Truth Bluetooth 5, Gary Explains: World most famous technology, Bluetooth is one of those pieces of tech that we now take for granted. Ever since its introduction in the mid-1990s it has become an essential wireless Technology, not only for smartphones but also for tablets, laptops, desktops, and more.
Bluetooth comes in two flavors: “Classic” and “Low Energy”. The former is the Bluetooth that enables our wireless keyboards and mice, along with wireless headsets and speakers. The latter, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) uses a lot less power and is designed for areas like health care, fitness, and beacons. That’s why wearables like the Fitbit Charge 2 use BLE rather than Bluetooth Classic.
Last summer, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) announced Bluetooth 5 and shortly after that I made a Gary explains video about Bluetooth 5. Since then the new specification has been officially published and the technology is starting to appear in development boards and consumer gadgets, most notably the Galaxy S8.
Since Bluetooth 5 will likely become the de-facto version of Bluetooth over the next few years, I thought it would be good to test it out now and discover the truth about its range and speed. To do that I got hold of two Bluetooth 5 nRF52840 development boards from Nordic Semiconductor. These two boards come with a Bluetooth 5 protocol stack and a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4F microcontroller clocked at 64 MHz.
Truth Bluetooth 5, Gary Explains
This basically means you can write C programs for the board to test out Bluetooth 5, which is what I did. To save time I started with an example Bluetooth throughput program provided by Nordic and then tweaked it for my particular needs.
These boards support three types of Bluetooth connections: BLE 4.x, Bluetooth 5 2 Mbps and Bluetooth 5 Coded. The first is the connection type used by the current Bluetooth Low Energy specification, i.e. BLE 4.x. It is known as the BLE 1 Mbps connection because that is its approximate speed at the lowest level (layer) before any protocol overheads are added.
The second is the new faster connection that comes with Bluetooth 5. It is rated at 2 Mbps, again at the lowest level. The third is a new special kind of connection that was introduced for Bluetooth 5. Its aim is to provide long distance Bluetooth connections, but with a low bit rate. In other words: range rather than speed.