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ST Debuts Its First Application SoCs

March 12, 2019

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Relatively few embedded processors integrate an application CPU with a 3D GPU and real-time microcontroller core. Even fewer can operate in the subwatt range when running full tilt. STMicroelectronics is joining this exclusive club with its new STM32MP1 family, which extends the existing STM32 microcontrollers into the realm of full-fledged SoCs.

The superset design is the STM32MP157, which features two Arm Cortex-A7 CPUs for application software, a Cortex-M4F coprocessor for real-time control, a VeriSilicon 3D GPU, and numerous on-chip memories, peripherals, and I/O interfaces. The STM32MP153 drops the GPU and its display interface, and the STM32MP151 drops those features, one Cortex-A7, and two I/O ports. All began production in February. Even the top-end model typically consumes only 500mW.

ST is targeting general-purpose embedded systems that would otherwise employ a separate application processor for the high-level software and an MCU for real-time control. Some examples are factory machines, medical devices, and home appliances that have graphical user interfaces—including some battery-powered products. The only markets excluded are automotive and aerospace.

The STM32MP157 is stuffed with features normally expected of a well-appointed 32-bit MCU, save one: it omits on-chip flash memory, despite being manufactured in flash-friendly 40nm technology. Designed for systems requiring more memory than most MCUs offer, it relies on external NAND or NOR flash for nonvolatile storage and external DRAM for working memory. But it does have four blocks of on-chip SRAM totaling 708KB, plus a 256KB L2 cache for the application CPUs and 3KB of one-time-programmable (OTP) memory for secure storage.

The STM32MP1 family competes with similar SoCs that integrate application processing and real-time control—particularly, NXP’s i.MX family and Texas Instruments’ Sitara family. ST is quoting similar prices and power levels. The STM32MP1 brings fresh competition to this market segment.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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