Espressif has announced its first RISC-V chip — and the industry's first, it claims — to offer dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity: the ESP32-C5.
Following on from the release of the ESP32-C3 and cost-reduced ESP32-C2, while skipping the ESP32-C4 moniker altogether, the ESP32-C5 is Espressif's latest system-on-chip (SoC) designed around the free and open source RISC-V instruction set architecture — which the company recently announced it was going to be using for all parts in the future. A single-core 32-bit RISC-V part, the processor runs at up to 240MHz with 400kB of static RAM (SRAM) and 384kB of ROM with support for external flash storage.
So far, and so like its predecessors — but where the ESP32-C5 differs is in its connectivity. The part is Espressif's first RISC-V SoC to offer Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) connectivity on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands — along with 802.11b/g/n support with a 20/40MHz switchable bandwidth for backwards-compatibility.
Somewhat oddly, given their relative numerical suffixes, this functionality actually places it above the ESP32-C6 part the company launched last year — which only offered 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity. The ESP32-C5's processor is also clocked higher, at 240MHz to the ESP32-C6's 160MHz top speed. The ESP32-C6, however, includes a hardware cryptography block missing from its lower-numbered sibling.
The ESP32-C5 includes over 20 programmable general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, an SDIO 2.0 Slave interface, on-board temperature sensor, SPI and UART buses, and an analog to digital converter (ADC). The company also claims to have tweaked its design with the Internet of Things in mind, adding orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) for uplink and downlink and multi-user multiple-input multiple-output (MU-MIMO) for downlink connections along with support for Wi-Fi 6's target wait time (TWT) feature for improved battery life in bursty workloads.
Espressif has confirmed that support for the ESP32-C5 is now available in ESP-IDF, along with ESP-AT and ESP-Hosted for communication coprocessor use — but it has not offered a shipping schedule nor pricing information, asking interested parties to contact its sales team for more information.