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Alternative Controller for RGBW NeoPixel strips
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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.

Alternative Controller for RGBW NeoPixel strips

by stevenjh on Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:45 pm

Hello Everyone,

My name is Steven and I developed a project using an Arduino Uno and NeoPixel RGBW strips.

This has worked out fairly well, except I'm looking for a more powerful controller than the Uno. There are a couple of different criteria categories: Things an alternative MUST have, and things that would be nice to have above and beyond the Uno's capabilities.

Must Have
- More program storage

Nice to have
- Faster processor, so I have more computing power for doing calculations without sacrificing frame-rate. Along with this floating-point calculations would be very nice, for the same reasons.
- Ability to program it wirelessly, so I can work on the program in situ. Currently, I have take down the system and put it somewhere more convenient for development. This is a PITA.
- 5V output PWM for controlling the NeoPixels. While I can certainly step up 3.3V to 5V, it's nice to be able to just wire it in directly.
- If I can get a more full-fledged programming language with memory management, etc., that would be nice, but then we're likely into Raspberry Pi territory, which have timing issues that Arduino doesn't. I don't want to write a bunch of low-level DMA interrupt-handling driver code to control the strips, so there'd need to be a good robust library that "just works" for this approach to be viable, since I want to program the strips, not low-level layer that will allow me to program them.

Any ideas?

Thank you in advance for your thoughts on this. :-)

--Steven
stevenjh
 
Posts: 2
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Re: Alternative Controller for RGBW NeoPixel strips

by adafruit_support_mike on Tue Apr 09, 2019 12:42 am

stevenjh wrote:More program storage

Any of the 32-bit microcontrollers will have that.

stevenjh wrote:Faster processor, so I have more computing power for doing calculations without sacrificing frame-rate. Along with this floating-point calculations would be very nice, for the same reasons.

I think the SAMD51 and some of the microcontrollers from the Teensy platform have hardware FPUs, while the rest crank the bits the hard way. The 32-bit microcontrollers operate between 48MHz and 160MHz, so even the slow version is faster.

stevenjh wrote:Ability to program it wirelessly, so I can work on the program in situ. Currently, I have take down the system and put it somewhere more convenient for development. This is a PITA.

Any microcontroller that has a wireless-capable bootloader will be even more of a PITA. The two major candidates are the ESP8266, which is starved for pins, and the ESP32, which has known timing issues that interfere with NeoPixel signals.

stevenjh wrote:5V output PWM for controlling the NeoPixels. While I can certainly step up 3.3V to 5V, it's nice to be able to just wire it in directly.

All of the 32-bit microcontrollers run at 3.3V, so you'll have to trade level shifting for all the other advantages of the platform.

stevenjh wrote:If I can get a more full-fledged programming language with memory management, etc., that would be nice, but then we're likely into Raspberry Pi territory,

Yes and no.

Our CircuitPython interpreter has a garbage collector, but all interpreted code runs about 10x slower than compiled code. The interpreter has to do all that extra work behind the scenes. In most cases, the slow-down from the interpreter would overpower the speed-up from a faster microcontroller.

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Re: Alternative Controller for RGBW NeoPixel strips

by stevenjh on Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:10 pm

Thank you very much for the kind response. :-)
stevenjh
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:47 pm

Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.