Cheap NodeMCU Boards

ESP8266 NodeMCUThis could be the shorted blog I’ve ever written! We’ve been talking about ESP8266 recently and as I was running out of boards, I sent off for some of these from AliExpress – my favourite store next to Ebay.  At a total cost of just over £3 they had to be worth a go.

So on the LEFT you see the reset button – on the right you see the FLASH button – this might indicate that normal Arduino-style programming doesn’t work… so I put it to test with a sample BLINK program.

When the board comes on – the normal blue light on the ESP12 flickers – nothing unexpected there.  I tried programming from the Arduino IDE – nothing – mind you I was expecting that. I pressed the reset and FLASH buttons together and let go of the RESET then the FLASH button – I started the programming – the blue light flashed – success.  As I was using the standard Arduino blink sketch, I tied my LED+RESISTOR to ground and GPIO13 and sure enough – the light flashed.

Just to be sure as these WERE cheap, I tried all three of them. No problems at all.

for the board itself – the lettering on the top is utterly messed up – someone wasn’t thinking when they did the screen print – however the lettering UNDERNEATH is just fine. The regulator used is one of the larger ones and so should handle a little extra 3v3 if this is needed for any peripheral boards. I’d not recommend driving the board from 12v however!  I did my testing powering the board from the microUSB connector. No problem. There IS another LED on the board but it didn’t do anything when programming – no doubt at some point I’ll be doing something and it will light up at which point I’ll update the blog.

And so there it is – next I have some WEMOS D1 Mini boards on the way from Ebay.


32 thoughts on “Cheap NodeMCU Boards

  1. thank you Mr.Scargill for the reply.

    I noticed that was completely my fault: the relay boards that i have bought were damaged. 3 out of 10 have 3.4 volt on the input pin. So when i measured the voltage with the relay attached the relay actually was keeping high the pin.

    Now the outputs are working! (tried with good relay and with some leds)
    Thank again for the answer and for all the great job you’re doing!
    just for information: have you a plan to sell your PCBs? i’ve tried to reach but it redirect to your site.
    thank you again

    1. Yes indeed hackittand bodgitt does redirect to the blog – we just put that in place as some folk might remember the name.

      No plans to sell boards – it just isn’t worth it – given the gerbers you can get a set of boards for a tenner from China….. for basic ESP boards I’m finding the WEMOS from China to be fine – they cost little more than the basic ESP-12 and they have USB input and regulator along with 0.1″ pins… tiny. I would love to spend the time to do my own with double pins and pullups for I2c but it is down to time.

  2. Hello there,
    i have this board too (NODMCU AMICA BOARD )and i’ve started yesterday to play with your code.
    I’ve attached and SSD1306 and DS temp probe. I can read the probe and post the temperature on the LCD screen without a problem.
    Insted i have problem with out command.
    I’ve tried D0 (GPIO16 out0), D6 (GPIO12 out12), D8 (GPIO15 out15) andD5 without any luck.
    They are on at boot (execpt D5 that is low on boot) and keeps to have 3.3V after outX:0 commands. (execpt D5 that keep to stay low)
    If i query them via outX? they respond that the output are ON or OFF based on the last command but on the output i have always 3.3V. (measured directly also on the ESP8266 board GPIO14)
    Any hint?

    1. I have great difficulty thinking in terms of the Arduino “equivalent” pins…

      But the following pins should respond (assuming you’ve not used SPI or I2C since reboot) to the IO commands – GPIO0 should work but I’m trying to avoid that and keeping it as an input for flashing – so that leaves in my code GPIO2 and 14 generally as inputs, GPIO 4,5,12,15 and 16 as outputs and GPIO13 as a status indicator.

      For GPIO16 to be used as an output you must set the WIFI_button command to 0
      {wifi_button:0} and reboot – this will survive reboot and you can see it’s state using the {debug} command in serial.

      {gpio4:1} and {gpio4:0} (D1 on WEMOS or similar)
      {gpio5:1} and {gpio5:0} (D2 on WEMOS or similar)
      The above I’ve just tested – though depending on your board they might be reversed….
      {gpio12:1} and {gpio12:0} {D6 on WEMOS and similar)
      {gpio15:1} and {gpio15:0} (D8 on WEMOS and similar)
      {gpio16:1} and {gpio16:0} (D0 on WEMOS and similar)

      Output states assume you’ve not invoked the invert function otherwise they may be inverted.

      I tested this lot just right now – Completely on an IOTBEAR board which is (like many of the others) just an ESP-12 board with regulator and pullups/pulldowns and reset/flashing buttons… also on a Chinese WEMOS board..

      If you are using I2c – you cannot of course use GPIO4 and GPIO5 as they’re being used for software I2c. If you are using SPI then GPIO 12,13,14 are not usable – along with whatever you’re using for CSS and the D/C line.

      I2c and to twice the extend, SPI put a strain on the number of available pins on the ESP8266 (well, not if you don’t use them of course) which is why I put together the “I2c universal IO board” using a cheap NANO (sub-£2) to make up for that. So for example on my Pergola I have a display (SPI) telling me the status of lights etc and instead of suffering the reduced number of outputs available, I use 4 and 5 as I2c to send off instructions to a NANO for PWM outputs etc… that still leaves of course GPIO2 and 14 as inputs for temperature sensing etc… though nowadays I tend to favour the I2c BME280 boards which give temperature, humidity and pressure all on one little board.

      So – try resetting the board – make sure (debug) that the WIFI-BUTTON is set to 0 – and you should be good to go.

