Particle photon vs ESP 32


#1

Hello everyone

I recently purchased a particle photon and started using it to control a portable weather station. My design requires bluetooth communication of the environmental data such as temperature, humidity, pressur etc and I decided to use an external bluetooth module, probably a BLE, to allow my station to communicate to a mobile application such as Blynk.
But whilst researching Blynk compatibility with the Photon I came across the ESP 32 Thing microcontroller with built in wifi and Bluetooth capabilities and it is cheaper than the photon.
Before I proceed further with my design I wanted to know what advantages does the photon have over the ESP 32 Thing.


#2

Hey there Alli,

Thanks for finding the community and posting the question! I’m a Particle employee so am obviously biased, but would be happy to give you some honest information to help you make the best choice for your project.

On the hardware side, if bluetooth is a requirement, the Photon probably isn’t the best tool for this job. I’d recommend one of two other options from our hardware portfolio that meet your criteria of Wi-Fi + Bluetooth (making it comparable to the ESP32):

  • The RedBear Duo. The Duo is a Wi-Fi + BLE product that is one of our “compounds”, meaning it was produced by a third party company (RedBear) but still works with all of Particle’s software services (which I’ll discuss below). We loved RedBear product’s so much we actually acquired them – it’s a great product that will likely serve your needs today.

  • The Argon. The Argon is one of the hardware products from our new Particle Mesh portfolio that is in many ways a successor to the Photon and to the RedBear Duo. It isn’t available until October, but includes some awesome features like Adafruit Feather form factor as well as Wi-Fi / Mesh / Bluetooth 5 (longer range, higher bandwidth) connectivity. You could use BT5 to connect your peripheral sensors, or you could use the included Mesh radio, which is going to be more robust than Bluetooth for connecting your wireless sensors.


As similar or different as the hardware solutions are, however, the real difference between the Photon and the ESP32 is the software that comes with the Photon (and all other Particle development kits).

Whereas the ESP32 is a piece of hardware, the Photon is an entire IoT development platform that includes integrated development tools for writing code, a pre-integrated Cloud for messaging and security, out of the box OTA firmware updates, complete reference documentation and learning examples, and a web based IDE.

On top of all of that, we’ve got one of the largest and most helpful developer communities in the game, so if and when you hit a snag there are tons of individuals who would be happy to contribute their knowledge to get you back up and running.


Again, a biased opinion, but I hope it helps you as you make your decision! The ESP32 is definitely a powerful piece of hardware, but in our experience building connected products is so much more about the full set of tools that you have at your disposal (hardware, firmware, software, information) and less about the nitty-gritty specs of the hardware.


#3

The RedBear Duo, cant hold a candle to what the ESP32 can do or offer, let alone come close in price. With Dual cores, 240MHZ, more ram, flash, and more peripherals.

@will is correct in saying: “our experience building connected products is so much more about the full set of tools that you have at your disposal”

My dream is to see Particle will come out with their own ESP32 board. That would be one dream come true!!!


#4

I’m trying to figure out if you’re being funny…?
Perhaps you’re serious? If so, then your dream has come true, because the Argon part in Particle’s new mesh product line is built on the ESP32.


#5

I am real serious. The Argon part does not use the ESP32 as the main processor, so because of this is not a legit ESP32 board. When they make a Photon style board with a ESP32 in the center then it will be legit.


#6

@RWB Here we go again. Particle chose to use the nordic chip on all the mesh boards so that they are more consistent.


#7

Ya, lets not start this again. I was just expressing how awesome it would be if Particle made that, and that the Argon is not an ESP32 platform.


#8

Agreed


#9

Besides, I seen that cat way to many times. :wink:


#10

I don’t want to start or be a part of any drama…but I love the ESP32. We had been working with various models of the ESP8266 and immediately switched when we found the ESP32. This thing is a beast with the available resources. Since you can use the regular Arduino development environment, it took about an hour to feel comfortable programming the board. It also allows OTA although I haven’t tried it yet.

