$1 Microcontrollers

Silcon Labs EFM8: Unbelievable mark and ease-of-consume from the sole 8-bit portion with a absolutely-free gruesome-platform supplier ecosystem

The EFM8 used to be the quickest 8-bit portion in my round-up, and albeit, my well-liked 8-bit architecture to manufacture with total. What these parts lack in brains they manufacture up for in brawns — 14-bit ADCs, 12-bit DACs, a total bunch timers, and a 72 MHz core clock waddle that gives you timing alternate strategies now not show cowl in any a quantity of portion in the round-up.

Plus, that is the sole 8-bit portion with a absolutely-free, gruesome-platform, supplier-equipped ecosystem. Let that sink in.

Keil C51 is a silly compiler, but Silicon Labs does an advantageous job hiding it under the hood — even when working its Eclipse-basically based Simplicity Studio on Linux or macOS.

Simplicity Configurator is the lightest-weight code generator in our round-up, the consume of finest 534 bytes of flash to house your total DMX-512 receiver mission. It used to be one among the best to make consume of, and perceived to strike a dazzling balance between abstraction, efficiency, and ease of consume.

Debugging speeds are fleet with a J-Hyperlink debugger, but at $35, the legitimate Silicon Labs USB Debug Adapter is one among the least costly first-celebration debugger in the round-up, and clones of the hardware are even cheaper.

And name me feeble-favorite, but I mediate the 8051 positively has a location in 2017 — especially among hobbyists and college students, the place its bit-addressable reminiscence, easy-to-consume peripherals, and fuse-free configuration support get college students overjoyed with microcontrollers speedily.

Microchip megaAVR & tinyAVR 1-Sequence: Reasonably a range of strokes for various of us — still with the sole 8-bit toolchain readily available

The megaAVR came in surprisingly flat for me: especially when put next with its lower-cost, contemporary sibling, the tinyAVR 1-Sequence.

There’s no comparison by mark: tinyAVR has impossible mark — packing in a advantageous assortment of timers, analog peripherals (together with a DAC), and a brand contemporary 20 MHz within oscillator — whereas costing 20-40% lower than the megaAVR.

Whereas the megaAVR has a perplexing debugging trip that requires two completely a quantity of interfaces and protocols to work with the portion, the contemporary one-wire UPDI interface the tinyAVR sports actions labored flawlessly in my checking out.

Nonetheless that’s the crux of the misfortune for the tinyAVR — by shedding many of its megaAVR roots, Microchip ended up with a beautiful microcontroller that will almost definitely be tough to make consume of for a natty nasty of Atmel fans: indie builders and hobbyists who consume low-cost, start-source programmers (which don’t support the UPDI interface).

Whereas the tinyAVR wasn’t the quickest portion in the round-up (even among 8-bitters), it used to be the finest – both by filled with life-mode energy and clock efficiency. Amazingly, the AVR finest makes consume of about twice as many instructions as 16- and 32-bit parts when performing 16-bit math.

Sadly, the AVR system as a total is now not with out its points. The Home windows-finest Atmel Studio is still buggy (especially with older megaAVR gadgets and AVR Dragon stuff in my exams), and there isn’t an under-$50 low-cost debugger readily available (a quantity of than hacking aside Xplained Mini dev boards).

In quite loads of programs, there looks to be a tacit demarcation Atmel creates between its hobbyist/indie builders, and the expert retailers that consume Atmel parts.

As a talented embedded developer, I most positively comprise get admission to to Home windows computer systems, and I wouldn’t comprise any misfortune blowing just a few billable hours’ fee of pay on a $140 debugger.

Nonetheless even as favorite as Atmel is among hobbyists, Atmel has largely stayed out of this house right now. As a replacement, they’ve secured cramped-volume AVR sales by relying on the start-source community to manufacture their very possess tools for themselves: turning out a slew of hardware and instrument gentle to program the megaAVR gadgets.

Whereas I applaud the efforts of these builders, these tools are injurious to Atmel’s. Their programming speeds are gruesome, they don’t support the contemporary tinyAVR 1-Sequence gadgets, and so they’ve absolutely no debug capability.

Having acknowledged that, both the megaAVR and tinyAVR comprise the sole toolchain readily available for 8-bit MCU pattern. The portion helps a paunchy, quit-to-quit Makefile-basically based GCC toolchain.

Whenever you occur to luxuriate in printf() debugging, would by no formulation contact a proprietary toolchain, and despise IDEs, megaAVR and feeble tinyAVR parts are positively for you. The older ones are still readily available in DIP packages, and as you practically certainly know, there are a ton of low-cost programmers readily available across the sphere. The procure community is big, and as clunky as I get Atmel START to be, I in fact would favor to applaud its support for Makefile-basically based mission generation.

