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MIPS MCUs Outrun ARM

February 18, 2014

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Microchip’s newest 32-bit microcontrollers not only match the features of their Cortex-M4 competitors but also achieve higher EEMBC CoreMark scores. The new PIC32MZ EC family is powered by a MIPS microAptiv CPU core running at 200MHz—a speed demon by MCU standards.

These MCUs have more memory than comparable chips (up to 2MB of flash and 512KB of SRAM) plus Ethernet, Hi-Speed USB2.0, an LCD interface, and a cryptography accelerator. An early sample scored 654 CoreMarks—the highest EEMBC-certified score for any 32-bit MCU executing from internal flash memory.

Microchip’s earlier PIC32MX family uses the smaller MIPS32 M4K core running at a maximum clock speed of 100MHz. The microAptiv CPU in the new family not only runs twice as fast but also supports the microMIPS 32-bit instruction-set architecture. MicroMIPS combines 16- and 32-bit instructions to achieve better code density than previous MIPS32 cores or even Cortex-M cores using 16/32-bit Thumb-2 instructions. Microchip claims the PIC32MZ family has 30% better code density than similar ARM-based MCUs. Also, microAptiv adds 159 new signal-processing instructions.

The PIC32MZ family is designed for high-end controller applications, such as vehicle dashboard systems, building environmental controls, and consumer-appliance control modules. Some PIC32MZ chips will begin volume production in March, and the remainder by mid-year. Prices for 10,000-unit volumes will range from $6.68 to about $10—relatively expensive for MCUs but reasonable for the performance and features.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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