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Monday, March 13, 2017

ARM M4F controller adds more power flexibility for IoT performance

By Nick Flaherty

STMicroelectronics has led the way with microcontrollers based around the ARM Corex-M4F DSP core, coupled with key peripherals.

Now it has added larger memories, enhanced graphics support, extra peripherals, and increased power-saving flexibility for the STM32L4.

Bigger on-chip RAM, now up to 320 Kbytes, sits alongside the new ST Chrom-ART Accelerator graphics engine for smoother display performance in energy-conscious applications such as IoT devices and smart watches. 

There is also up to 1 Mbyte Flash, an extra CAN interface, a camera interface and crystal-less Full Speed (FS) USB OTG. A new high-pin-count UFBGA169 package option gives extra flexibility for the new peripherals, 

Adding security capability, the STM32L4A6 with hardware cryptographic acceleration implements SHA-256 and AES-128/192/256 algorithms.

The EEMBC CoreMark score of 273 is an indicator of the performance while the ULPBench score of 217 confirms the energy efficiency. Active-mode current of just 37µA/MHz enables longer runtime on small batteries and extends scope to create energy-neutral products powered from ambient sources.

ST has also extended the flexibility of the STM32L4 power architecture, giving developers the option to power the core from an external DC/DC converter for extra efficiency. The FlexPowerControl architecture includes a new shutdown mode for additional energy savings, alongside multiple independent core and peripheral supplies, and a separate VBAT domain with charging circuitry that gives flexibility to use or recharge battery energy. 

There are seven main STM32L4 low-power modes supported, with options such as retaining I/O levels and SRAM contents, each with several sub-modes that allow precision trimming of power consumption as application demand varies.

There are STM32Cube development tools and software, two Nucleo-144 boards, and the STM32L496 Discovery Kit (STM32L496G-DISCO) with on-board audio/graphics features and Arduino, Pmod and ST's own STMod+ connectivity support. The NUCLEO-L496ZG-P features an on-board DC/DC converter for powering the core directly, which allows developers to easily use the flexible power architecture in the most energy-conscious applications. The legacy-compatible NUCLEO-L496ZG is also available, and offers the same features as existing Nucleo-144 boards.

Pricing starts from $4.63 for the STM32L496RET6 with 512 Kbytes Flash and 320 Kbytes SRAM in LQFP64 package, for orders of 10,000 pieces per year.

The development boards start at $19 for the legacy-compatible Nucleo-144 board (NUCLEO-L496ZG), which is available now. The Discovery Kit (STM32L496G-DISCO) is also available now, priced $70. The NUCLEO-L496ZG-P board with external DC/DC converter will be available to distributors in April 2017.

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