Which ability, the megaAVR stays the most start-source 8-bit microcontroller in the marketplace — by a prolonged shot.

Nonetheless I’d in fact grab to ascertain Microchip present a PicKit-priced debugger with UPDI support — and enable off-board debugging the formulation their PIC Curiosity Boards invent.

I moreover hope these start-source initiatives can add UPDI support to their tools, in issue that hobbyists and indie builders can open integrating the tinyAVR into their initiatives — it’s a severely larger portion, and in case you’re an AVR particular person with get admission to to Atmel Studio, you in fact ought to prefer an Xplained Mini board and grab it for a trail.

STM32F0: A low-cost, no-nonsense portion with arguably the sole Arm pattern ecosystem tested

The STM32F0 used to be the lowest-energy Arm microcontroller in the round-up, and moreover one among the best to make consume of. STM32CubeMX doesn’t generate the most compact code on Arm (that honor belongs to Cypress PSoC Creator and Infineon DAVE), but it has a fleet interface, and the generated code is easy ample to manipulate to your possess targets.

I luxuriate in the almost-inventory Eclipse-basically based surroundings that Procedure Workbench for STM32 offers, and the ST-Hyperlink and advantageous Discovery/Nucleo boards seals the deal for me.

Most consultants comprise gentle ST parts of their work, but for all these causes, any hobbyist taking a comprise a study transferring to Arm would possibly perchance perhaps unbiased still presumably purchase up a dev board from this ecosystem, too. ST has a large market footprint, so there’s tons of resources online — aimed at both hobbyists and consultants.

SAM D10: Killer efficiency & peripherals, but with runtime library hiccups

The Microchip/Atmel SAM D10 (and the broader D11/D20/D21 ecosystem) has dazzling mark (desirous about their analog portfolio involves a DAC, and so they’ve dazzling timing alternate strategies), and the SAM D10 used to be the finest portion tested when working at paunchy waddle.

Experts will luxuriate in the easy-to-consume, properly-documented header files, and hobbyists will fancy the 1.27mm-pitch SOIC bundle alternate strategies and GCC compilers that prolong with the Arm ecosystem. Nonetheless sooner than I purchase this portion for a mission, Microchip in fact desires to repair the extraordinarily behind, bloated peripheral library, and change their code-gen tool to invent dazzling error-checking of clock and peripheral configurations.

As it is, on every occasion I consume Atmel START on the D10, I must STOP practically right now. And there are now not any present, stand-by myself peripheral drivers that Microchip has released for this portion, so except it’s essential invent register programming from scratch, you’ll be relying on third-celebration, start-source initiatives — luxuriate in Alex Taradov’s code examples.

Infineon XMC1100: Attention-grabbing peripheral perks manufacture this Cortex-M0 stand out

The most inviting Arm chip used to be, undoubtedly, the Infineon XMC1100 — and I mediate consultants who would possibly perchance perhaps unbiased be cautious of getting out of the ST/NXP/Atmel Arm ecosystem want to grab a second see at these XMC1000 (and XMC4000) parts.

The timer alternate strategies are amazingly versatile, and to boot you would possibly perchance squeeze advantageous efficiency out of the USIC module.

I’m going to pass out on a limb and imply that severe hobbyists who are constructing motor / lighting fixtures retain an eye fixed on initiatives see into these parts, too. DAVE makes atmosphere up these complex peripherals painless, and the 38-pin TSSOP chips will seemingly be severely more straightforward to solder than the 0.5mm QFNs and QFPs you largely quit up with in these pin counts.

Love many of the parts reviewed right here, the biggest misfortune for hobbyists and indie builders is the puny online communities and shortage of GitHub repos with start-source initiatives that consume these chips. My advice — be brave, and put up in the boards. Infineon staff video show and customarily acknowledge within a day or so.

PIC16: An total bunch peripherals with a slower, energy-surroundings advantageous core

Whenever you evaluate the PIC16 with a quantity of 8-bit parts available, it’s clearly a ingredient built for low-energy functions, and now not processing energy. And whereas the enchancment ecosystem is workable, there are a quantity of parts more friendlier pathways — especially for smaller retailers, hobbyists, and college students who need extraordinarily low-cost tools (and free instrument).

To add gasoline to the PIC-vs-AVR debate, my checking out stumbled on that a 32 MHz PIC16 is roughly a lot like an AVR portion working at 1.4 MHz (by math efficiency), and 9 MHz (by bit-shuffling efficiency).

