I found it hard when I first started out with Arduino to figure out which boards had Bluetooth, WiFi, and other connectivity features. At the time I didn’t know what project I wanted to build (I was more interested in getting back to my electronic engineering roots) and figured I’d get an Arduino with at least Bluetooth. I’ve since learnt that there are a multitude of options for using Bluetooth with Arduino and I put together this guide to help anyone else figure out what they need to get started with Arduino and Bluetooth.
The following Arduino boards come with Bluetooth built-in:
- Nano 33 BLE
- Nano 33 IoT
- UNO WiFi Rev 2
- MKR WiFi 1010
- MKR Vidor 4000
- Portenta H7
Typically the Arduino nano family is designed to work well in Bluetooth Low Energy applications, as well as function in regular Bluetooth modes as well. The UNO and MKR families also come with a model that supports Bluetooth as well (the WiFi Rev 2 and the WiFi 1010 respectively). The higher end boards (Vidor and Portenta) come with Bluetooth as well, though I’ve found they generally serve more niche applications than the general purpose boards (Nano, UNO, MKR etc.).
The popular Mega and Due families of boards do not come with Bluetooth built-in. Bluetooth can be added to these, and other boards which do not come with Bluetooth, using a Bluetooth shield or a serial to Bluetooth module. These typically cost between $10 and $20. I’ve included more detail in the guide below below.
To identify if an Arduino has Bluetooth built in, look for the u-blox chip and antenna on the top of the Arduino board. The u-blox chip allows the Arduino to act as a client or host device with support for both BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and regular Bluetooth.
If your Arduino has Bluetooth built in, you can then use the ArduinoBLE library to add code to a sketch that works with Bluetooth. The library reference can be found here. If adding Bluetooth by shield or serial module (see below), then working with Bluetooth is accomplished using the serial interface/library.
In this guide I’ve also looked at at:
- Cost of Arduino boards that have Bluetooth included
- How to add Bluetooth to an Arduino board (and how much it typically costs)
- How to programme an Arduino using Bluetooth
- Example projects that use Bluetooth
How much an Arduino with Bluetooth Costs
An Arduino with Bluetooth can cost as little as $18, however the cost can go over $100 depending on other features of the board. For most Bluetooth-related projects, expect to spend between $20 and $45 on an Arduino with Bluetooth built in.
The table below lists all the Arduino models that come with Bluetooth built in, and how much each of them costs:
|Arduino Model||Typical Cost|
|Nano 33 IoT||$18.40|
|Nano 33 BLE||$20.20|
|Nano 33 BLE Sense||$31.10|
|MKR WiFi 1010||$32.10|
|UNO WiFi Rev2||$44.80|
|MKR Vidor 4000||$72.40|
The Nano 33 series are designed to be small form factor boards great for wearable devices and gathering data from sensors. Being equipped with Bluetooth, they can operate as a Bluetooth peripheral and be used to send data back to a host.
The Nano 33 series and the MKR WiFi 1010 operate at 3.3V. This means they may not always be compatible with 5V shields. There are work-arounds available to get them working with 5V shields, but if you have a shield in mind then it may be best to check the compatibility before buying one of these boards. I chose the UNO WiFi Rev2 for my first board because of its support for a variety of shields.
Other popular Arduino boards, such as the Mega family and the Due, do not come with Bluetooth included. In the next section of this guide I’ve included how to add Bluetooth to an Arduino which doesn’t already come with it.
How to Add Bluetooth to an Arduino
Bluetooth can be added to any Arduino using either a shield or by connecting a Bluetooth transceiver with a serial connection. It typically costs between $10 and $20 to add Bluetooth to an Arduino depending on if a shield is used (more expensive) or if a serial connection is used (cheaper).
To add Bluetooth to an Arduino:
- Select the shield or serial module that you want to use
- Add the appropriate code/sketch and upload this to the board
- Start communicating via Bluetooth as you would with any other Arduino
The code to add should be based on the serial communication library rather than the ArduinoBLE library (as this library is for the Nano and similar devices with Bluetooth built in).
There are also some Bluetooth serial transceivers that can be configured to communicate with an Arduino. These are a bit cheaper than a shield, typically costing around $10 (examples here and here). I can imagine they are more difficult to configure however. I also found a tutorial here if you need help setting up serial Bluetooth.
Personally I’ve never tried either of these options (usually I use an Arduino with Bluetooth already built in), but if you’re having trouble with it please let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help.
Bluetooth Project Examples
Some examples of interesting Bluetooth projects I found (if you’re looking for inspiration):
The project I had in mind when I wrote this article was to make a simple Bluetooth input device to a computer using my Arduino. But I feel it’s not as impressive of a project as some of the ones listed above.
- Bluetooth is built in to most boards in the Nano family, as well as select boards of the UNO and MKR families;
- ArduinoBLE is the library that can be used to access features of the in-built Bluetooth chip;
- Bluetooth can be added to other Arduino boards using a shield of a serial to Bluetooth module, this typically costs $10 to $20.
Chris is an electronics engineer by training looking to get back to his roots by building useful electronics projects. A Bluetooth peripheral device is one of the first he wants to explore.