No more software PWM, no more LED driver chips, just intelligent LED pixels. These things come with integrated controllers/drivers and support 24bit colors (8bit per R,G,B). This makes projects smaller and is much easier on the microcontroller, no more need for interrupt-driven PWM generation and refreshing etc.
Data is sent to the chips (chainable) in a serial way on just one line. The ’1′s and ’0′s are encoded by pulse-lengths of HIGH and LOW, in a somewhat similar fashion as e.g. the NEC IR remote protocol.
Brightness of the LEDs is plenty, and as far as I can tell they’re even white-balanced! Adafruit has developed an Arduino library for these chips. It’s named ‘NeoPixel’.
Pricewise… these things cost about 0.32$ in small quantities. Given that you don’t need any LED drivers or resistors and can just talk to them, that’s not too bad.
I like them.