2. Introduction to the ESP32 

The ESP32 Development Kit

In this lesson, you will learn about the ESP32 “DevKit” or “developing kit.” At the time I am writing this, the latest development kit from Espressif is version four.

You can watch the video, or if you are the “reading” type, you can read the text below.

In the image here, you can see the ESP32 and the development kit on which the ESP32 module is situated.

The ESP32 DevKit version 4

The ESP32 dev kit exposes the ESP module's pins (at least some of those) to the outside world. Thanks to the dev kit, we can use the ESP32 by plugging it to a breadboard, or even attaching wires directly to its pins, without having to worry about implementing our own power, USB communications, reset circuit, etc.

Development kit core features and hardware

The core hardware that is present on the developing kit are things such as the USB-to-serial programming interface, the power subsystem that allows us to provide power within module push buttons for reset, and for setting it to the upload mode, indicator LCDs and a few other things.

So in this image below, I've marked with numbers the most important features of the ESP32 dev kit.

The ESP32 DevKit v4 core features

You can see:

  1. The USB connector, which is also the way that we provide power to the ESB module and upload programs and also communicate with a serial monitor. It is a micro-USB port.
  2. The reset pushbutton. We use this button to reset the module and restart the execution of a sketch that is already uploaded.
  3. The “Enable” pushbutton. We use this button to place the module to upload mode. Variations of the development kit can place themselves into upload mode automatically, just like an Arduino can when connected to the Arduino IDE. The board I use in this guide does not, so I press button 3 immediately after I click on the “Upload” button in the Arduino IDE.
  4. The power-on LED. As long as your ESP32 is powered, that LCD will be on.
  5. The two rows of headers marked five here in this photo. These pins break out the pins from the ESP32 module so that they become compatible with the breadboard. This is another really nice aspect of the ESP32 development kit as opposed to the Arduino: The fact that the development kit is compatible with the breadboard. 
  6. A programmable LED, which, in the case of my development board, is attached to GPIO 2. Be aware that not all development kits have this programmable LED. If yours doesn't have it, simply connect an external LED to GPIO 2, and you'll have the exact same functionality.

USB communication and power regulator

The square chip right above the USB connector is responsible for the UCB communications.

Above and to the right of the USB chip is another chip with four pins. This is the voltage regulator, which allows us to connect a voltage source from 5 to 12 V to the dev kit. You can learn more about the power options that you have with the ESP32 module in another lesson in this introductory series.

Other development kits

Before you move to the next lesson, I also wanted to mention that there is a variety of other development boards that host the ESP32 module.

For example, there is the ESP32 Lyra and the ESP32 Pico. Go ahead to learn more about them.

There is a variety of ESP32 Dev Kits.

A “naked” ESP32 module

If you remove the cover, it reveals the bare module (don't remove the cover unless you are prepared to break your ESP32 module).

Zoom in, and you can see the two integrated circuits in it.

The ESP32 WROOM32 without its cover

Photo of ESP32-D0WDQ6 by Brian Krent - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57745131

The larger one (this one here) is the ESP32 D0WDQ6 microcontroller, and the slightly smaller chip right here is the SPI flash memory.

So now you know what is beneath the cover. 🙂

Continue to the next lecture where you will learn about the differences and similarities between the ESP32 and the Arduino.

"Introduction to the ESP32" series

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  • I am looking for a “Naked ESP32 module without WiFi or Bluetooth for a more compact foot print (no need to have communication of that nature).

    Here is a link to a “Naked MAGA” that I am utilizing in my project, however I need greater computing power, thus the need to change the micro.


    Any assistance you may be able to provide would be greatly appreciated,

    Paul D. Wilkie

    • Hello Paul,

      (I edited your post slightly to remove some personal information you had included).

      Do you have a specific “Naked EPS32” board that I can look at?

      I suspect that such board would be a regular ESP32 dev kit without the radios. For anything other than wifi or Bluetooth applications, programming it would be identical with the regular ESP32.

      If you can specify a board, I may be able to provide more help.

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