WizNet WIZ820ioIn one of those cases where you see the same thing mentioned in two completely different places on the Internet on the same lazy Sunday afternoon – and the second time you see it just reinforces the opinion from the first time – I’m on the lookout for a UK distributor carrying the new(ish) WizNet WIZ820io plug-in network module. It’s a breakout board with an RJ45 magjack and a W5200 controller … basically an updated copy of the chip that you’d find on an Arduino Ethernet Shield, in a breadboard friendly form.

The appeal of that is that it has a TCP/IP stack implemented in hardware, rather than the software stack required for an ENC28J60-based solution, which gives a number of benefits;

  • the hardware stack will always be faster
  • you’re freeing up program space as your ethernet library should be smaller
  • there’s no single packet limitation that currently affects the EtherCard library
  • WizNet supply updated library files to replace those in the standard Arduino Ethernet library to support the newer chip, meaning that all code written for the library should “just work”

ColinA's implementationMy first thought upon reading of the board was “that’ll make building one-off units with ethernet connectivity into a piece of cake” and then I saw just such an implementation over on the Adafruit forums. Given that you only need about a dozen components to get up and running (if you don’t need or want a full-blown Arduino Uno, say), then this is perfect.

Now, don’t get me wrong … it’s not just a simple case of me forgetting anything I’ve previously written about the ENC28J60-based interfaces and wanting to jump to something else purely because it’s newer and shinier. I think both solutions have their place and I’d like to try out the WizNet board to see how it fares in the real world.

Now, where’s that list of friendly retailers I can ask to stock it …

UPDATE (27/07/12) : After sending him a note the other week, Mike at HobbyTronics is now stocking a few of these modules to test the water on uptake. Mine’s on order, so I guess we’ll soon see if it really is just a plug and play solution.