We first met the WinnerMicro W600 back in late 2018 when Seeed Studio released their Air602 WiFi Module. Three more boards from Seeed followed, along with yet another board that used the Feather form factor. But none of them really let you get your hands dirty with the W600 directly.
While I initially argued that the W600 could well be a competitor for the ESP8266, the chip has proved somewhat of a disappointment. Unlike the ESP8266, which was quickly picked up by the community, the W600 has stayed as designed — and has been used only as a Wi-Fi-to-Serial bridge — at least, until now.
Because say “hello” to the new W600-PICO from Wemos, which comes pre-loaded with a MicroPython firmware onboard. That makes it the first W600-based board I've come across that gives us full access to this rather intriguing chip.
The W600 is an Arm Cortex-M3 running at 80MHz with 1MB of Flash on chip as well as 2.4GHz WiFi support. The chip has dual UARTs, I2C, SPI and I2S interfaces, as well as an RTC and hardware cryptography support.
Measuring 33.0×20.3 mm, and weighing just 3g, the board itself breaks out two 10-pin headers with; 15×GPIO, 9×PWM, 1×I2C, 1×SPI, and 1×UART, along with Wake Up, Reset, +5V, +3.3V, and GND pins. There is also a single micro USB port for power and programming which is connected using CH340 USB-to-TTL chip.
Since the ESP8266 was released, there have been a number of possible competitors like the RTL8710 or, a bit more recently, the RDA5981. But none of them have really taken off in the same way as the Espressif chip did. Often with a price point higher than the ESP8266 itself, but with roughly similar performance, the community that formed around the ESP8266 and the ESP32 chips has seen little reason to switch to a new platform. The ESP8266 is seen by most as being “good enough.”
The real sticking point with previous W600-based boards has been the toolchain. However this new board, which runs MicroPython out of the box, doesn’t have that problem, and it also has a price point to match the Espressif-based boards on the market. The W600 is also built around an Arm core, rather than the Xtensa core of the ESP8266, which depending on your use case could prove to be a serious advantage.
Computing may have reached a point where it is almost cheap enough to throw away, but if anything that has made the market more price sensitive, rather than less. This is a rather interesting board, and perhaps the first viable competitor to the now nearly ubiquitous ESP8266-based boards to arrive on the market due to its low cost and feature set.
More details about the board can be found on the Wemos Wiki page, along with detailed getting started instructions. The boards are already flashed with a MicroPython firmware, but there are full instructions for re-flashing them and updating the firmware as needed, as well as snippets of code showing you how to use the on-chip RTC, I2C, SPI, and networking.
If you’re interested in taking a look, the Wemos W600-PICO can be picked up on AliExpress for $2.10 plus shipping in single unit quantities.