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Bluetooth 5 versus Bluetooth 4.2, what’s the difference?

Cobus Heukelman in Blogs on February 08, 2017

About Cobus Heukelman

The Bluetooth 5 specification has at long last been ratified. Soon everything from mobile phones to beacons will support this new standard. So why should you consider using it for your application? In this blog I will shed some light on this new technology.

Although not technically correct, Bluetooth 5 can be seen as an update of Bluetooth 4.2. It also features low power consumption, inexpensive hardware and small size implementations. Bluetooth 5 is backwards compatible with 4.2 so no need to worry about compatibility issues between a new device and an old node. With your fears allayed, it’s time to see what this new tech can do.

Compared to Bluetooth 4.2, Bluetooth 5 has:

  • 2x the data rate
  • 4x the range
  • 8x the broadcast capability

Data rate

Bluetooth 5 increases the data rate to 2Mbps. This means it can reach a net data rate of about 1.4Mbps when we ignore overhead like addressing. Although not fast enough to stream video, audio streaming is now within reach.


This is in my opinion the best feature of Bluetooth 5. The range is up to four times that of Bluetooth 4.2. The best case range that a Bluetooth 4.2 solution can reach is about 50m, so with Bluetooth 5 we’re looking at a 200m range. Naturally these figures will be less for indoor applications, but it means that Bluetooth can now realistically be used to connect devices throughout a house, and not just within one room. This is achieved by scaling down the data rate in 4 steps. Instead of having one data rate, it is now possible to select 2Mbps, 1Mbps, 500kbps and 125kbps. The lower the data rate, the longer the range achieved.

Broadcast capability

Um, say what? Bluetooth 5 supports eight times bigger packets, just think of all the useful stuff you can now put in each packet. Since there are more data bits in each packet, the net data throughput is also increased.

Check out the new Nordic nRF52840 development kit for Bluetooth 5.

If you have any questions on how Bluetooth can solve your next design, email us or call 866-506-8829



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