Unboxing the RedBearLab IoT pHat

Hello!

Been a while – I hope the winds of fortune have been blowing favorably in your various directions. Been rather busy with work myself, so I apologize for the long silence. As a reparation, today will be my first ever unboxing post!

In my never-ending search for cheap yet functional stuff, A few months ago I began following a certain project on Hackaday.io, which combined two of my favorite things at the time – the ESP8266 WiSoc and the Raspberry Pi (Zero). Essentially, the project was exploring a means of using the ESP8266 as a WiFi peripheral for the Pi with full OS support – so theoretically you’d hook up the ESP8266 (specifically the ESP07/12 models as I recall), load up whatever kernel module was needed, and you’d get a wlan0 device which you could use to do awesome. At the end, it ended up working and the board designs and everything needed are up there on Hackaday.io. However that guy ended up with a ~$20 board, which is like 4x the cost of a Pi Zero. Shortly after that, I discovered that RedBearLab were working on a WiFi/Bluetooth-LE peripheral for the Raspberry Pi boards, but most specifically the Zero. It was successfully Kickstarted and I ended up preordering one of them – they’re now generally available though. At ~$11 (during the pre-order) and offering both Bluetooth Classic/LE and WiFi, it didn’t seem to be a bad deal at all, especially when considering the fact that Pi Zeros’ USB ports are in short supply.

I picked up mine some two, three weeks later at the post office. Came in a little cardboard box like so:

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(Shown with the Raspberry Pi to show the relative size – Raspberry Pi not included!)

The IoT pHAT itself comes in a little foil-wrapped package like so:

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Here another shot with slightly better lighting:

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I got the version with headers pre-soldered, so here’s an up-close look at it:

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In this picture we can clearly see the AP6212A module, which provides the WiFi/BLE capability, as well as the 24C32F EEPROM chip (on the right) which contains “HAT” related information – as required by all Raspberry Pi HATs. There’s a little slide switch in the left side of the photo, which lets you switch from using the PCB antenna (immediately to the left of the RedBear logo silkscreen) or an external IPEX type (not included), which could be attached via the IPEX connector (directly opposite the slide switch, across the gap). The headers used won’t allow for HAT stacking, so that’s something to look out for.There are also mounting holes, which is kinda nice. I’d expect they’d match up with those on a Pi Zero, but I wouldn’t know about that…

Here’s a shot of the backside (underside?) of the board:

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Cool, looks like its passed FCC certification. Another thing to watch out for is the fact that this pHAT uses a significant number of available GPIOs (not sure which ones specifically, will look around and confirm), so if your application needs many GPIOs used here you may want to consider USB alternatives.

I have an A+ lying about, so here’s how they look together:

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My, what a beautiful couple!

I intend to follow this post up with a Getting Started / First Impressions post, so stay tuned! Also, let me know how I did in the comments Smile

See you (real) soon!

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