      1. Incidentally I notice there is an SPI board on EBAY – which is cheaper and higher res than the OLEDS. I’ve sent off for one as I’m sure I can make a driver for it easily enough.

  3. Hi Pete,

    That is exactly my board of choice – in fact there are five of them sitting on my workbench at this very moment, connected to various sensors. I just plug it straight into a PC’s USB port via the on-board micro-USB connector and use the ArduinoIDE environment for programming.

    You’ve probably found out by now that the two on-board LEDs are connected to pins D0 (red) and D4 (blue). So the following sketch will flash both LEDs alternately.

    #define redLED D0
    #define blueLED D4

    void setup() {
    pinMode(redLED, OUTPUT);
    pinMode(blueLED, OUTPUT);

    void loop() {
    digitalWrite(blueLED, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(redLED, LOW);
    digitalWrite(blueLED, LOW);
    digitalWrite(redLED, HIGH);

    Great blog! Keep up the good work.

  4. Hello,
    I’m using wavgat (wemos d1 mini compatible) boards for months (more than 6 month, 8 are in production 24/7) without pb : cost less than $3 (aliexpress) including post . No support (use wemos!), commercial discussions not very handly but good products in my opinion..

    1. Well that was definitely a worthwhile search in AliExpress “wavgat” – found a decent power convertor as well.

  5. I have a number of D1 mini’s and they are excellent. Totally reliable.

    Don’t get the DHT board though, waste of time as it is too close to the processor.

    The larger memory size should now be fully supported by the new SDK and hopefully that will flow through to the ESP Arduino tools shortly, the author has it on his list.

    1. Wemos do offer a double or triple base shield that allow you to physically separate the DHT from the other functions and costs less than 50p

  6. I have one of these Nodemcu board running for 3 weeks now with your Home Control SW and it works like a charm. Worked the fitst time. I have puerchased other boards on ebay and have not had the same luck.
    Your blog is the best blog I have sean in a while. My first computer had a RCA1802 microprocessor, a few years before the Sinclair or the Apple I came to market. Im having so much fun!

    1. Excellent, Scott – nice to hear. I guess thats’ a point I don’t push about my own software – as well as handling a good range of gadgets from displays through RGB lights etc, one of my key things was that it needs to WORK as I split my year between Spain and England and I don’t want stuff going wrong when I’m not there. There are many software tools out there now, some claim to be beta, some not but I wonder how many if any have stood the test of 24-7 time with crap power and intermittent WIFI. So many man/woman hours wasted finding out! Still, doesn’t stop me playing with other software, because as you say – having fun! I’m about to give the Mongoose software another go – they’ve been in touch and offered to chat on Skype about any issues so I’m prepared to put a little time into that as I’d really like to see a nice Javascritp implementation running on the ESP32 as well, ultimately as my own software – I’ve an extremely preliminary basic set of my own stuff running on the ESP but to say it has had a decent test would be a lie 🙂 Continue to have fun, Scoot – 1802 – you know, I remember the name but that’s about all… I must’ve done SOMETHING with that…

  7. Thanks Peter, I throught it was me when the blue led didn’t light up on the board. Had one of these for 5 months now. EBay is great here in Australia as China is closer to delivery.

    1. don’t know what’s doing wemos recently…
      lolin was a different brand, maybe they acquired it… sure not the tipical wemos board, as it’s black and with lolin brand…

      i can understand the wemos d1 mini pro, with external antenna support… cannot understand this, less powerful of a standard wemos d1 mini…

      or this with unnamed chipset…

      anyway, new shield for the standard d1 mini:
      barrel power brick:

      and triple prototyping board:

      1. i see 2 of them, 1 just under the reset button, 1 on the left near pins 13 and 5v

        interesting this board already has the battery connector, for similar price to the one you bought 🙂

  8. With the Wemos battery shield and a LiPo battery pack then a cheap/easy ESP8266 UPS is possible.

    1. Hi AndyW. I found that on an Italian AliExpress site but can I hell find it on an English version – however max current is 0.5amps to 1amps so great for Wemos and other ESP12/ESP32 boards but not enough for Pi. Nice to know about however.

        1. Watch the polarity, I used a plug and leads I had in a box and it’s polarity was opposite and I blew up the main chip.

          1. The polarity printed on the Wemos battery shield I have is correct and charges my LiPo battery back as it should.

            1. Yes, it was the wires in the plug/lead I used, they were swapped round for some reason, my fault for assuming it would be correct!

  9. I’ve used a couple of the wemos D1 standard with an OLED display and relay shields

    I have no connectivity issues so far.

  10. I’m also very curious about your field test of the Wemos, “plain” even more so than Pro: I’m not convinced yet the switch to a ceramic antenna is for the best.

    1. Hi there – everything except “pro” – I could not for the life of me think of a use for 16MB of FLASH when max program size is 1MB + 1MB for OTA – leaving 2MB for data (but then I always store my data centrally on a Pi).

      They should be here in a week or so I hope.

    2. WEMOS D1 mini pro, is my board of choice, as it has the antenna connector. So it can go in a metal box. I like to put all my home built iot stuff into metal boxes, just in case!

      1. Thats my point. And the price difference is that low.
        Im currently building a monitoring and irrigation system for my raised herb beds and the WEMOS are in a box and i maybe have to switch to external antenna. I really like the WEMOS and most shields are usefull too, but for DHT shields you should use the dual base to get better results 🙂

      2. Interesting – I take the opposite approach – the ceramic antenna seem fine and so I build mine in plastic boxes 🙂

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