ESP32-S3 Chip: Definition, Pinout, Processor, Application and Development Board

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ESP32-S3 chip

Introduction to ESP32-S3

ESP32-S3 is a System-on-Chip (SoC) MCU released by Espressif, integrating 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5 (LE) capabilities, including Long Range support. It is equipped with a powerful Xtensa® 32-bit LX7 dual-core processor, clocked at up to 240 MHz, and features 512 KB of built-in SRAM (TCM). Additionally, the chip offers 45 programmable GPIO pins and a wide range of communication interfaces. ESP32-S3 also supports larger high-speed Octal SPI flash and external RAM, enabling users to configure data and instruction caching for improved performance.

ESP32-S3 chip
ESP32-S3 chip

ESP32-S3-DevKitC-1 Pinout

The ESP32-S3-DevKitC is a development board based on the ESP32-S3-WROOM-1 module. It is designed to help developers prototype and test their projects with the ESP32-S3 series microcontroller. The board offers a variety of hardware features and pins that can be used to connect peripherals and sensors. Below is an introduction to the pinout of the ESP32-S3-DevKitC:

(Image Credit: dfrobot)

Pinout Description

ESP32-S3-WROOM-1 ModuleMain module with microcontroller, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
USB-UART BridgeAllows USB communication with ESP32-S3 module.
USB PortPower and serial connection through USB.
BOOT ButtonPuts ESP32-S3 into bootloader mode for firmware upload.
EN ButtonResets the ESP32-S3 module.
User ButtonsTwo buttons for user-defined purposes.
User LEDsLEDs controlled by the ESP32-S3 for visual feedback.
GPIO PinsGeneral Purpose Input/Output pins for various functions.
Analog Input PinsPins to read analog signals from sensors.
I2C PinsPins for I2C communication with sensors.
SPI PinsPins for high-speed communication with devices.
UART PinsPins for serial communication with other devices.
SD Card SlotSlot for interfacing with SD cards.
JTAG HeaderHeader for advanced debugging and programming.
Power Supply PinsPins for 3.3V and GND connections.

32-bit Xtensa LX7 Processor

Regarding this chip, you may have questions about its integrated Xtensa 32-bit LX7 dual-core processor, as most embedded chips we commonly see are mostly ARM-based. Xtensa is different from ARM cores; the Xtensa LX series processors offer strong reconfigurability and scalability, making them an ideal choice for complex and intensive digital signal processing applications. With Xtensa technology, system design engineers can select the desired unit architecture and create new instructions and hardware execution units to design processor cores that are significantly more powerful than those based on traditional methods. The Xtensa generator can efficiently produce a set of comprehensive software tools, including an operating system, tailored to each processor’s specific combination. The customizable nature of Xtensa processors allows for great flexibility in design and high efficiency, making them the optimal choice for all highly synthesized single-chip systems. By employing a combination of hardware reconfigurability and software programming, Xtensa processors not only enhance computational performance but also offer ease of implementation for control purposes.

tensilica xtensa lx dia v2
(Image Credit: cadence)

Applications of ESP32-S3

The low-power chip ESP32-S3 is specifically designed for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and has a wide range of applications. It’s safe to say that almost all consumer electronic products on the market today can use it. For example, household appliances like air conditioners or rice cookers can be equipped with it to enable remote control and connectivity. Some specific application areas include:

  • Smart Home Appliances
  • Universal Low Power IoT Sensor Hub
  • Automated Industry
  • Universal Low Power IOT Data Logger
  • Medical Insurance
  • Camera Video Streaming
  • Consumer Electronics
  • USB Device
  • Smart Agriculture
  • Speech Recognition
  • POS Machine
  • Image Identification
  • Service Robot
  • Wi-Fi + Bluetooth Network Card
  • Audio Equipment
  • Touch and Proximity Sensing

ESP32-S3 Vs STM32

The ESP32-S3 stands as an evolution in chip design compared to the STM32 series. While the STM32 chips have a well-established reputation and are widely used in various applications, the ESP32 series has strategically positioned itself ahead of the curve. By integrating WiFi and Bluetooth functionalities directly into the System-on-Chip (SoC), the ESP32-S3 caters to the growing demand for smart and connected devices in the IoT era.

While the STM32 chips are powerful and versatile microcontrollers, they may require additional components or modules to enable WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. In contrast, the ESP32-S3 offers the convenience of built-in wireless communication, reducing the need for external components and simplifying the design process for IoT applications. A comparison of the functional diagrams of the ESP32-S3 and STM32F103XX would reveal this advancement.

