M5Stack is an ESP32 development systemEven if you are only remotely interested in microcontrollers chances are that you have heard about the ESP32, the heart and brains of the M5Stack. This extremely powerful yet low-cost chip includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and has quickly become popular over the past year or so. Programming it is easy as the familiar Arduino IDE can be used.
A different approachToday’s microcontroller development boards are mostly small boards with pin headers that plug into a breadboard or onto some other board. The M5Stack that we examine in this article takes a different approach as projects developed on it can be finished products at the same time. This is possible because the dev board is already built into a nice-looking enclosure with a graphical display, pushbuttons, microSD card slot, USB-C, loudspeaker, and extension connectors.
The main module consists of a 13-mm (0.51”) high plastic square box with 5.4-mm (2.13”) sides. Turning the module upside-down reveals the circuit board. It is not as dense as you might expect. The ESP32 and its accompanying 4 MB flash memory chip are hidden by a metal cover; the other ICs are for power, USB, and audio. The SPI display (ILI9341-based) is connected through a flat cable soldered to the backside of the PCB.