Pico VS Arduino for wireless DMX LED display

Hey hey
I am planning an art piece using recycled Vape LiPo batteries to power a wireless, synchronised lighting installation of neopixel strips, and I am finding it hard to choose which boards to buy as there are so many options. I wish to have approx 20 wireless nodes each with a strip of addressable LEDs, and was wondering what ecosystem to go with for receiving my wireless DMX signals (probably E1.131) sent from my RPi400 via a Router.

I would like to keep the cost as low as possible, so am looking at boards in the $15-$25 region.
The Pico W looks good, but I’m wondering if I really need all that computing power for simply performing the following:

  • Board powered from LiPo cell
  • receive synchronised signals over WiFi and distribute to Neopixel strip (powered by separate batteries of sufficient power)
  • Low power/standby mode during daytime (Ambient light sensor on master Pi)

There are many great tutorials on this site for both Pi Pico and ESP32/ESP8266 Boards, and I can’t seem to figure out the pros & cons between the two ecosystems.
The lower the cost per wireless node, the bigger and cooler the installation can be, so that is my main consideration. Budget is approx $500

Which ecosystem should I go with, and why?

Thanks in advance!

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If you are going to implement that many devices then it is worth investing in a separate programmer so that you do not need programming functionality for each device. That reduces the device cost considerably. You could go as small as an ESP01, but ESP12E would also be suitable. The programmer for the ESP12E is a little harder to find, but they do exist or you can make one for yourself. These devices are not state of the art, but they are very well supported (including a library for DMX) and more than adequate for the job of operating a LED string over WiFi.


Hi Martin,

I’d probably start by looking at what libraries are available and supported that will handle the DMX signals you want the device to interpret. Running LEDs will be easy on either platform, but having a chosen device easily interpret and communicate with the devices upstream will be a bigger factor.

It looks like WLED has some support for DMX, and WLED has been incredibly popular with ESP8266 and ESP32 users for low-cost wireless lighting control. We’ve got a guide on WLED here if you haven’t come across it before.