April 19, 2011

LPCXpresso Board Arrived

On March 12, I blogged about the NXP LPCXPresso giveaway. I posted a video online of myself destroying some chips using the NXP "break your 8/16 bit habit" theme to qualify for a free board.

At the time, I was somewhat doubtful that I'd get a board. The eligibility requirements weren't clearly spelled out and the entry form requires a 'business' e-mail address.

Well, I'm happy to report that NXP sent me an LCP1114 XPresso board! I haven't had time to dive into it yet but I'm pleased to have the new hardware. The Cortex M0 platform looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.

March 14, 2011

Arduino, Launchpad, and Cortex M0

I was reviewing my posts over the past few days and noticed something that I found quite striking. In this post, I compared the ATMega328 chip, found in the Arduino, against the MSP430 chips found in the TI Launchpad. Note that the MSP430G2211, which is a stripped-down microcontroller with little memory and few peripherals, and is the least expensive of the three chips in the table, is priced the same as the NXP Cortex M0 LPC1111 that I mentioned in this post.

Think about that. For the same price as a 16 bit processor with 2K Flash, 128 bytes of RAM, and a single timer running at 16MHz, you could have a 32 bit processor with 8K flash, 2K RAM, I2C, SPI, a UART, an ADC and four timers running at 50MHz.


Why use such a small 16 bit processor when a much more powerful 32 bit processor can be had for the same price? Honestly, unless you're building a device that needs to run for years on batteries, I don't know why you would. (I haven't reviewed the M0's low power modes to know how they compare against the MSP430.)

Now admittedly, I'm just a hobbyist and don't know much about selection of parts in industry. There may be compelling reasons to choose the MSP430 over the M0. I'm just really struck by the vast difference in two chips that have the same price. (Okay, to be fair, if you get the MSP430G2211 in the QFN package to match the LPC1111, the price does go down to $1.93. But still... that 10 cent difference gets you a huge difference in performance and capabilities.)

March 12, 2011

Breaking the 8/16 Bit Habit

I have submitted my video online for a free NXP LPCXpresso board. If NXP awards me one of these dev kits, you can bet that it'll show up in future episodes of The Hacker Workshop. NXP makes a lot of cool 32 bit processors and I'd probably be working on one of them now if Rensas hadn't wooed me away with the RX Design Contest. Submit a video of yourself destroying an 8 or 16 bit processor, and you too could end up with a free LPCXPresso board!

NPC LPCXpresso Giveaway

NXP is giving away LPCXPresso boards to people who submit a video of themselves destroying an 8 or 16 bit micro. I'm not sure which board they're giving away or what the qualifications are for being eligible (the submission ominously requires a "Business" email address) but it's worth a try I suppose.

The Cortex M0 is positioned as an upgrade for existing 8 or 16 bit applications. Color me jaded, but the M0 specs are significantly more impressive than the typical 8/16 bit micro. The low-end LPC111x series tout the following features (datasheet):

  • System:
    • ARM Cortex-M0 processor, running at frequencies of up to 50 MHz.
    • ARM Cortex-M0 built-in Nested Vectored Interrupt Controller (NVIC).
    • Serial Wire Debug.
    • System tick timer.
  • Memory:
    • 32 kB (LPC1114), 24 kB (LPC1113), 16 kB (LPC1112), or 8 kB (LPC1111) on-chip flash programming memory.
    • 8 kB, 4 kB, or 2 kB SRAM
    • In-System Programming (ISP) and In-Application Programming (IAP) via on-chip bootloader software.
  • Digital peripherals:
    • Up to 42 General Purpose I/O (GPIO) pins with configurable pull-up/pull-down resistors.
    • GPIO pins can be used as edge and level sensitive interrupt sources.
    • High-current output driver (20 mA) on one pin.
    • High-current sink drivers (20 mA) on two I2C-bus pins in Fast-mode Plus.
    • Four general purpose counter/timers with a total of four capture inputs and 13 match outputs.
    • Programmable WatchDog Timer (WDT).
  • Analog peripherals:
    • 10-bit ADC with input multiplexing among 8 pins.
  • Serial interfaces:
    • UART with fractional baud rate generation, internal FIFO, and RS-485 support.
    • Two SPI controllers with SSP features and with FIFO and multi-protocol capabilities (second SPI on LQFP48 and PLCC44 packages only).
    • I2C-bus interface supporting full I2C-bus specification and Fast-mode Plus with a data rate of 1 Mbit/s with multiple address recognition and monitor mode.
  • Clock generation:
    • 12 MHz internal RC oscillator trimmed to 1 % accuracy that can optionally be used as a system clock.
    • Crystal oscillator with an operating range of 1 MHz to 25 MHz.
    • Programmable watchdog oscillator with a frequency range of 7.8 kHz to 1.8 MHz.
    • PLL allows CPU operation up to the maximum CPU rate without the need for a high-frequency crystal. May be run from the system oscillator or the internal RC oscillator.
    • Clock output function with divider that can reflect the system oscillator clock, IRC clock, CPU clock, and the Watchdog clock.
  • Power control:
    • Integrated PMU (Power Management Unit) to minimize power consumption during Sleep, Deep-sleep, and Deep power-down modes.
    • Power profiles residing in boot ROM allowing to optimize performance and minimize power consumption for any given application through one simple function call. (LPC1100L series, on LPC111x/102/202/302 only.)
    • Three reduced power modes: Sleep, Deep-sleep, and Deep power-down.
    • Processor wake-up from Deep-sleep mode via a dedicated start logic using up to 13 of the functional pins.
    • Power-On Reset (POR).
    • Brownout detect with four separate thresholds for interrupt and forced reset.
  • Unique device serial number for identification.
  • Single power supply (1.8 V to 3.6 V).
  • Available as 48-pin LQFP package, 33-pin HVQFN package, and 44-pin PLCC package.

That pretty much eclipses any 8/16 bit micro I've ever used. The LPC1111 is priced as low as $2.02 for one piece at Digi-Key. That's easily within the realm of hobbyist dollars! (The QFN packaging, though, could be a roadblock to many. You can get an LPC1100L in 48-LQFP for $2.80)

I think I'll head outside and take a few video clips of semiconductor destruction today.