Move over NeoPixels, there's a new LED strip in town! These fancy new DotStar LED strips are a great upgrade for people who have loved and used NeoPixel strips for a few years but want something even better. DotStar LEDs use generic 2-wire SPI, so you can push data much faster than with the NeoPixel 800 KHz protocol and there's no specific timing required. They also have much higher PWM refresh rates, so you can do Persistence-of-Vision (POV) and have less flickering, particularly at low brightness levels.
Like NeoPixels, DotStar LEDs are 5050-sized LEDs with an embedded microcontroller inside the LED. You can set the color/brightness of each LED to 24-bit color (8 bits each red green and blue). Each LED acts like a shift register, reading incoming color data on the input pins, and then shifting the previous color data out on the output pin. By sending a long string of data, you can control an infinite number of LEDs, just tack on more or cut off unwanted LEDs at the end. The PWM is built into each LED-chip so once you set the color you can stop talking to the strip and it will continue to PWM all the LEDs for you
However, unlike NeoPixels, these LEDs have 2 wires (input and output) for sending data - one clock pin and one data pin. That means you need two pins, not one, to control DotStars. Because the clock and data is seperated, you can use any processor speed or type to control these strips, and you don't have to worry about being careful with the timing. Hardware SPI support is handy but not required. This makes them excellent for use with any microcontroller or microprocessor, including Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Propeller, SparkCore, and any 'raw' microcontrollers/microprocessors. It's very easy to port the library, and you can send data to the pixels at up to 32MHz clock rate!
Another nice thing about DotStars is their high PWM rate. You only have to set the 24-bit color data for each pixel LED once, and then the LED+built-in-chip will handle the PWMing of the red, green and blue. On NeoPixels, this PWM rate happens 400 Hz, which works well but is noticably at lower brightnesses and if the strip is moving in any way. DotStars have a 20 KHz PWM rate, so even when moving the strip around, you won't see the pixelation, the color blending is very smooth.
The strip is made of flexible PCB material, and comes with a weatherproof sheathing. You can cut this stuff pretty easily with wire cutters, there are cut-lines every 1.3"/3.4cm (1 LED each). Solder to the 0.1" copper pads and you're good to go. Of course, you can also connect strips together to make them longer, just watch how much current you need! We have a 5V/2A supply that should be able to drive 1 meter, a 5V 4A that can do a couple meters, and a 5V/10A supply that can drive up to 10 meters (depending on use) You must use a 5V DC power supply to power these strips, do not use higher than 6V or you can destroy the entire strip
These strips come in 5 meter reels with a 4-pin JST SM connector on each end.