$5.5 Banana Pi BPI-PicoW-S3 ESP32-S3 board follows Raspberry Pi Pico W form factor

Banana Pi’s BPI-PicoW-S3 is a development board following the Raspberry Pi Pico W form factor, but based on Espressif System ESP32-S3 dual-core microcontroller offering both WiFi 4 and Bluetooth LE connectivity.

The Raspberry Pi SBCs have inspired many designs, but the Raspberry Pi Pico MCU boards less so. So far, I had only seen the WeAct RP2040 board with the same layout except for a USB Type-C port and a 16MB flash. But the Banana Pi BPI-PicoW-S3 provides a direct alternative to the Raspberry Pi Pico W with a more powerful microcontroller, vector instructions for AI acceleration, BLE, and about the same price at $5.5 plus shipping.

Banana Pi BPI-PicoW-S3 Raspberry Pi Pico W alternative

Let’s see how the BPI-PicoW-S3 specifications compare to the ones of the Raspberry Pi Pico W in the table below.

Raspberry Pi Pico W
Banana Pi BPI-PicoW-S3
Raspberry Pi RP2040 dual-core Cortex-M0+ microcontroller @ 133 MHz with 264KB SRAM
ESP32-S3 dual-core Tensilica LX7 up to 240 MHz with vector, 512 KB SRAM
2MB QSPI flash
8MB PSRAM on-chip
2.4 GHz WiFi 4
Bluetooth 5, Bluetooth Mesh
1x microUSB port
2x 20-pin 2.54mm pitch header and castellated holes (See pinout diagram below)
BOOTSEL button
Reset button
Power Supply
5V via micro USB port
51 x 21mm

While the power signal (5V, 3.3V, GND) and GPIO numbers are the same on both boards, there are a few variations here and there due to specific features of the respective microcontrollers used in each board.

BPI-PicoW-S3 pinout diagram
Pinout diagram

The BPI-PicoW-S3 supports many of the same programming languages as the Raspberry Pi Pico (W) including C/C++ (through the ESP-IDF framework, different from the Pico SDK), Arduino, MicroPython, and more. The wiki points to the instructions for the earlier BPI-Leaf-S3 board to get started with Arduino or MicroPython. Note that documentation is more sparse, so the board is better suited to users with some programming experience, and you would not give that board to your kid to learn about programming and electronics on his/her own…

But for more experienced users, the Banana Pi “clone” does offer significant advantages provided Banana Pi did not mess up the design. However, the price may not look as attractive as the $5.5 price tag suggests since it does not include shipping, and the company asks for about $10 to ship the board to the US, $6 to South East Asia.

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