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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Atmel samples its Cortex M4 microcontroller as battle heats up

Fifth-generation family with up to 2MB of flash and 192KB of SRAM

By Nick Flaherty

Atmel has weighed into the battle around the ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller with its SAM4S16 that is now sampling to lead customers.
This is its first M4 device, and challenges NXP, STMicroelectronics and TI who all have M4 parts. Freescale yesterday announced plans for an M4 device with an A5 applications processor combined. Throughout 2012, the Atmel SAM3 and SAM4 families will quadruple the Atmel Cortex-M range to nearly 200 ARM-based microcontrollers and will include devices with on-chip memory densities of up to 2MB Flash and 192KB of SRAM and extensive peripherals including high-speed USB. Several devices its new M4 Flash family will also include a floating point unit (FPU) to take on the Digital Signal Controller (DSC) market.
The SAM4S16 device operates at a maximum speed of 120MHz with 1024KB of flash and 128KB of SRAM with a full peripheral set featuring full-speed USB, high-speed SDIO/SD/MMC, UARTs, TWIs, SPI, I2S, 12-bit ADC and DAC and an external bus interface supporting PSRAM, LCD modules, NOR Flash, and NAND Flash. The device offers hardware code protection and supports Atmel popular QTouch technology for touch button, slider and wheel functionality targeting the industrial markets. It is sampling now with production in Q2 next year.
The DSC market requires the combination of high-efficiency digital signal processing and industry-leading microcontroller technology, which replaces a two-chip MCU and DSP implementation and reduces the overall system cost. Selected members of the Atmel SAM4 family include the Cortex-M4 processor and a floating point unit (FPU). Running the ARM DSP library, the SAM4 family doubles execution speed for fixed-point and 10X for floating-point DSP algorithms over the Cortex-M3 SAM3 family.
The SAM4 flash microcontrollers, planned for market introduction in 2012, will offer up to 2MB Flash and 192KB of SRAM, peripherals that include high-speed USB OTG with on-chip transceiver, Ethernet and CAN and an external bus interface supporting PSRAM, LCD modules, NOR Flash, and NAND Flash. All devices integrate security features to protect on-chip program memories using innovative hardware code lock security technology, and the family is aimed at applications in the medical, power management, motor control, smart metering, industrial automation and embedded audio segments, the same target markets as the other vendors.
"As one of the early ARM licensees, we are excited that Atmel continues to expand their product offering with the Cortex-M4, the latest processor in the Cortex-M family, to target the high-performance microcontroller and DSC markets," said Lance Howarth, executive vice president of marketing at ARM. "Using the new SAM4 microcontroller products, designers will benefit from the solid product family roadmap that offers scalability for optimized price and performance across consumer, computing and industrial applications."
"Designers using ARM processor-based microcontrollers continue to push the performance limit for their applications," said Jacko Wilbrink, senior marketing director of ARM products at Atmel. "The fifth-generation SAM4S family and previous-generation families offer the right combination of features and capabilities to ensure they have the optimal product for their applications. We are committed to offering the right product mix to ensure our designers have the right combination and price-points to develop innovative, differentiated products."

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