We met the Air 602 module back in October last year when Seeed Studio made a castellated module and USB development board available. It was exciting as it was the first ESP competitor that I’d seen announced which actually retailed cheaper than the Espressif ESP8266 and ESP32 modules. Unfortunately, the lack of FCC certification for the Air 602 modules meant that integrating the module into a product was more than somewhat problematic.
Based around the same WinnerMicro W600, an Arm Cortex-M3 with 1MB of Flash on chip with 2.4GHz support, the new W600 wireless module is an FCC and CE pre-certified Wi-Fi module. With a significantly larger footprint than the Air 602 module we saw last year, due primarily to the on-module antenna which the tiny Air 602 lacked, the new module is mostly just an RF shield on a PCB.
I’ve had a prototype Grove W600 board in my hands for a week or two now, and it also breaks out a number of additional pins beyond those made available by the Air 602 development board we saw last year. Although, it’s not entirely clear how those pins will be exposed by the board over the Grove interface. While the board is not generally available quite yet, it is due to ship sometimes next month.
The second new board is a more general W600 Development Board, which will break out all of the pins available by the W600. Based again on the new W600 module, the board has four Grove System connectors, along with a LiPo battery connector.
Unfortunately, this board isn’t expected to ship until much later in the year, sometime during the second quarter. However, rather significantly, the board will ship with both support for both the Arduino development environment and for MicroPython.
The inclusion of both Arduino and MicroPython support makes the W600 a much more attractive proposition than currently stands. Right now the documentation on the W600 is almost as sparse as the early days of the ESP8266, and the documentation that is available is mostly still only available in Chinese. Comparing that to the now maturing development environment around the ESP8266, it comes up rather short.
So while at the moment, the board works well as a serial to W-Fi bridge, it isn’t particularly useful beyond that. But Arduino and MicroPython support will definitely change that proposition.
As I said back when Seeed Studio began shipping the original Air 602 board, the real advantage I see here is that the W600 chip at the heart of these modules has an Arm processor. That makes it an attractive proposition for those of us experimenting with machine learning on the edge, and for those building the Internet of Things. With so much code built and optimised for Arm architectures, an Arm-based chip that’s price competitive with the Espressif chips could potentially be a very big deal.
At least at the moment, there’s no information around price points, or the exact ship dates, for the new module or the two boards. However, Seeed Studio has created a Wiki and opened a forum section, so hopefully we’ll hear more soon. You can sign up for email updates on the W600-based boards on the Seeed Studio site.