Popular microcontrollers

Embedded systems are not just complex projects in electronic laboratories, they are present in everyday devices. Every mobile device, electric toy, or kitchen appliance has an electronic board that generally includes a programmable device: a microcontroller. This is a special microprocessor with peripheral devices and I / O ports. Depending on the volume of the device, the manufacturer can decide whether to develop an ASIC, a dedicated integrated circuit that performs all the functions for this device, or to make a standard board with components. discreet. In both cases some microcontroller is used, either as a soft core in ASIC or as a standard integrated circuit.

There are a myriad of options, from open source projects to multiple IP cores with significant royalties for each device. Despite this choice, few microcontroller families are popular for their flexibility, powerful development tools, or for historical reasons.


This is currently the most popular RISC kernel used in almost all mobile phones, handheld devices, and many other applications. It has a powerful, low-power set of instructions, offers easy integration, and there are many good development tools to make development and debugging easier. The ARM core is also used in many popular microcontroller families from Atmel, Luminary Micro (now Texas Instruments), NXP, and many other manufacturers. These microcontrollers are very popular with embedded engineers and are used in a variety of applications from the automotive industry to hobby projects.


This is one of the most popular microcontroller families from Atmel. It is also very popular with hobbyist engineers and is used in many projects, from simple LED drivers to complex communication devices. The RISC architecture offers fast execution and low power consumption. The development tools are available for free, which is a huge bonus for electronics enthusiasts. AVR is a direct competitor to Microchip’s PIC. Some prefer AVR, others like AVR. There is no clear winner. Both families work well. It is up to the developer / programmer what they like or prefer.


This is a leading family of microcontrollers from Microchip. PICs are available in very small packages with just a few pins and also as powerful 32-bit microcontrollers with many peripheral modules and I / O pins. They are very popular with hobbyist engineers – in hobbyist projects you will find AVR or PIC.


This is a very old 8-bit microcontroller architecture that has managed to survive for over 30 years. Many excellent compilers, many code samples, and simple development have contributed to the popularity of this family. This core is still used in many modern microcontrollers from Silabs, NXP, Atmel, and many other microcontroller manufacturers. The 8051 is most likely the most widely used kernel in embedded applications. Of course, many new designs will likely use ARM or some other advanced architecture, but due to the popularity of the 8051 family in the past and the availability of development tools, it is still used in many applications.