NeoPixel LEDs are the bee's knees, but in a few scenarios they come up short…connecting odd microcontrollers that can’t match their strict timing, or fast-moving persistence-of-vision displays. Adafruit DotStar LEDs deliver high speed PWM and an easy-to-drive two-wire interface, bridging the gaps in the spectrum of awesome.

DotStars vs NeoPixels

The basic idea behind DotStars and NeoPixels is the same: a continuous string of individually-addressable RGB LEDs, driven by a microcontroller. The way each goes about it is a little different. DotStars aren’t necessarily a better thing in every situation…there are tradeoffs, each has its pros and cons to consider…



+ Extremely fast dataand PWMrates, suitable for persistence-of-vision displays.

+ Easier to interface to a broader range of devices; no strict signal timing requirements.

+ Works with Servo library, tone() function, interrupts, etc.

Slightly more expensive.

 Fewer available form factors.

Needs two pins for control.

+ More affordable.

+ Wide range of form-factors (pixels, rings, matrices, etc.).

+ Works from a single microcontroller pin.

+ RGRW (RGB+white) variants available.

Strict 800 KHz data rate; not all systems can generate this, and speed is a bottleneck on very long strands.

400 Hz refresh/PWM rate not suitable for persistence-of-vision effects.

 Not compatible with interrupts (e.g. Arduino Servo library or tone() function).

1 Up to 8 MHz on Arduino, up to 32 MHz on Raspberry Pi.

2 19.2 KHz.

This guide was first published on Dec 24, 2014. It was last updated on Oct 15, 2018. This page (Overview) was last updated on Oct 09, 2018.