Esp8266 range

I’ve a quick question for all of you esp8266 and sonoff et Al users.

How’s the range? I ask because I now have a Pi 3 and a Pi Zero W and the onboard WiFi is bad to the point that I have to disable it and plug in a USB dongle. And one of the two is not particularly par from the AP.

I’ve been hesitant to try the ESPs for that reason but it occurred to me the Pi may just be particularly bad and the ESPs have better range.

What are your experiences. I’m especially curious about anyone who can compare they’re experiences with the Pi and ESPs.

Can’t compare with the Zero sorry but I have a RPi in the garage running Squeezelite (hooked up to some speakers) and it is reporting about 69% signal strength (in my Unifi controller). I have a number of Wemos D1 Minis in the garage as well, 2xparking sensors and one for monitoring/controlling my garage door, and they are all reporting between 84%-99% signal strength.

The UAP is in the garage as well so I would expect good signal. So based on this I would say the ESP8266 chips probably have better range, YMMV.

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I also can’t compare my rPi3 with my ESPs since I don’t use WiFi on the rPi3.

One example that I can share is:
ESP (Wemos D1 mini) at 50 meters away from the closest indoors AP (installed in my Robo500 case = outdoors) is reporting:
Signal: 54%
Channel: 1(11ng)
TX Rate: 72,2 Mbps
RX Rate: 54 Mbps
Uptime: 5d 14h (I lost grid power last week… I have seen much longer uptimes… it’s very stable)

I have seen very good range and reliability from my ESPs so far.

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ESP connected via wifi to router: about 20 meters without any problems through one concrete wall.
Pi Zero W connected via wifi to router: about 25 meters without any problems (same concrete wall).
All my Pi3’s are wired, so no wifi range tested.
Several other ESP’s throughout inside the house: never had any range problems.

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I’ve only encountered problems with ESP range with SOnOff S20 Switched Sockets, the range on one of those is only about 5 metres in my garage but its end on to the Aerial on the Router, and has several floor support beams in the way. Adding a Wall Wart plugged into it was enough to make it very sluggish, and moving the Wart to an extension lead plugged into the socket allowed it to work again. My other S20 Socket is also slow, so maybe the aerial in those isn’t very good. I have an ESP in a place where 433MHz stuff didn’t work reliably and its connected at 70MHz despite being a floor above the router, which is pretty good, and out of the 15 ESP’s I have, I’ve only had range problems, together with another SOnOff PoW that has a DOA PSU
Is your Pi in a case that’s attenuating some of its signal perhaps? WiFi operates at a similar frequency to a domestic microwave, and the signals will get attenuated by anything solid shrouding the aerial, my guess is due to its small size the Pi can’t cope as well as a dedicated router which has diversity aerials.
As a former RF engineer I’d suggest that both Pi’s and ESP’s don’t have diversity antenna’s, so Pi to ESP is a bad combination, but Pi to Router or ESP to Router is a lot better

I use the the ESPs in my house and garden as sensor nodes, no problems.

You can extend the range with using the “B” mode

extern "C" {
    #include "user_interface.h"
void setup(void) 

Both are in clear plastic cases (one PET the other acrylic) but both had equally poor signal when “naked”. I can say though that the Pi 0 W actually had a better signal in a more troubling environment (twice as far from the API as the Pi3 with two floors between it and the API verses the one floor between the Pi3 and the AP). Other devices (phones, Rokus, laptops, etc) have no signal problems in these same locations. The Pis have no signal trouble with cheap wifi dongles instead of the onboard wifi.

I admit I had not done the full analysis to determine if the bad signal was only in one direction. I can say that my ssh sessions often timed out and I would see ping ranges from 50 msec to 5 seconds when using the onboard wifi and get a consistent 2-20 msec (with some 100+ msec here and there) with the USB dongle (this is on the Pi0W in the basement). And I should say these are not the type of dongle with the rubber ducky antenna sticking out of it. It too must be using an integrated antenna. It could be possible and probably likely that AP to Pi is fine but the Pi’s power is too low to make it to the AP. I don’t know as I had the wifi dongles already and just wanted the damn thing to work.

And that is what prompted my question because the ESPs have just as tiny printed on the circuit board antennas.

Can you mix 802.11b and 802.11n and 802.11ac? It used to be, back in the old 802.11g days that if you had one device using b it would throttle everything else down to b too.

I haven’t looked into this in a long time as all my devices are now N or AC.

Are you running your sensorReporter Script on those Pi’s? I too had those drops and bad reception when using both onboard wifi and BT. As soon as BT was not used anymore Wifi was stable for me.

That is interesting. I am indeed using the BT on these Pis (sensorReporter or reelyActive). That makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure I’m willing to turn off the BT on these just yet so using a dongle works for now (plus updating the DHCP table on my router is a pain).

This and comments from others does alleviate my fears about experimenting with ESPs. The problem most likely lies with the Pi and is not a general problem that would necessarily extend to the ESPs.

Thanks to all who have commented.

I’m sorry Rich, I should have been more specific. It seems to that reelyActive and the passive listening is not the problem, but frequent scanning caused the instability for me. If I recall correctly the problem was somewhat solved if I set the scanning interval as high as every 180secs.

Good to know. I need to rework my network soon anyway (I’m FINALLY installing and configuring pfsense). When I do that I’ll need to redo the dhcp tables and dns anyway so I can take that opportunity to try the embedded wifi again.

I’ve stopped using the BT scans in sensorReporter for now. I’ve managed to get the Network binding to be accurate enough for my purposes. If that is the source of the problem I should be good to go.

The only other thing I can think of that might be a source of problems is both of these Pis are mounted vertically to the wall. I suppose that could impact the wifi as well.

Thanks for all the info!