Espressif got new competitor RDA5981 dedicated for IoT and audio apps


Few years ago Espressif released their first low cost WiFi chip ESP8266 and turned upside down the WiFi connectivity for small MCU. They have been left relatively to no competition from the big Western chip makers who couldn’t match their aggressive pricing, but later there was semi successful competition from Realtek and now there is another competitor who is focused on low cost IoT audio applications but their chip is quite good for general purpose WiFi stuff also. The RDA5981 is based on Cortex-M4 inside

  • running at 160Mhz
  •  160KB SRAM
  • 4MB Flash
  • build in USB 2.0 host interface allow USB devices to be connected to the module directly which is advantage toward Espressif chips
  • Support Bluetooth 2.1 EDR + BLE4.2
  • SDMMC interface
  • 2x 10bit ADCs
  • SIDO x1, I2C x1, I2S x2, PWM x8, IR, SPI x4, UART x2, GPIO with interrupts x14
  • operating temperature -30+80C

According to the PR message their focus is voice recognition / audio play and they shipped already 200 Millions of these chips ин 2016. Looking at the features above they can be used for other IoT applications as well if their SDK is easy enough to use by maker community. The question is will be they smart enough to be more user friendly as ESP.

I check their web and even to download their datasheet they require registration :). I understand this as – we hide our product info from our potential customers as we do not want they to evaluate our chips. These registrations beside pissing off potential customers do not hide anything from their competitors as they would easily register with fake info and get them anyway, but obvious this is the way most Chinese companies work.

via Twitter (Thanks to Rudi!)

EDIT 10-01-2018: There is actually GitHub repo with the datsheet, so their web may be not updated!

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stan
    Jan 09, 2018 @ 12:15:39

    Compatible with Arduino shields – very well. But is it programmable with Arduino IDE ? Or how else ?


  2. Eric Brombaugh
    Jan 09, 2018 @ 17:03:08

    8MB on-chip PSRAM would allow for some useful audio applications, but 160MHz Cortex M4F seems a bit of a bottleneck – I’ve got audio products now that rely on 216 MHz Cortex M7 and could use a bit more horsepower. It will be interesting to see how this part develops with respect to cost and support.


  3. zoobab
    Jan 09, 2018 @ 21:46:09



  4. zoobab
    Jan 09, 2018 @ 21:46:31

    Nothing on the electrodragon shop though:


  5. zoobab
    Jan 10, 2018 @ 20:45:08

    Now there is a module you can order t Electrodragon:


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Jan 11, 2018 @ 07:01:47

      Nice, 30% below Espressif but there is one odd message on the same page “This is a very new IC, price for 5981A is about 1 USD, according to sales, still have some bugs currently. We will sell this soon.” Does this means these are engineering samples not tested product? How do they got CE/FCC?


  6. Trackback: $1 RDA5981 WiFi IoT SoC is Designed for Smart Home Devices, Smart Speakers
  7. Mike Scott
    Jan 11, 2018 @ 22:01:09

    they claim to have shipped 200m chips in 2016. It’s now 2018, and their specifications are still preliminary date 2017. i wonder what kind of customers they have been dumping their chips to. i would definitely hesitate to do business with a company that does PR in this manner.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Jan 12, 2018 @ 08:07:55

      It’s really hard to believe they have sold so many. With such bit amount of chips produced all flaws should have been rectified long time ago. Also they would be available on Aliexpress, Taoboa, ebay etc. The electrodragon web statement that these chips has still bugs and they do not sale ring some bells that these may be on engineering samples state. It’s not uncommon to make fake PR in China. One Chinese Pi competitor (with just few employees) months ago gave interview where they claim they sell 40 000 boards per month and they sell at BOM cost as got money from the government. I asked fiend from China to check how this is done and he laugh out loud. Their online platforms sell less than 400 pcs per month. He told me Chinese government will give money to private company only when it’s sure it will take them back tenfold, with business model to sell at cost this is hard to achieve. What these low cost companies usually do it to sell at cost and to put their margin in the shipment which usually cost cents when sent by Chinese post in bulk.


  8. Romersome
    Aug 07, 2018 @ 08:58:16

    never buy chips from China… we lost lots of money by adopting their chips


  9. Makerfabs (@MakerfabsTech)
    Nov 23, 2018 @ 11:28:56

    In the past 4 years, the ESP8266 is the most popular Wifi solution for Makers, the good spec and cheap price make the competitors, such as RTL8710, hard to grow up.
    But sometimes plan B is indeed needed. Recently the W600 Arm SoC Wifi solution, released by Winner Micro, we think would be an evenly matched competitor for ESP8266.


    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Nov 23, 2018 @ 11:40:50

      Like Arduino, who ever manage first to attract community and develops easy to use software will win.
      ESP8266/ESP32 are cheap enough and if there is another “competitor” which makes something at lower cost this doesn’t means people will be eager to start learning from the scratch new platform, when they already have working code for old project.
      We still have customers buying imx233-OLinuXino which is way too weak and expensive and obsolete and A20 for instance outperform it in any means, but people made designs, develop solution, pay for certification etc. To go again through this route because there is newer, faster, cheaper solution is not good enough for them to justify all these efforts.


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