Cosmic Unicorn (Pico W Aboard) review

By Phil King. Posted

We thought the Galactic Unicorn (reviewed in issue 126) was impressive, but the Cosmic Unicorn is its bigger stellar sibling. This super-size display has 1024 addressable RGB LEDs in a square 32×32 grid.

The Pico W pre-soldered to the rear means you’ve got Wi-Fi connectivity baked in, along with Bluetooth – as used in our music visualiser tutorial in issue 129.

As with the Galactic Unicorn, it comes preloaded with Pimoroni’s own brand of Pico MicroPython firmware and an auto-running demo program that lets you press one of four tactile buttons to choose from four graphical effects: burning flames, eighties supercomputer (random pixels), cycling rainbow, and nostalgia computer prompt.

Again, the Pico W RP2040’s PIO state machines are used – along with 12 FM6047 constant current LED drivers – to control the 3.5 mm pixels at around 300 fps at 14-bit resolution, so there’s no sign of any flicker.

It’s powered by a Pico W soldered on the rear, where you’ll also find a speaker, buttons, battery connector, and Qwiic/STEMMA ports

Sounds good

At the rear you’ll find a small 1 W audio speaker along with two Qwiic/STEMMA ports (JST-SH) for connecting breakouts such as sensors. There’s also a battery connector (up to 5.5 V). Positioned at the right-hand edge of the front is a phototransistor to detect light levels. Two metal legs are supplied to use as a stand.

Programming is relatively simple using the PicoGraphics library for shapes, sprites, and a selection of fonts. Check out the full function list in the Cosmic Unicorn MicroPython reference guide. Inspiration can be found in several code examples, including a neat web-server-based paint program for drawing on the display from a computer.



The larger display area opens up more possibilities for projects, such as a weather dashboard, as well as for playing impressive graphical effects and animations.


Display: 32×32 matrix of RGB LEDs (1024 in total)

Features: Pico W on board, 10 × push-buttons, mono I2S amp and 1W speaker, 2 × Qwiic/STEMMA ports, battery connector, 2 × metal legs

Dimensions: 204 × 204 mm

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