ESP32-S3 block diagram
ESP32-S3 block diagram
STM32F103XX block diagram
STM32F103XX block diagram

Espressif’s decision to equip the ESP32 with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities from the start has allowed them to tap into emerging trends and address the changing needs of the electronics industry. With the increasing importance of internet connectivity and wireless communication, the ESP32-S3’s built-in features align perfectly with the demands of modern electronic products.

Moreover, the ESP32-S3 series not only offers WiFi and Bluetooth but also boasts improvements in performance, power efficiency, and ease of use. Although the STM32 series may still have certain advantages in terms of raw performance and stability, the ESP32-S3 is quickly catching up and has already gained popularity in various IoT and connected devices applications.

Making Microcontroller Board with ESP32-S3

To apply the ESP32-S3 chip to practical products, it needs to be packaged and supplemented with peripheral circuits and communication IO ports for external device communication. For instance, to create a facial recognition access control device, a camera interface is required to connect an external camera for image acquisition and processing, an antenna circuit for WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity, and an SPI flash for storing large amounts of data. The following figure is the official schematic diagram of the circuit, which generally includes about 20 resistors, capacitors, inductors, a passive crystal oscillator and an SPI flash.

ESP32-S3 chip design reference schematic diagram
ESP32-S3 chip design reference schematic diagram

If you find designing these circuits challenging, you can opt for pre-designed and packaged ESP32-S3 modules. Using modules can shorten our development cycle, but it may come at a higher cost. Alternatively, we can develop modules following the official schematic provided by Espressif. The modules officially released by Espressif are shown in the following image.

ESP32-S3-WROOM-1 module (with antenna)
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1 module (with antenna)
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1U module (requires external antenna)
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1U module (requires external antenna)

The modules released by Espressif will have different models. In fact, the core chip is the same as ESP32-S3. The difference between different models lies in the size of off-chip Flash and PSRAM. The model with the highest configuration officially released is ESP32-S3- WROOM-1-N16R8, it has 16MB of Flash and 8MB of PSRAM, I think this configuration is enough for our development:

ModelFlash2PSRAMAmbient temperature (℃)Module size (mm)
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N44 MB (Quad SPI)--40~8518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N88 MB (Quad SPI)--40~8518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N1616 MB (Quad SPI)--40~8518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-H44 MB (Quad SPI)--40~10518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N4R24 MB (Quad SPI)2 MB (Quad SPI)-40~8518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N8R28 MB (Quad SPI)2 MB (Quad SPI)-40~8518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N16R216 MB (Quad SPI)2 MB (Quad SPI)-40~8518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N4R84 MB (Quad SPI)8 MB (Octal SPI)-40~6518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N8R88 MB (Quad SPI)8 MB (Octal SPI)-40~6518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1
ESP32-S3-WROOM-1-N16R816 MB (Quad SPI)8 MB (Octal SPI)-40~6518.0 * 25.5 * 3.1

We can use these packaged modules to design a single-chip microcomputer board with specific functions. If you want to make a development board with general functions, the common method is to lead out all the IO of the module, so that users can use it according to their needs. You can connect external devices yourself, then I designed a general-purpose ESP32-S3 mini development board, as shown in the figure below:

ESP32-S3 Development Board
3D View
ESP32-S3 Development Board
Real Board
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Design Expansion Board with ESP32-S3

Not all development boards need to design expansion boards, you only need to design the corresponding external interfaces directly when designing the development board. But this will cause a problem. If we need to make other products, the entire development board needs to be redesigned, which will cause some waste of time and hardware costs. My idea is that our core development board remains unchanged, and we can design some expansion boards with corresponding interfaces according to product needs, so that our development time will be much faster, because it is very easy to design external interface boards. Another reason is that if some functions on our core board fail and cannot be repaired, we only need a better core board, and we don’t need to make any changes to the expansion boards connected to external devices.

Here, in order to facilitate our learning and development of ESP32-S3, we will use different functions. It is impossible to put all these functions on one development board, which will cause too high cost. It will be much more convenient if we choose expansion boards with lower cost and only specific functions according to different learning needs. This is convenient for us to get started. I first designed an expansion board that connects various sensors, as shown in the figure below:

ESP32-S3 Expansion Board for Sensors
3D View
ESP32-S3 Expansion Board for Sensors
Real Board
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About Author

Aidan Taylor
Aidan Taylor

I am Aidan Taylor and I have over 10 years of experience in the field of PCB Reverse Engineering, PCB design and IC Unlock.

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