Microcontroller Families

How To Select The Right Microcontroller For Your Project

Today, there are many microcontrollers and boards available for DIY projects, all with their individual strengths and weaknesses. In this section you get guidance to select the right microcontroller for a given task, plus extensive information about many popular boards.


Here is a list of reasons for when to choose a particular microcontroller board. This list is neither complete nor authoritative. If you have additional tips or suggestions, please leave a comment below.


You are new and want to get your hands dirty and find out what a microcontroller can do.


An Arduino Nano (or one of its Clones) might be right for you: since Arduinos are around the longest time, there is a wealth of free resources and video tutorials available. Arduinos are renown for their ease-of-use. Using Arduino IDE, you’ll be up and running in no time.

Choosing A Board

The actual type of Arduino depends on your needs (i.e. the number of devices you want to control, GPIOs):

  • Arduino Uno: too old and limited
  • Arduino Nano: great general purpose choice
  • Arduino Every, Arduino Nano ESP32: lack compatibility, lacks ease-of-use and “just works”, requires some configuration and code adjustments. If you are after some of their special features, better pick the real thing: a ESP32 board (see below)


While Arduinos let you quickly enjoy first successes, they are pricy and technically limited. Both the (easy-to-use) ArduinoIDE and the boards stop to be fun once you get excited and want more: memory is quickly exhausted in more sophisticated firmware, WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity is lacking, and power consumption is comparably high.

So unless you are determined to exactly follow some Arduino training videos, for beginners with a bit of basic technical understanding, get an ESP32 S2, and start by using a professional IDE like platformio rather than Arduino IDE. This sets you up in the most future-proof way.

Most example code runs equally well on ESP microcontrollers and often just requires some adjustments to the GPIO pin numbers.

The ESP32 S2 is a great and extremely powerful single-core microcontroller, is available for under EUR 2.00 (so you can buy a couple, just in case you toast one or want one to stay in a useful device you built), has plenty of memory even for the most advanced sketches, and is the last ESP32 family member that comes with useful-to-experiment features like two DACs (digital-to-analog converter).

Microcontroller Pro Contra
Arduino Nano Simple Start Quick to reach limits
ESP32 S2 A little more time required to get started Cheaper, more powerful, extensible future-proof tool chain

Any of the ESP32 will do.

High Computational Load

Classic dual-core ESP32 or even better yet, the new dual-core ESP32 S3 with advanced AI vector analysis support that runs code another 10% faster.

Low Computational Load And No Space

If you want a microcontroller to just control hardware and sensors in very space-constrained environments and with low energy consumption, then ATtiny is a good way to go.

Battery-Powered Devices

All newer ESP32 come with excellent and most efficient power-savings modes: S2, S3, C3, C6


If you intend to run full-fledged applications on a real operating system, choose Raspberry Pi


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(content created May 22, 2024)