How to choose ARM based processor

SCENARIO

You are working on a new design and want to choose an ARM based processor. The questions at this point could be:

 How do I choose ARM based processors?

 What ARM based processor options are available in the market?

 How do I procure ARM based processors?

 What are the different variants of ARM based processors?

ANSWER

ARM is a fabless company. This means that ARM does not manufacture silicon. ARM designs processor cores and licenses them to its silicon partners. The silicon partners, in turn, design microprocessors / microcontrollers around these cores and manufacture the actual silicon or chips available for commercial purchase in the market.

In case you are keen to know more about the ARM Cores than the silicon variants of the processors available in the market, you may refer to the Processor Overview section ARM’s website. This section provides a lot of information on ARM processor families, the architecture, features, reference methodologies, etc. which would a good starting point. If you wish to see more detailed documents on ARM cores, you may also refer to InfoCenter - the documentation section on ARM website.

Choosing an ARM based processors may involve lot of technical and non-technical considerations. A partial list could look something like this:

Technical:

  • Electrical charateristics - power, frequency, etc.
  • Processing performance - MIPS, DMIPS, etc.
  • Functional domain - Application, Realtime, Microcontroller
  • Instruction Set - regular, DSP, SIMD, etc.
  • Internal features - Caches, TCMs, MPU/MMU, etc.
  • External Features - IO lines, Communication protocols, Interrupt lines, etc.
  • Development tools - software, hardware, etc.

Non-technical:

  • Support
  • Maintenance
  • Development Tools support & maintenance
  • Economic feasibility
  • End product lifespan
  • Third-world acceptance and compatibility (tools, applications, etc.)
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