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Copyright Ó 2001 Microcontroller.com. All Rights Reserved.
March 2001
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Table 1 - Summary of Embedded Processor Architectural Comparison
Embedded
Processor
System
Requirement
Feature
Benefit
Efficient control of
external devices
ü
I/O Control
I/O Ports with bit-level
control
Direct interface to
actuators, switches, &
digital status signals
ü
Peripheral
Communication
s
Serial Ports: SPI, I²C, 
MicrowireÔ, UART, CAN
Hardware support for
expansion & external
device networking and
communications
ü
Precision
control of
motors and
actuators
Sophisticated timers and
PWM peripherals
Low software
overhead
ü
Quickly
resolve
complex
software
program control
flow
Conditional jumps
Bit test instructions
Interrupt priority control
Efficiently implement
control oriented
algorithms
ü
Fast
response to
external events
External interrupts with
multiple priority levels
Program control
immediately redirected
on event occurrence
with minimal overhead
Microcontroller
Efficiently Resolve
Complex Conditional
Control Situations
ü
Conversion
of sensor data
Analog-to-Digital (A/D)
Converters
Hardware support for
external sensors
Multiply/Accumulate Unit
ü
Software
Filters
Zero-overhead loops
Digital filtering in few
cycles
ü
Interface to
codecs
High-speed serial ports
Hardware support for
translation of analog
signals
ü
High data
throughput from
serial ports
Peripheral DMA
Less wasted cycles
fetching data from
serial ports
Digital Signal
Processor
Deterministic
Software Behavior
ü
Fast data
access
Harvard architectures and
variants
Fast execution of
signal processing
algorithms
Size Matters!
Note that in Table 1, the benefits of the hardware features of microcontrollers translate
into reduced code size and reduced board space - two issues critical to cost efficiency
in deep embedded applications. Reduced code size results in smaller on-chip memory
area; the denser the code, the smaller the chip die area. After all, the semiconductor
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