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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cortex micro market hots up as STMicro claims world’s most powerful ARM Cortex devices

By Nick Flaherty

The competition for microcontrollers based on the ARM architecture is hotting up with STMicroelectronics launching its STM32 F4 series of microcontrollers with the claim of the world's most powerful. 
The 90nm series is based on the latest ARM Cortex-M4 core, which adds signal-processing capabilities and faster operations. Single-cycle DSP instructions of the STM32 F4 open the doors to the digital signal controller (DSC) market that requires high computational capability and DSP instructions for demanding applications such as high-end motor control, medical equipment and security.
Other microcontroller makers using the ARM architecture are set to launch 65nm parts which point to similar if not higher performance.
A key point is the ability to upgrade from existing ARM-based devices. ST points out the STM32 range is the industry’s most successful family of 32-bit ARM Cortex-M processor-based microcontrollers, with nearly one of every two units shipped being a member of the STM32 family[reference]. By providing a simple, full pin-to-pin and software compatible upgrade from the STM32 F2 series with more SRAM, higher performance and a robust collection of peripherals, the F4 series will enable customers designing with the STM32 F2 series microcontrollers to offer product extensions by upgrading to the F4 series if they need more memory, performance or features. In addition, customers currently using a 2-chip MCU and DSP approach can now combine both chips in one high-performance digital signal controller.
“The STM32 F4 series is attractive for so many more reasons than simply because it is the highest performing Cortex M processor-based microcontroller available on the market today,” said Claude Dardanne, Executive Vice President and General Manager Microcontrollers, Memories and Secure MCUs Group, “With more than 250 compatible devices already in production, the industry’s best development ecosystem, and outstanding power consumption and overall functionality, the F4 family is the cherry at the top of the STM32 family of Cortex-M processor-based MCUs, which now includes four product series: the STM32 F1 series, the STM32 F2 series and the STM32 L1 series, all based on the Cortex-M3 processor, and the new F4 Series, based on the Cortex-M4 processor.”
“ST's decision to include the ARM Cortex-M4 processor into its broad MCU portfolio is a testimony to the processor's low power consumption, advanced design and high-performance DSP capabilities,” said Lance Howarth, EVP, Marketing, ARM. "ST now has one of the broadest ARM Cortex-M series processor-based portfolios available. The Cortex-M series represents the fastest growing MCU architecture and the STM32 F4 microcontroller will undoubtedly further accelerate the adoption of the ARM architecture across microcontroller applications."
The 90nm F4 series operates at a higher frequency (168 MHz instead of 120 MHz), offers single-cycle DSP instruction support and a Floating Point Unit, larger SRAM (192 Kbytes vs. 128 Kbytes), embedded flash memory from 512 Kbytes up to 1 Mbyte, and advanced peripherals for imaging, connectivity and encryption.
Specific technical benefits of the F4 series include:
  • A 7-layer multi-AHB bus matrix and multi-DMA controllers, which allow concurrent execution and data transfers;
  • The integrated single-precision FPU boosts the execution of control algorithms
  • High integration, with up to 1 Mbyte of on-chip Flash memory, 192 Kbytes of SRAM, reset circuit, internal RCs, PLLs, sub 1microAmp real-time clock with sub-second accuracy;
  • Extra flexibility to reduce power consumption in applications requiring both high processing power and low-power performance when running at low voltage or on rechargeable batteries. These include 4 Kbytes of backup SRAM to save data in standby or battery backup modes, a typical RTC consumption of <1uA in Vbat mode, and an internal voltage regulator with power scaling capability, allowing the selection of performance or lower consumption;
  • Tool and software ecosystem with a broad offering of Integrated Development Environments, Meta-language tools, a DSP library, inexpensive starter kits, software libraries and stacks;
  • Camera interface, Crypto/Hash HW processor, Ethernet MAC10/100 with IEEE 1588 v2 support, two USB OTG (one with HS support),
  • Dedicated audio PLL and two full duplex I2S;
  • Up to 15 communication interfaces (including six USARTs running up to 10.5 Mbits/s, three SPI running up to 42 Mbits/s, three I2C, two CAN, SDIO);
  • Two 12-bit DACs, three 12-bit ADCs reaching 2.4 MSPS or 7.2 MSPS in interleaved mode;
  • Up to 17 timers: 16-bit and 32-bit running up to 168 MHz;

The family is in production now in four variants with prices beginning from $5.74:

STM32F405x: in addition to a complete set of advanced peripherals including timers, three ADCs, two DACs, serial interfaces, external memory interface, RTC, CRC calculation unit and analog true Random Number Generator, the STM32F405 products have a USB On-The-Go (OTG) full-speed/high-speed interface. They are available in four packages (WLCSP64, LQFP64, LQFP100, LQFP144) with 1 Mbyte of Flash.
STM32F407 products add several advanced peripherals to the ones offered on the STM32F405 products: a second USB OTG interface (full-speed only); an integrated Ethernet MAC 10/100 supporting both MII and RMII, with IEEE1588 Precise Time Protocol v2 Hardware support and an 8- to 14-bit parallel camera interface allowing the connection of a CMOS camera sensor, supporting up to 67.2 Mbytes/s. Devices are available in four packages (LQFP100, LQFP144, LQFP/BGA176), with from 512 Kbytes to 1 Mbyte of Flash.
The STM32F415 and STM32F417 parts add a crypto/hash processor to the STM32F405 and STM32F407. This crypto/hash processor includes hardware acceleration for AES 128, 192, 256, Triple DES, HASH (MD5, SHA-1). As an example of the performance achieved by the crypto/hash processor, the AES-256 encryption throughput reaches up to 149.33 Mbytes/s.
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