Flash-less, the new fashion trend?
Who would have known that we would see in the same month more flashless devices at extreme ends of the spectrum? From the souped up i.MXRT1060 (600MHz) to the low power BT5 Dialog Semi DA14683, the market seems ready for more non-volatile memory options. Flashless will not solve the world’s problem, but this is an interesting architecture to consider. Microchip on its end showed us another type of architecture with a motor-control dual core processor. So many options to choose from…
The big news was the creation of a new family – SAML1x – based on the Cortex-M23. The Cortex-M23 (Cortex-M0+ like) and its more powerful brother the Cortex-M33 (Cortex-M3-like) are both built on the ARMv8-M architecture that incorporates trusted hardware using the TrustZone technology. They were announced back in October 2016. These are features the IoT market has been looking for. The SAML11 embeds secure elements from the architecture including TrustZone, secure debug, crypto, memory scrambling and secure boot, not found on the SAML10.
Performance-wise, both run at 32MHz and have an active current of 25uA/MHz, about a third less than the Cortex-M0+ based SAML2x. The 24-strong members of the family start at 16/4 kB of Flash/RAM for a 5k price of $1.17 and expand up to 64/16 with USB for $1.47.
Dialog released the DA14682/3 products, upgrading the DA14680 with BT5 and cryptographic accelerators. The DA14683 participates into a larger trend of flash-less MCUs – more with NXP below.
Microchip created another surpise with the creation of the dsPIC33CH, a dual-core built for motor control and industrial applications. Interestingly the cores run in a master/slave model where the slave can run up to 200MHz vs. 180MHz for the master. 20 products we released from 64+24 / 16+4 Flash/RAM (master+slave) to 128+24 / 16+4, with prices ranging from $2.73 to $3.72 @5k.
NXP quietly added the i.MXRT1060 – although no products are found yet. As its siblings, the 1060 is flashless and can run up to 600MHz but it doubles the RAM to 1 MB which is the highest SRAM density with the STM32H7 on the MCU market.
Flash size apart, the i.MXRT (528-600MHz) family is close to the STM32H7xx (400MHz) and the ATSAMV7 (300MHz) as they are all Cortex-M7 based with Ethernet, dual USB (only one for the V71), LCD interfaces and other peripherals.
If you look closely at the price range, the i.MXRT is obviously cheaper than its competitors due to lack of flash mostly. Users looking at the total BOM cost for their application will see that 2MB of quad-SPI flash is only a couple of dollars making the value proposition worth looking at.
There are lots of other factors to take into account depending on your design, including performance analysis (speed, power consumption), cost to get your code flashed, cost to optimize software (location of code and data in RAM/Cache), PCB space constraints and much more. Your actual mileage may vary…
The flash-less area is a segment to watch, especially in the mid-tier to high end.
No significant change.
There were 3 EFR32BG parts (Bluetooth) adding new package/temperature combinations to the existing family
Cypress added a dozen parts to the FM3 family (CY9AFxxxxxG-MNE2).
STM32 had only new temperature/package variants of existing parts.
No significant change.
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