I'm building a few sensor projects that will need to pass status messages wirelessly. The required range is standard household distances; 30 to 100 meters indoors, through walls, etc.

The XBee offerings appear to be all the rage lately, but at around $20 to $50 each, those devices would increase the project cost by one or two orders of magnitude. Conversely, the cheap no-name wireless offering reportedly have some reliability issues and are difficult to get working if you can do it at all. It would be much better to go with something with a bit more engineering behind it. Low-power would also be helpful in some of the installations, but it's not critical at the moment.

What inexpensive wireless options are there for small projects? Something that combines both the microcontroller and the wireless into a single package would also help defray costs. But again, XBee is expensive even for a microcontroller.

I haven't settled on a MCU yet; I'm considering the PIC, AVR, and MSP430 and leaning toward AVR since I typically use that for prototyping anyway; but really anything with a decent ADC and PWM will do.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ugh. Whoever is doing the wholesale drive-by downvoting of all the answers to this question, please do everyone the favor of at least GIVING YOUR OWN ANSWER if you disagree with everyone else. \$\endgroup\$
    – tylerl
    Feb 25, 2013 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


Here is a Chinese el-chepo version of the Xbee, for US$3.70 on DealExtreme. Free shipping to most countries.

It is a module, so it should be a plug and play just like the Xbee. Uses simple serial to communicate. The only let down is that these things (nor any other electronic modules on DealExtreme) are not well documented on the site. Hunt around for a datasheet.

NRF24L01+ 2.4GHz Wireless Transceiver Module

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is simply a copy of the reference design for the Nordic Semiconductor NRF24L01+ The datasheet for which can be found here nordicsemi.com/kor/Products/2.4GHz-RF/nRF24L01P. It is also not a clone of the Xbee as those are built on 802.15.4 and have a much more complex network stack than these. \$\endgroup\$
    – NickHalden
    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:39

This transceiver might be a good start for you. It is well documented and available.

Cost: $2.17
Frequency: 400MHz to 1GHz
Max Data Rate: 256kbps
Modulation: FSK
Max Output Power (without antenna gain): +5dBm
Rx Sensitivity: -112dBm

There are thousands of options here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, thousands of options; that's the problem. You don't know which will get you there, and which will not. A datasheet is useful, but it's not the same as experience from someone who's used it. \$\endgroup\$
    – tylerl
    Feb 25, 2013 at 3:29

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