There are lots of ways of adding programmable LEDs to your project. NeoPixels are probably the classic, but they’re not without their pitfalls – they are expensive if you need a lot of them, can be slow to update, and don’t have great brightness control at the low end.
HUB75 LEDs can be cheap and fast, but can also be awkward to wire up and control. APA102s are fast and look great, but they also get very expensive very quickly if you’re using a lot of them.
This board uses an LED driver – the IS31FL3741 – which controls the 13×9 RGB LED matrix. This driver is controlled over I2C with a selectable address, so you can control four of these boards using a single two-wire I2C connection. You can connect them up either with the pin headers or the STEMMA QT/Qwiic connection, meaning that you can get started without any soldering – just plug it in and go. The LEDs are mounted flush with the side, so you can connect them horizontally to make a continuous display.
There are libraries to work with Python, CircuitPython, and Arduino, so you should be able to get up and running quickly with almost any microcontroller as a host.
VERDICT: Cheap, easy-to-use lights that you can tile horizontally 9/10
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
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