A fun new part has recently become available - the PL9823-F5. It looks like a standard 5mm RGB LED, with 4 pins and a diffused plastic forming the body of the LED itself.

PL9823-F5 LED

Inside, however, it packs a bit of a punch: a control chip that can set the brightness of Red, Green and Blue via serial data. It’s similar to the popular WS2812 that Adafruit sells as the Neopixel - and it’s fairly compatible with them to boot (the colour ordering is different). According to cpldcpu, the timing of these devices are compatible with the Neopixels, so existing code (such as Adafruit’s library) will work.

There are a couple of important differences: first off, these are through hole, so they’re easier for beginners and hobbyists to work with than the surface mount-only WS2812s. Also, Red and Green are swapped with respect to the Neopixel / WS2812. Other than that, they work identically.

Here’s a link to the PDF datasheet, and here they are on AliExpress. I just paid about $14 per hundred plus a little over $20 in shipping, which is a good deal. The pinout on the AliExpress page is wrong, by the way - use either the one in the datasheet or this fancy hand-drawn one I just made:

PL9823-F5 Pinout

Here’s a quick video of 5 of these LEDs in action, running Adafruit’s strandtest sketch:

I’m formulating a few projects that could use these - I need to take a look at how little voltage they can get by on (they’re rated to 4.5V on the datasheet), and how much current they draw. Odds are they’re going to put out a lot of power supply noise much like the WS2812s, so I’ll take a look at that, too.