At the moment I’m testing an ESP32 connected to an RFM69 radio so I effectively have my 802.11 wireless and my local RF radio network. I guess most folks would call that a meshed network since I can run the RadioHead software which has supported various forms of meshed networking for a long time.

Just stating fact, not opinion.


#11

@will @seulater @nrobinson2000 @paulm @syrinxtech
Thank you everyone for your input and advice i will keep it in mind when deciding which is the most suitable platform for this particular project.


#12

Folks, the Photon is not a panacea. However, if you want to design a product quickly that you want to deploy effortlessly and manage using Cloud services, then it is the correct device for you. The number of enterprises that have used both the Photon and Electron is staggering. There no question that the ESP32 is an amazing device and I hope that Particle’s experience with it on the Argon will convince them to use it in an ESP32-only device in the future. When you evaluate a device for suitability in your application, make sure you consider all factors. Particle is highly innovative and their present and future solutions continue this trend. :wink:


#13

i’d say that it depends on if you need the particle cloud. if you do then photon. if not, then anything else that works.


#14

Folks! What would be truly helpful if you could compare the specs for Particle’s product most comparable to ESP32 so “we” could have a proper benchmark. For some, who are well-versed in ESP32 applications with webserver etc., it will be hard to value the benefits of Cloud and IoT ecosystem that comes with Particle products. For others it will be a determining factor justifying the price difference. Either way a side-by-side benchmark will be useful.

Peace!


#15

I find this request a bit weird, I must say. The stand-out feature of an esp32 is Wifi. The only 3rd gen particle product with Wifi is the Argon. The Argon contains an esp32 for the Wifi portion. So it’s strictly a superset :-).

In my experience, bluetooth on the esp32 is not as well developed as on the nRF microcontrollers. So it may have the features you need or it may not. The esp32 doesn’t do Mesh last I looked, but that may change. The various peripherals on the nRF5 are in general better than on the esp32, but what that’s worth depends on your use-case. You can buy a smattering of esp32 boards and modules, you can only buy one Argon dev board and soon one Argon module. The esp32 doesn’t come with any cloud support, the value of that depends on your use-case and appetite.
Unless you specify a use-case any comparison ends up being pretty meaningless IMHO.


#16

FYI:
The ESP32 does MESH.
https://www.espressif.com/en/products/software/esp-mesh/overview


#17

Very funny! :smile: Strictly speaking, you are totally correct! :joy: Even the esp8266 does Mesh! :sunglasses: … but … it’s using the Wifi radio with a proprietary protocol in order to set-up a mesh network. Has nothing to do with Bluetooth or Thread or 802.15.4. Whether that’s useful or not, YMMV.


#18

I was in love with the Photon 1.5 years ago. It was my goto product for everything we made and it is a great product. No argument here with that. The following are just my opinions and is not at all to say the Photon or any other Particle product is not worthy of your next project.

When i started playing with the ESP32 I quickly switched over to it, and now its all we use. I don’t see why one would need to a comparable benchmark. There are 2 cores running at 240MHZ, Flash up to 16MB, 4 MB external PSRAM(optional), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.2 BR/EDR and BLE specification, IPv4, IPv6, SSL, TCP/UDP/HTTP/FTP/MQTT… the list goes on and on. There is no reason to compare the two, its crushes the Photon.

Now having said that, it is true what others have said. There is something that needs to be said for the ecosystem around a product. Particle has a great one and in IMHO the best one. Months ago I would have steered new people starting out to Particle. They have made getting started so dam easy for people to get going quickly. But over time other companies have come out now to support the ESP32, so now its just as easy.


#19

Which ones have you used? Any recommendations? I checked out mongoose but do not like the fact that you cannot build without docker locally.


#20

There are 2 that are at the top of the hill for the ESP32.

https://platformio.org/ and https://visualgdb.com/

PlatformIO is where I would point new comers to the ESP32. It’s free, and very easy to get started with.
VGDB is not free, and what I use. However, its the most powerful tool for the ESP32 out there.