Cute, compact, powerful, and accessible. These are the first things that come to mind when looking at Unexpected Maker’s TinyPico board. This is the development board to use for an IoT project if you’ve been previously holding back due to hard size limitations. The TinyPico board is a fully-featured ESP32 development board smaller than an alkaline battery. Along with being the smallest ESP32 board out in the market right now, its specs are comparable to — if not outperforming — larger ESP32 competitors. This makes the TinyPico an interesting option for ESP32 development and raises the bar in terms of what can be achieved in such a small size.
Let’s look at those specs: The onboard 4MB PSRAM gives a nice extra buffer if you need it for your application, and it has two isolated power paths (3.3V and 5V) that are optimized so that non-essential components shut down when the board is running off of a battery. This allows for efficient power usage, with current draws as low as under 20uA when in deep sleep mode. Another nice feature is the flexibility of development as it supports MicroPython (which comes built-in), Arduino IDE, and the Espressif IDF. They’re all available and easily flash-able onto the board.
Something I’ve painfully learned from testing different development boards is that no matter how awesome the specs on a board can be, it’s a lost cause if the documentation and software support sucks. What I loved about the TinyPico was how easy it was to quickly set up a development environment and go straight to coding a project. Whamo-blamo, I plugged it in, followed the getting started tutorials on MicroPython, ran some test code, and it worked without a hitch. For anyone familiar with the headaches of the environment set up, this is truly a rare, magical experience. The Unexpected Maker provides great resources on using the TinyPico, such as video tutorials on MicroPython, code examples, and dedicated helper libraries for both Arduino and MicroPython that make pin assignment and coding certain features very easy to implement. The straightforward documentation is great for folks that are not as familiar with ESP32 development. Have I also mentioned the community for the TinyPico is on Discord? This is a great way to provide support and share projects. Not only can questions be answered quickly by members of the community, but it gives that old school IRC vibe where you can just join a channel and have a direct conversation with developers of a project you find cool. More Discord channels for board support and project sharing, please! Forums are great, but this isn’t 2004.
Overall, I found the experience working with the TinyPico quite pleasant and easy to use. The only drawback of this board, frankly, is the price. ESP32 boards are known to be incredibly cheap for their features. While the TinyPico’s $20 price tag won’t break the bank, it’s still a jump compared to the standard $3–10 ESP32 development boards you can find online. That said, if you don’t mind paying a little extra, it’s a great board for beginners and advanced users alike.