Microcontrollers are the workhorses of the embedded systems world, controlling everything from simple appliances to complex robots. When choosing a microcontroller for your project, you’ll encounter several popular families, each with its strengths and weaknesses. This article compares PIC microcontrollers from Microchip with AVR (Atmel) and ARM (various manufacturers) to help you decide which one is the best fit for your needs. So this is going to be an article on comparison among PIC vs AVR vs ARM microcontrollers.

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Table of Contents

What is Microcontroller:

Microcontrollers (often shortened to MCUs or MCs) are extremely small microcomputers that are entirely self-contained on a single chip.

You can define a microcontroller as a simplified computer designed to run a single basic program repeatedly. By definition, microcontrollers are typically intended to perform a single automated task, as pre-programmed by the user, in a single device. They are designed to do this one job repeatedly (or, as is also common, on a timed loop).

PIC vs AVR vs ARM

This is an embedded application, as opposed to the more versatile, general-purpose applications handled by full microprocessors and CPUs. A general block diagram of a microcontroller is like this:

There are some inputs/outputs, ROM, RAM, CPU, and some additional features based on the system. Let’s compare different microcontrollers.

PIC Microcontrollers:

PIC stands for Peripheral Interface Controller. PIC microcontrollers are known for:

PIC vs AVR vs ARM
  • Simplicity: Many PICs are 8-bit microcontrollers, offering a good balance of power and ease of use for beginners.
  • Cost-effectiveness: PICs are generally a cost-competitive option, especially for simpler projects.
  • Wide Range of Peripherals: PIC microcontrollers come with a variety of built-in peripherals like timers, ADCs, and communication modules.
  • Large Development Community: PICs have been around for a long time, and there’s a vast community of developers and resources available.
  • Market availability: In most countries, this MCU can be found in the local electronics market as these are widely used and cheap.

However, PICs also have some drawbacks.

  • Instruction Set Complexity: The PIC instruction set can be more complex than some competitors, requiring more learning for beginners.
  • Limited Processing Power: While higher-end PICs exist, some lines may not be suitable for computationally intensive tasks.

Programmers for PIC microcontrollers: PICKit2, PICKit3,

You can also read:

AVR Microcontrollers:

PIC vs AVR vs ARM

AVR stands for Alf-Egil Bogen and Vegard Wollan, the architects of the original design. AVR microcontrollers are known for:

  • Strong Instruction Set: The AVR instruction set is generally considered easier to learn and use compared to PICs.
  • Free Development Tools: A variety of free and open-source development tools are available for AVR microcontrollers.
  • Large Community and Resources: Similar to PICs, AVRs have a large and active developer community.

Some limitations of AVR microcontrollers include:

  • Limited Peripheral Options: Compared to PICs, the base AVR core may have fewer built-in peripherals. (Though some AVR variants offer more)
  • Availability: Following the acquisition of Atmel by Microchip, the future roadmap for certain AVR lines may be less clear.

Programmers used for AVR: USBASP USBISP AVR Programmer, Top2013 programmer.

You can read:

ARM/STM32 Microcontrollers:

PIC vs AVR vs ARM

ARM cores are not manufactured by a single company but rather licensed by various manufacturers who create their ARM-based microcontrollers. ARMs are known for:

  • High Performance: ARM cores offer superior processing power compared to PIC and AVR, making them ideal for complex applications.
  • Scalability: A wide range of ARM cores exist, from low-power options to high-performance processors.
  • Advanced Features: Many ARM cores integrate sophisticated features like memory management units (MMUs) and DSP capabilities.
  • Wide Range operation: ARM or STM32 MCUs are used in a very wide range of applications including small projects to large-scale industrial controllers.

However, there are also some downsides to consider:

  • Complexity: ARM cores are generally more complex than PIC and AVR, requiring a steeper learning curve.
  • Cost: High-performance ARM microcontrollers can be more expensive than PIC and AVR options.
  • Development Tools: Development tools for ARM microcontrollers can be more expensive and complex compared to the other families.

Programmers for ARM: ST-Link, ST-LINK/V2.

You can also read:

Choosing the Right Microcontroller:

We have seen the comparisons among PIC vs AVR vs ARM microcontrollers. After analyzing all these you can select the right one for you. The best microcontroller for your project depends on your specific needs. Here’s a quick guide:

  • For Beginners: If you’re starting with embedded systems development, a PIC or AVR might be a good choice due to their lower complexity and wider availability of learning resources.
  • For Cost-Constrained Projects: PICs are often the most cost-effective option, especially for simpler tasks.
  • For Performance-Critical Applications: If processing power is paramount, a high-end ARM microcontroller is the way to go.
  • For Projects with Complex Requirements: ARMs offer the most scalability and advanced features for demanding applications.

Ultimately, the best way to decide is to research the specific microcontrollers within each family that fit your project’s requirements. Consider factors like cost, performance, available peripherals, development tools, and your experience level when making your choice. So you can read again the comparison among PIC vs AVR vs ARM then you can select your microcontroller.

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MKDas

Mithun K. Das; B. Sc. in EEE from KUET; Head of R&D @ M's Lab Engineering Solution. "This is my personal blog. I post articles on different subjects related to electronics in the easiest way so that everything becomes easy for all, especially for beginners. If you have any questions, feel free to ask through the contact us page." Thanks.

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