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Pico W Smart LED Matrix – Stellar Unicorn (16x16 – 256 pixels)

by Pimoroni

Gorgeous programmable LED matrix displays with wireless connectivity and oodles of fancy extras! 🦄

Our space Unicorns are very beautiful, all-in-one, RP2040 powered LED matrices perfect for conveying information fabulously (or for sprucing up your desktop, makingspace or imaginarium). There's a ton of features aboard, here are some of our favourites!

🌈 Loads* of RGB LEDs, all with individual colour and brightness control. We're in mad love with these big bright squircular LEDs with their rounded apertures and built in diffusion.

📷 Looks great on video - invoking RP2040 magic means we can update the LEDs really quickly (we measured around 300 fps at 14-bit precision). This means there's no nasty strobing, artifacting or brightness stepping when it's filmed, so it's perfect for adding to the background of your streaming setup.

🌍 2.4GHz wireless connectivity (courtesy of the Raspberry Pi Pico W) so you can use it to display all sorts of interesting data from the internet.

There's also an onboard amp and little speaker for bleepy alerts and *futuristic noises* and a battery connector so you can power it without it having to be tethered to a USB portEvery Unicorn comes with a pair of sleek little metal legs so it can stand up on its own (and has a selection of mounting holes if you'd prefer to do something else).  

Use it to make a very fancy clock, a very fancy weather display or a very fancy output for sensors (other very fancy use cases are available).

Which Unicorn to choose?

All varieties of Unicorn have the same great core features: buttons, a speaker, a battery connector and an onboard Pico W. However, there's now three different shapes and sizes, with varying amounts of LEDs. Here's a little comparison chart to make sure you get just the right amount (like mecha-Goldilocks 🤖).

 Unicorn *How many LEDs Arranged in a...
Size of board (L x W x D)
Stellar 256 16 x 16 square grid 108 x 108 x 10.2 mm
Galactic 583 53 x 11 wide grid 330 x 78 x 10.2 mm
Cosmic 1024 32 x 32 square grid 204 x 204 x 10.2 mm


Features

  • Raspberry Pi Pico W Aboard
    • Dual Arm Cortex M0+ running at up to 133Mhz with 264kB of SRAM
    • 2MB of QSPI flash supporting XiP
    • Powered and programmable by USB micro-B
    • 2.4GHz wireless
  • 256/583/1024 RGB LEDs in a 16x16/53x11/32x32 grid
    • 3.5mm LEDs with rounded square apertures
    • 6mm LED spacing
    • Driven by FM6047 constant current LED drivers
  • MAX98357 3.2W I2S Mono Amplifier (with 30mm 1W speaker)
  • Phototransistor for light sensing
  • 9 tactile user buttons
  • Reset button
  • 2x Qw/ST (Qwiic/STEMMA QT) connectors
  • JST-PH connector for attaching a battery (5.5V max)
  • Fully assembled
  • No soldering required.
  • C/C++ and MicroPython libraries
  • Schematics - Stellar / Galactic / Cosmic

Kit includes

  • Stellar/Galactic/Cosmic Unicorn (with speaker attached)
  • 2 x metal legs
  • USB A to micro-B cable

Software

To make it real easy to get started, all Unicorns come pre-loaded with MicroPython and a demo reel of examples.

If you're using C/C++ or pirate-brand MicroPython to program your Unicorn, you'll have access to our PicoGraphics library, which includes handy functions for displaying text, shapes and images. You can also control the colour and brightness of each pixel individually, of course!

MicroPython

C/C++

Experimental

Not your everyday RGB LEDs

In our software, we use the Pico W's PIOs (Programmable IOs) to drive the LEDs. Internally, Unicorn applies gamma correction to the supplied image data and updates the display with 14-bit precision resulting in extremely linear visual output - including at the low end.

The display is refreshed around 300 times per second (300fps!) allowing for rock solid stability even when being filmed, no smearing or flickering even when in motion.

Connecting Breakouts

The Qw/ST connectors make it super easy to connect up Qwiic or STEMMA QT breakouts. If your breakout has a QW/ST connector on board, you can plug it straight in with a JST-SH to JST-SH cable

Breakout Garden breakouts that don't have a Qw/ST connector can be connected using a JST-SH to JST-SH cable plus a Qw/ST to Breakout Garden adaptor. Want to use >2 breakouts at the same time? Try this adaptor!

Printables

Want to cut a diffuser or 3D print a case? Check these out:

Stellar

Galactic

Cosmic

Notes

  • Power consumption stats! ⚡ We measured Galactic and Cosmic Unicorn as consuming just over 1A at maximum brightness, full white. When choosing a battery, consider that the LEDs will look their absolute best when they have access to at least 3.6V of power. At lower voltage levels you will start to see the blue elements of the LEDs fading out - this starts to become very noticeable at 2.9V and below. For best results when running on battery, we'd suggest using a chunky LiPo (check out the extras for some suggestions).
  • Note that Unicorns have no battery charging hardware onboard -  this is so you can use either alkaline or LiPo batteries safely. You'll need to charge up your LiPo battery with a separate battery charger (we like LiPo Amigo).
  • Squircle alert! 🟪🔵 Some batches of Unicorns have LEDs with more rounded apertures (though the LED specs and brightness remain the same). They all look good, but if you want a perfectly visually matched pair (or stable) of Unicorns it's probably best to buy them at the same time.

About Pico W Aboard

Our new Pico W Aboard products come with a built in Raspberry Pi Pico W. This means you get all the advantages of a RP2040 microcontroller - a speedy fast dual-core ARM processor, a dynamic, growing ecosystem and a choice of different programming methods to experiment with. Most excitingly though, Pico W has wireless connectivity, so your Pico/RP2040 devices can communicate with each other, and the internet! 🌍

View all Pico W Aboard!