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ST’s Speed-Demon MCUs

July 16, 2019

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

STMicroelectronics is shipping the fastest Arm-based microcontrollers yet seen: dual-core speed demons whose Cortex-M7 main CPU can reach 480MHz. The new STM32H7 chips also have a Cortex-M4F coprocessor that can run at 240MHz. Additional features include up to 2MB of flash memory, up to 1MB of SRAM, numerous peripherals and I/Os (including Ethernet, USB, LCD, camera, and audio interfaces), secure boot, cryptography acceleration, and 2D graphics. These chips are among the most fully stuffed 32-bit MCUs on the market, yet they sprint like Usain Bolt.

The new dual-core models extend the single-core STM32H7 line that began shipping in 2017. Thanks to ST’s own 40nm CMOS technology with embedded flash memory, their Cortex-M7 CPUs could operate at 400MHz. Design tweaks have pushed the maximum clock rate to 480MHz for both the existing single-core and new dual-core chips. Adding the 240MHz Cortex-M4F coprocessor makes the dual-core models even more powerful while retaining the same peripherals and I/O interfaces.

Unlike most MCUs, the STM32H7 has a 32-bit external-memory interface to supplement its large internal SRAMs and flash memories. In addition, this Cortex-M7 implementation has 16KB instruction and data caches. It can thus run EEMBC’s CoreMark CPU benchmark at the same speed from either internal flash memory or external RAM. At its maximum clock frequency of 480MHz, it scores 3,224 CoreMarks, racing ahead of other Arm-based MCUs.

The new dual-core STM32H7 began volume production in June. We estimate distributors will sell them in 1,000-unit quantities for $9 to $12 each, depending on the amount of SRAM and flash. ST rates the initial chips for a temperature range of –40ºC to +85°C and plans to extend it to 125ºC for some models in 4Q19.

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