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Electronica: NXP builds a 32-bit MCU to replace 8-bitters

November 14, 2012

Bernard Cole-November 14, 2012

At the Electronica 2012 in Munich, Germany, NXP Semiconductor has just rolled out its LPC800, a 32-bit microcontroller designed specifically for the 8-bit world.

Available in low-pin-count packages, the LPC800 offers easy-to-use peripherals addressing 8-bit application requirements while providing the 32-bit capabilities and exceptional power efficiency of the ARM Cortex-M0+ processor.

Designed to add more design flexibility without any more complexity, the LPC800 incorporates a flexible switch matrix that is configured to allow designers to assign on-chip peripherals to any pin with a single line of code or a single click in the configuration tool.

According to Jim Trent, vice president and general manager, microcontroller product line, NXP Semiconductors, NXP has re-designed the LPC800 serial peripherals to be as lean as possible, making them more responsive and efficient. Illustrative of this, the new SPI can operate as a slave at frequencies independent of the processor clock, solving the common frustration of having to over-sample 4-to-n times the SPI just to receive data.

This decoupling of the SPI and processor clock speed reduces power and simplifies the system design. The I2C has also been re-engineered to allow the LPC800 to lie and wait at near-zero power consumption, even without a system clock, and wake up upon an address match.

The LPC800 provides simple, driver-free operations. Low-level drivers for I2C and UART no longer take up Flash space with only simple API calls are required to operate these peripherals. Similarly, power management is simplified to a single API call. The LPC800 uses 64-byte page Flash, simplifying code management, and can be used to emulate EEPROM for data storage.

The LPC800 is available in a range of low-pin-count packages, including SO20, TSSOP20, TSSOP16 and DIP8. Popular with 8-bit developers, these packages help to streamline prototyping, ease of assembly, and simplify high-volume, low-cost manufacturing. Further, the LPC800 TSSOP packages are designed for scalability by mapping power, ground and analog functions to identical locations so designers can move from TSSOP16 to TSSOP20 packages with minimal effort.

Based on an ultra-low-power 30-MHz ARM Cortex-M0+ processor, the LPC800 is fully compatible with the Cortex-M architecture and instruction set, and offers superior code density to 8/16-bit architectures. The Cortex-M0+ features a two-stage pipeline that reduces power consumption while improving performance.

In addition, the LPC800 takes advantage of the Cortex-M0+ peripheral bus allowing single-cycle access to the GPIOs. These features enable the LPC800 to offer deterministic, real-time performance – a key requirement for 8-bit developers.

The flexible switch matrix enables designers to assign on-chip peripheral I/O to nearly any pin. By helping to ease PCB routing congestion, the switch matrix contributes to lower-cost PCBs.

Another peripheral that will appeal to embedded developers is the device’s state configurable timer (SCT), which can be customized to meet the user’s specific application requirements.

The basic SCT configuration is two 16-bit PWMs that have 4 capture inputs and 4 match outputs where each of the match registers are shadowed. The LPC800 can deliver virtually any timing or PWM function found on popular 8-bit MCUs.

To add flexibility, the SCT in the LPC800 combines the ideas of states and events, allowing users to create sophisticated counting, output, input and control functions for lighting, power and other customized applications – without the constraints imposed by fixed functions.

Other LPC800 peripherals include an analog comparator, which is available with an external voltage reference for accurate measurement; a 4-channel multi-rate timer; a wake-up timer; and up to 18 GPIOs. The LPC800 is available with up to 16 KB of Flash and up to 4 KB of SRAM, and can be used with a 3.3VDD power supply (1.8V to 3.6V).

The LPC800 is the latest member of NXP’s LPC Go family of entry-level low-power microcontrollers, including the popular LPC1100 series based on the Cortex-M0 processor. LPCXpresso, the full-featured IDE-based software development tool, supports the complete product design cycle for the LPC800, further easing the transition to 32-bit architectures.

The LPC800 is also fully supported by the ARM Keil Microcontroller Development Kit. Additional support, free tools, and sample code are available from the extensive LPC developer community.

Pricing for the LPC810 starts at 39 cents in volume quantities. LPC800 evaluation kits are now available for ordering from Mouser Electronics. Qualification samples will be available starting in December, with final product availability starting in February 2013.

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