Having acknowledged that, the DMX-512 receiver looks an ideal match for the PIC16, and that’s the place it looks easiest in my checking out: the PIC16 used to be the lowest-energy 8-bit portion in my checking out.

It’s moreover paunchy of timers and digital good judgment-oriented peripherals that manufacture it dazzling for funky particular-cause initiatives that require some crafty consume of configurable good judgment and and the numerically-managed oscillator — these peripherals support offload the (somewhat behind) CPU, on the expense of requiring more developer familiarity with the system and these peripherals.

The identical outdated Microchip gotchas apply: clunky IDE, costly compilers, and costly debuggers.

The identical outdated Microchip advantages apply: enormous online community, seemingly limitless product lifetime guarantees, and DIP, SOIC, QFP, and QFN bundle availability.

PIC24: An costly MSP430 wannabe that doesn’t hit the designate

The PIC24 is almost forgettable. In the biquad take a look at, it’s marginally faster than the Renesas RL-78 but makes consume of practically thrice as noteworthy energy. In the DMX-512 take a look at, both the RL-78 and MSP430 beat it, too. It used to be moreover one among the least-endowed parts in the round-up (which in fact dazzling formulation it’s costly — bigger-quit PIC24 parts wouldn’t comprise any shortage of peripherals).

The identical outdated Microchip gotchas apply: clunky IDE, costly compilers, and costly debuggers.

The identical outdated Microchip advantages apply: enormous online community, seemingly limitless product lifetime guarantees, and DIP, SOIC, QFP, and QFN bundle availability.

PIC32: An advantageous 32-bit portion that balances efficiency and energy consumption

The PIC32MM used to be my well-liked Microchip portion in the review. It brought in the lowest-energy efficiency of every and each 32-bit portion tested. Sadly, it used to be moreover the least-surroundings advantageous 32-bit portion tested by math efficiency (properly, other than the couldn’t-care-much less-about-energy Nuvoton M051), and it’s rather spartan on peripherals — it doesn’t in fact comprise a hardware I2C controller.

Nonetheless PIC32MM parts comprise dazzling flash / RAM density, and comprise more lifelike clocking / peripheral gating configurations than just among the more-versatile Arm parts, which makes them feel more straightforward to program at a register level.

Plus, they’ve moderately a range of headroom: I mediate the excessive-quit PIC32MZ DA gadgets comprise a house among cramped industrial dev retailers that need Linux-luxuriate in HMI efficiency but don’t comprise the resources to bring a product luxuriate in that to market.

The identical outdated Microchip gotchas apply: clunky IDE, costly compilers, and costly debuggers.

The identical outdated Microchip advantages apply: enormous online community, seemingly limitless product lifetime guarantees, and DIP, SOIC, QFP, and QFN bundle availability.

Renesas RL-78: An agile, low-energy, easy-to-consume 16-bit portion you in fact ought to ascertain out

I had by no formulation picked up a Renesas portion sooner than, and after I went browsing for dev kits and stumbled on finest a smattering of costly, archaic systems, I used to be a shrimp bit anxious. Nonetheless I stumbled on the $25 RL78L1A Promotion Board, gave it a shot, and in fact enjoyed it.

The RL-78 is a fleet architecture that competes with Arm parts in math efficiency, but it’s moreover somewhat cheap — especially in comparison to the MSP430 and PIC24. It would possibly well perchance’t moderately hit the MSP430 sleep-mode energy consumption figures, but it gets cease — and is, by a long way, the most energy-surroundings advantageous 5V-excellent portion in the review.

The code generator tool produces readable but surroundings advantageous code, and the IDE, e2studio, is Eclipse-basically based — and is getting Linux and macOS support in the next start.

I’d whinge in regards to the dev board, but the contemporary YRPBRL78G13 RL78/G13 pattern equipment would possibly perchance perhaps unbiased still resolve generally all my complains with it — I will’t now not sleep for U.S. distributors to open carrying these. They’d well consume a more filled with life community and more folk publishing code online, but I’m hoping this article will support encourage some therapies for that.

N76, HT66, and STM8: Low-cost parts with a smattering of pattern headaches

The STM8 is maybe the nicest of the “cheapie” parts. It has advantageous peripherals and in fact dazzling efficiency for an 8-bit portion working at its frequency, but I mediate the entry-level 38-cent STM8S103F2P6 is a more compelling portion than the larger-quit one reviewed right here — simply thanks to its extremely-low mark. The portion I reviewed right here looks loads luxuriate in the a quantity of 8-bit microcontrollers — but with an ragged-searching IDE that’s now not almost as productive because the competition. And practically all the pieces available has larger energy consumption figures.

