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…

DotStars

NeoPixels

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

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

+ Don't have to worry about special pins, DMA requirements, interrupt management (e.g. Arduino Servo library or tone() function on the popular ATmega series).

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.

+ DMA support on many popular platforms - for examples SAMD21, SAMD51, ESP8266/ESP32 (and more!)

+ FadeCandy compatible

Strict 800 KHz data rate; not all systems can generate this, and speed is a bottleneck on very long strands if you don't have DMA support.

400 Hz refresh/PWM rate not suitable for persistence-of-vision effects. Light painting may be OK!

Not compatible with some platforms that don't have DMA and require interrupts (e.g. Arduino Servo library or tone() function on the popular ATmega series).

– Requires special pins on some platforms - for example ESP8266 DMA support, one of the few DMA supported pins on Raspberry Pi, etc.

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 Dec 24, 2014. This page (Overview) was last updated on May 29, 2020.