CNX-Software, another cool embedded systems blog, posted a good comparison on the various low cost Wi-Fi modules that are currently available for the IoT hobbyist. The table compares couple of the ESP8266 form factors as well as TI’s CC3000 chip. The other two are the HDG204 from H&D Wireless and the RN-131 from Microchip.
We all know that the low price of the ESP8266 cannot be beat. Close to $4.xx for a wifi module, pffft. Selecting it is a no-brainer, but the caveat lies in the documentation and support for the chip. Before Espressif realized that there is a huge market for the chip, people were reverse engineering the command set to get it to work correctly. There are a few brave ones out there trying to get the ESP work without a master controller, which would really reduce part count. Not to forget – last month Espressif released it’s 1.1.o ESP8266 SDK under the MIT License which could increase adoption rate and reduce bug count.
The CC3000 is also slowly climbing up the IoT ladder. TI has now made it NRND*, replacing it with the much capable CC3100 and CC3200. They are a bit on the higher side and five pieces from Aliexpress retailing at ~$13.00 each. The MOD versions of the chips are Wi-Fi certified and come with detailed documentation as well as support.
Deciding on which Wi-Fi chip you wish to add to your design depends on the end product intent. If it is just playing around with IoT, the ESP8266 comes out a clear winner, but if the Wi-Fi chip is going to go into thousands of devices, things like detailed specifications, battery consumption graphs, certification details etc are a necessity. The CC3100/CC3200/CC3000 excel in these areas.
[* NRND- Not Recommended For New Designs. ]