Peaceful, this portion is comparatively cheap to get going (ahoy, $5 ST-Hyperlink clones), and the IDE and toolchain are for free. Nonetheless in that regard, you get what you pay for: STVD feels trapped in 2002, and there’s no procedure to set aside a more unusual pattern and debugging surroundings for it 15Though, there’s some rising SDCC / GDB support for pairing it with an ST-Hyperlink in an start-source model, which would possibly perchance perhaps perhaps support it manufacture inroads with the classic tinyAVR and megaAVR users.

You’ll be forking over somewhat moderately a range of cash for a Keil C51 license to manufacture for the N76 — fascinated with a ingredient that doesn’t see noteworthy a quantity of than some entry-level EFM8s that comprise a day-and-night difference in ease of pattern. Peaceful, at 23 cents per unit, it’s tough to beat for volume functions — and hobbyists and hackers can presumably get by with the 2K code limit of Keil’s evaluate model. SDCC users needn’t apply: there’s no stand-by myself tools for loading code into this portion, and I doubt µVision will also be coaxed into loading an SDCC-compiled hex file.

The Holtek HT-66 has gruesome processing efficiency, but barely makes consume of any speed-mode present — there’s a range of utility-specific gadgets to grab from, and whereas the IDE is goofy, I stumbled on it to be rather productive — and it’s for free. Careful, though: finest the more-costly “V” parts comprise on-chip debugging.

STC8: A lifelike efficiency-heavy portion for hacking — but presumably now not for severe, expert work

I mediate every hacker and progressed hobbyist in fact ought to throw $10 at AliExpress/Taobao and get some STC15 and STC8 parts — dazzling for relaxing.

Each are jam-packed paunchy of peripherals and reminiscence (bigger than every a quantity of portion reviewed), and the STC8 is moreover in fact like a flash. There are some inviting initiatives you would possibly perchance invent with a ingredient that hits your C interrupt code 10 clock cycles after an interrupt happens — that’s 320 nanoseconds. Each these parts support debugging over UART, so there’s no proprietary debugger to prefer.

I wouldn’t severely retain in mind the consume of these parts in U.S-basically based industrial work, as we haven’t any get admission to to STC inventory right here, but the portion is dazzling straightforward relaxing to play with.

ON Semiconductor LC-87: Skip

Probabilities are you’ll perhaps presumably skip over the ON Semiconductor LC87. It is a uncommon portion outdoors the Eastern market, and it looks luxuriate in it’s on its procedure out the door. I called Altium to ascertain out to get an evaluate model of the Tasking LC87 toolset, and the particular person I talked to had by no formulation heard of the LC87 sooner than, and used to be practically sure they hadn’t made a compiler for it for as a minimum three years. This portion has gruesome energy consumption, few peripherals, and the worst pattern surroundings I seen on this review. Skip.

Kinetis KL03: Sleep-mode specialist now not for learners

Whereas the Kinetis KL03 has advantageous deep-sleep present and extremely-puny CSP bundle availability, it positively feels luxuriate in a specialised portion now not functional for the functions I evaluated. It has a long way fewer peripherals than the a quantity of parts reviewed, and regardless of NXP’s low-energy claims, used to be consistently in the center of my Arm rankings for the DMX-512 receiver take a look at — though it almost fits the SAM D10 in paunchy-waddle filled with life mode.

Kinetis SDK is awkward to make consume of, and the dev boards are gruesome — requiring moderately a range of reverse-engineering and hacking to get the board doing anything else a quantity of than working pre-written demos (especially in case you’re drawn to measuring energy consumption). Peaceful, MCUXpresso is a productive, unusual Eclipse-basically based IDE, and the KL03 has just among the lowest-leakage energy modes available, which formulation you would possibly perchance get 8-bit-luxuriate in efficiency whilst you’re working an RTC or interrupt wake-up mission from a coin-cell battery.

Kinetis KE04: First fee peripheral assortment with a grand — but clunky — code gen tool

The Kinetis KE04 had rather heavy energy consumption in my checking out — but this used to be largely because of the heavy-handed Processor Expert code that Kinetis Create Studio generated. This surroundings is admittedly smartly-behaved to noteworthy bigger, faster microcontrollers working RTOSes and now not wanting especially dazzling low-level I/O efficiency.

Nonetheless, hey, in case you don’t in fact care about efficiency, the marvelous thing about Processor Expert is it abstracts the peripherals to this kind of excessive level that you’ll by no formulation want to crack start a datasheet for the portion in case you’re the consume of the peripherals in favorite configurations.

