Sinovoip, the company behind the Banana Pi series of development kits and SBCs had an interesting product idea: to create a Raspberry Pi Pico pin-compatible development kit based on the 240 MHz Tensilica LX7 ESP32-S3 dual-core SoC and name it BPi-PicoW-S3. Instead of a dual-core RP2040 with 264 KB of SRAM, we have the LX7 based chipset with 512kB of SRAM and 2.4 GHz support, alongside Bluetooth 5LE (no fancy Pio state machine stuff, however).
We have the speed, processing power, pin-to-pin compatibility, the same dimensions, and ultimately the same target audience. Even though the ESP32-S3 features 45 GPIO pins, the form factor has to sacrifice quite a few of them, breaking out only 24. A Neopixel LED has been added on-board.
Unlike the RP2040, which can be programmed using CircuitPython, MicroPython and C (Processing), the BPi supports CircuitPython, C and Espressif’s own IDE.
CircuitPython is pre-loaded on the board is geared towards STEM projects. All Adafruit ESP32-S3 Feather examples worked perfectly – with potential small changes of GPIO pin numbers. Standard WiFi connection examples also worked perfectly first try – so its safe to say that the board is fully compliant.
Arduino IDE support is also good – with generic ESP32-S3 libraries handling everything – as there are no custom libraries for the PicoW available yet. The most complicated, but most fully-featured option is the Espressif IDF package – which offers low-level access to the system at hand.
This tiny board, which we received together with the Banana Pi Leaf S3 from the manufacturer left a good impression. It’s smaller than the Leaf and somewhat less capable, but form-factor compatibility with the Raspberry Pi Pico W justifies this choice. Compared to the original Raspberry Pi board, the Banana Pi features Bluetooth (although, reportedly, Bluetooth support on the Pico W is to be enabled in the near-future via a software update), some AI capability and data encryption features thanks to its more powerful SoC. There’s no fancy state machines – which are a curious feature of the RP2040 MCU. For IoT projects and learning CircuitPython, this miniature development system deserves a recommendation.