings

 My ESP32 boards: LOLIN32 Pro, LOLIN32 Lite, LOLIN D32 and LOLIN D32 PRO 

After a false start with ESP32 (my LOLIN32 Pro had an overheating CP2102 chip*), I’m gradually becoming more familiar with ESP8266’s big brother. However, experience with 4 different boards (all with rev. 1 chips) still leaves me with mixed feelings. My personal balance so far:

Pros:

  • The specs and features are impressive, especially given its low price
  • Control over its two cores via FreeRTOS works great
  • It has a fair number of GPIOs (unlike the ESP8266)
  • Sketches run very fast. Great for my fractal sketches!
  • No longer needs yield() commands to prevent it from crashing

Cons:

  • It’s sensitive to solderless wiring (probably because of its high bus speeds)
  • The 4 different boards I tried all had problems feeding power-hungry peripherals
  • I’m experiencing some unexplicable issues, especially when driving TFT displays

Tips for troubleshooting:

  • Provide your ESP32 with enough power. Some USB outlets will not deliver enough juice, especially not through low quality USB cables
  • Use an external power supply for power-hungry connected devices, otherwise (at least) SPI may become unstable
  • Consider using contact spray for unstable solderless projects
  • Don’t use heavily used breadboards
  • Never use a hammer (though working with ESP32 can be frustrating…)

So will my ESP8266 boards start gathering dust from now on? Certainly not before I manage to run a turbo version of my beloved What’s Up sketch on the ESP32. I just can’t wait to watch those plane icons slide more smoothly over the map. Bodmer’s TFT_eSPI library offers enough speed for that, but I keep having issues with it when used in the What’s Up sketch on ESP32.

* The issue was reportedly caused by a design flaw. After I had received a LOLIN32 Lite for replacement, I discovered that using a longer USB cable (2+ meter) fixed the problem!