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Announcing ESP32-C2 and Explaining Its Significance

Shanghai, China
Apr 29, 2022

If you need a small, simple and cheap SoC with robust connectivity, you must try ESP32-C2!

Today, Espressif (688018. SH) announces the release of ESP32-C2, which is a combo Wi-Fi 4 + Bluetooth 5 (LE) chip that was conceived during last year’s semiconductor supply shortages which -to a certain extent- persist even today. Hence, one of the most important goals for Espressif in creating this chip was to reduce its silicon area and the flash-size requirement. This is why ESP32-C2 has been designed to target simple, high-volume, low-data-rate, IoT applications, such as smart plugs and light bulbs.

ESP32-C2 is a chip in a 4mm x 4mm package, with 272 kB of memory. It runs frameworks, such as ESP-Jumpstart and ESP RainMaker®, while it also runs ESP-IDF. ESP-IDF is Espressif’s open-source, real-time operating system for embedded IoT devices, which has been trusted by users across the whole wide world. It is supported by Espressif and the community for all ESP32 chips. The ROM code of ESP32-C2 is optimized, as it reduces the need for flash.

Thus, if you need a small, simple and cheap SoC that is able to provide your application with robust connectivity, ESP32-C2 is the way to go. Besides, ESP32-C2 also continues the tradition of Espressif’s excellent security standards, having such features as secure boot and flash encryption, while also providing hardware root-of-trust for any application.

One of the unintended, yet positive, side effects of this design is that the fairly small package and chip enhance the RF performance, due to reduced parasitics. ESP32-C2 can transmit 802.11N MC7 packets (72.2 Mbps) with 18 dBm of output power. ESP32-C2 transmits at the full 20 dBm FCC limit for low data-rates. The typical receiver sensitivity is between -97 to -100 dBm for 1 Mbps 802.11B packets. The receive current is 58 mA.

Routers usually have better transmitters than client devices (here meaning devices connected to a router). However, client devices connected to ESP32-C2 can transmit as much output power as the router itself. (N.B.: We are not talking about multi-antenna routers here.) For most client devices, the output power of 20 dBm is supported for low-data-rate modes only. However, in the case of ESP32-C2, the output power of 20 dBm is also supported for some of the high data-rates, which therefore reduces transmission time and improves the overall connection quality, especially when many devices are being used.

The maximum distance is determined by the maximum power that the device can, or is allowed to, transmit at the lowest data-rate, i.e., 20 dBm at 802.11B 1 Mbps (or 19.5 dBm -and sometimes even lower- as per the FCC certification criteria). If your application needs to maximize the physical distance, as it happens with most applications, you should check out the receive sensitivity and transmit power (at 802.11B 1 Mbps) of the parts that you are using. ESP32-C2 takes full advantage of the allowed limits. Besides physical distance, larger bandwidths are helpful if you want to target audio applications.

Incidentally, the improvements in the RF performance will also be applied to ESP32-C6, which is a WiFi-6-and-Bluetooth-LE 5.2 IoT chip that is to be commercially available in late Q3/early Q4 2022.

The Matter Standard

The Matter standard is designed to run on any network stacks that support IP. In its forthcoming first release, Matter will support Wi-Fi, Thread, and Ethernet protocols.

The following are the pros and cons of using Matter Wi-Fi vs Matter Thread:

Wi-Fi Pros

  • Low latency, high throughput
  • Most applications can be supported due to the high availability of Wi-Fi routers.

Wi-Fi Cons

  • High power consumption, hard to support battery power
  • Without an additional mesh protocol, the network is limited in scale with only one hop.

Thread Pros

  • Low power, support for battery power
  • Support for mesh network (up to 250 devices)

Thread Cons

  • We need a Thread border router for everything to function. And we still need Wi-Fi connectivity (or some other form of network connectivity).
  • Low throughput, high latency

Since Wi-Fi is widely available in most places, the migration of existing Wi-Fi-based devices to the Matter Wi-Fi standard will most likely drive a large part of the early adoption of the Matter standard. For this reason, ESP32-C2, which is a low-cost, Wi-Fi chip supporting the Matter standard, is bound to be considered particularly valuable.

Getting Started

The ESP32-C2 series of chips currently includes the three different variants shown in the table below:

Variants in the ESP32-C2 Series of Chips

Please contact Espressif’s customer support team to request samples and build the most cost-effective IoT solution! If you also want to learn more about Espressif’s other products, please visit our official website to get all the details about our chips and modules. Alternatively, you can use our selection tool and choose with it the product that suits your project best.

For all the information about ESP-IDF, please check out our page on GitHub, and our documentation in English or in Chinese.

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