Plus, the KE04 (and KE02) are 5V-like minded parts, and so they’re readily available in feeble-college, easy-to-solder 1.27mm SOIC and zero.8mm packages — so I would possibly perchance perhaps perhaps factor in hobbyists would get this portion functional.

LPC811: Few perks, and no more inviting than the LPC810

The LPC810 drew folk in with its outlandish, 8-pin DIP impress-aspect. That chip has since been discontinued, but the LPC81x line stays. The LPC811 reviewed right here is sparse on peripherals — now not even having an ADC — and brought in unhappy efficiency. There’s in fact nothing that this portion does that you would possibly perchance’t get from one among the a quantity of vendors; but don’t discredit NXP completely — their bigger-quit choices comprise some inviting capabilities (luxuriate in dual-core Cortex-M4/M0 designs), and their pattern surroundings, MCUXpresso, is an inoffensive Eclipse system.

PSoC 4000S & MSP430: Bottom-of-the-barrel parts that supply a inspect into advantageous ecosystems

I hesitated to search out out in regards to the PSoC and MSP430 because they are liable to be somewhat costly parts, so in a $1 shoot-out, you quit up with bottom-quit parts that don’t see almost as functional as their bigger-cost relatives. Whenever you occur to in fact would favor to get a feel for what the MSP430 or PSoC parts can invent, I imply procuring for into a bigger-quit portion — ideally on one among the marvelous dev boards that these manufacturers manufacture.

PSoC Creator and the reconfigurable digital and analog blocks in the PSoC line blueprint many expert and hobbyist users into the architecture — but as a change of grabbing the 4000S from this review, attain for a PSoC5 (or soon-to-start PSoC6) dev board to get a feel for the platform.

Same with the MSP430. In the DMX-512 take a look at, it dominated in energy consumption, but barely keep up marks in any a quantity of category (that is terribly tough whilst you wouldn’t comprise any hardware multiplier, and finest a smattering of peripherals).

Peaceful, the portion has a stable pattern ecosystem with Code Composer Studio and a probability between the proprietary (but now free) TI compiler, and the start-source GCC one. Plus, hobbyists will luxuriate in the easy Arduino migration path (with Code Composer Studio right now supporting Energia *.ino sketch initiatives) and $10 dev boards.

And in fact, all people beginning a battery-basically based product desires to pass prefer an MSP430 Initiate Pad and play round with it — these in fact are unprecedented parts that still comprise moderately a range of relevance in 2017.

Nuvoton M051: Ecosystem points stifle a efficiency-packed portion

The Nuvoton M051 — one among the most-endowed parts reviewed — suffers ecosystem points that Nuvoton would possibly perchance perhaps perhaps with out issues resolve in the ruin, so I’ll reserve judgment. There’s no manufacturer-equipped Eclipse-basically based IDE — as a change, the sole IDE alternate strategies are CooCox, and Keil µVision — neither of which I’m particularly concerned with.

I used to be ready to get CooCox working (though the peripheral libraries which are in the CooCox repo are feeble and paunchy of bugs). The M0 had just among the worst energy-consumption figures in the review, but it makes up for that with tons of communications peripherals, wonderful 32-bit retain an eye fixed on-advantageous timers, and with out issues-digestible runtime libraries and documentation which are procedure more straightforward to make consume of than a quantity of vendors’. When Nuvoton fixes the IDE absence, I’ll positively pass this portion from the “meh” to “yeah” column — because it accomplishes all of these feats whereas final one among the lowest-cost Arm microcontrollers available.

I had a ton of relaxing enjoying with all these a quantity of parts for the outdated couple of months for this microcontroller review, and in quite loads of programs, came away pondering what I already knew: there is never always an ideal microcontroller — no magic bullet that can please all users. What I did be taught, alternatively, is it’s getting more straightforward and more straightforward to purchase up a brand contemporary architecture you’ve by no formulation gentle sooner than, and there comprise by no formulation been more thrilling ecosystems to grab from.

And that’s what I need folk to mediate of as they stroll away from this microcontroller review. Whenever you occur to’re an Arduino hobbyist searching the place to pass next, I’m hoping you stamp there are a ton of big, easy-to-consume alternate strategies. And for expert builders and hardcore hackers, maybe there’s an outlandish-ball architecture you’ve seen sooner than, but by no formulation moderately felt luxuriate in plunging into — now’s the time.

It’s an exhilarating time to fret with electronics — whatever parts you comprise to purchase up, I’m hoping you’ve enjoyed discovering out about what’s available, and would possibly perchance perhaps perhaps get impressed to pass manufacture something big. Positively waddle away a existing in the feedback below in case you’ve obtained something to make a contribution to the dialogue!

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β€œSimplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching