New Part Day: MSP430 + Cortex M4F

Texas Instruments’ MSP430 series of microcontrollers has been the standard extremely low power microcontroller for several years now. It’s not an ARM, though, so while there are fans of the ‘430, there aren’t a lot of people who would want to port their work in ARM to a completely different architecture. Here is TI’s answer to that. It’s called the MSP432, and it combines the low power tech of the ‘430 with a 32-bit ARM Cortex M4F running at 48MHz.

This is not the first ARM Cortex M4F platform TI has developed; the Tiva C series is based on the Cortex M4F core and was released a few years ago. The MSP432 is a little bit different, leveraging the entire development system of the MSP430 and adding a DSP engine and a FPU. If you’re looking for something that’s low power but still powerful, there you go. You can find the official press release here.

If you’d like to try out the MSP432, there’s a LaunchPad available. $13 to TI gets you in the door. The most capable MSP432 with 256 kB of Flash, 64 kB of SRAM, and 24 ADC channels hasn’t hit distributors yet, but you can sample it here.

41 thoughts on “New Part Day: MSP430 + Cortex M4F

    1. I don’t see how this is any different than HaD’s first post on the TI 430 or Stellaris or Launchpad, or the Teensy, or the Arduino DueMillewhatever…
      I find these informative, and it is certainly the first I heard/read about this.

      So, I guess my “Yay!” cancels out your “boo”…

      1. +1
        This may be a sponsored post, but it is also very relevant to this community. I personally love the new product posts, as it informs me of new tools to create new hacks

  1. I’m curious that they’ve added an FPU – it’s not a very common feature in the small micro market. It’s very very useful for some applications. It seems that by “DSP” they mean a MAC (Multiply ACcumulate) instruction as opposed to something more sophisticated.

    The Backup SRAM might also be very useful.

    For those looking for the very lowest power with relatively high-frequency jobs (say anything around or below 1 second per cycle), thing look OK. Keep an eye on:
    – wakeup times (5 – 24 us depending…)
    – ADC wakeup time (5us) and current consumption (1mA! with internal reference) while operating

    I’m guessing (based on MSP430 history) that they’ve got engineering teams sweating to bring some more peripherals across to the ‘432 line. I expect we’ll see DACs, OPAMPs, and maybe FRAM shortly. The 1 GHz transceivers might take longer.

    1. Yep just got mine and plan on playing with the FPU for a number of things. I’m thinking it might be neat to try to get it running an audio encoder/decoder or something similar. If they can do it real time with something left over it’d be really nice for a couple of applications I have in mind.

  2. I just did a dance in my pants when I read this article! This is going to address a lot of the shortcomings between low power 8-16 bit MCUs and the more expensive/power hungry 32 bit MCUs. Texas Instruments is at it again!

  3. So in my humble oopinion:
    Even if it is just a M3 core: The geckos of silicon labs plus a good old CC1121 is less power consuming.
    The EFM family supports a lot of features where you dont even need the core running.

    Can anyone here proof if that’s wrong (that would be great to hear)?

    1. 180µA/MHz in run mode is claimed for the silicon labs gecko line. More than TI’s claimed 95µA/MHz.
      Silicon labs claim 900nA for the deep sleep with RTC. TI claim 850nA.
      RAM banks can individually be disabled on the 432 (preventing retention of course, however retention may genuinely not be required) then saving another 30nA in all modes, the chip has 8 banks.
      This is all on a cortex M4F core rather than the silicon labs M3. It is however theoretical and goes from manufacturer stated figures rather than real world.

      1. The newly announced blue gecko claims 59µA/MHz, so I assume the gecko line is transitioning to a smaller process node. And of course, the gecko features where you can do a bunch of stuff without waking up the core are still there.

        Regardless, it’s exciting to see new developments in the field of low-power uC’s!

      2. Take a look at CC1310 and CC26xx if you want to see TI’s ultimate low-power kit. Blows away EnergyMicro/SiLabs, although that’s fitting because it is actually EnergyMicro’s design on TI’s fab (long story, involves lawsuits).

    1. +1 to boo’s there. Delivery costs more than a thing. I’ve started to order, but stopped myself on this step: 13$ board + 17$ delivery. boo! Will continue to play with my STM Nucleus. And this board does not support mbed.org as Nucleus do. I’m too tired to play a games with organize all these things work on linux. mbed there looks as a reasonable solution.

    2. Try looking for it from a supplier. I know DigiKey and Mouser are stocking them. I know you live out of the US – but DigiKey ships USPS which makes shipping cost lower (vs Fedex that TI uses for their store).

  4. Yeah need to mention, TI’s eStore no longer does free shipping. On the plus side you can buy low qty’s of ICs from them. Prices for the latter are on par with the distributors but might make a good order stuffer if you’re buying the LaunchPad.

    I think the XMS (pre-production) silicon – see http://ti.com/product/msp432p401r – is also for sale there, something like $7ish per chip. Samples ship free IIRC but only 1 allowed for this, can’t recall what the limit was if you want to actually throw money at them.

  5. I’ve been an AVR (AVR, Mega, Xmega, AVR32) user all my hobby embedded life, but I am interesting in trying new microcontrollers. Is there a free tool chain for the TI chips, I can only see a free trial version of IAR on their site.

    1. There is a free (as in beer), code size limited version of Code Composer Studio from TI available for Windows and Linux. A beta version was just released for Mac. If you want to go free as in speech, you can go the mspgcc route.

        1. It’s an ARM, so you can use gcc, given some amount of fiddling.
          Also there is Energia, which has already been updated to support the new launchpad (although, it’s looking like the current version doesn’t work very well :-( )

    1. The power numbers they’re quoting are impressive though. In fact, they’d be really impressive even for a Cortex-M0+ chip with worse IPC and no hardware floating point unit. (Which is essentially what Atmel seem to be pushing as their competitor to this – an unreleased Cortex-M0+ part.)

  6. Thanks for the article!

    As I knew an “older” and known board from TI, the Stellaris (Tiva C) LaunchPad, I though I could compare them as both state as low power AND high performance microcontroller boards…
    Unfortunately, information from the manufacturer is not clear in terms of the most important points: power consumption AND calculation power. So to compare them as best as possible I tried to check different sources both the original manufacturer and third parties and this is the basic review and tips I wrote about it:
    http://letsmakerobots.com/content/msp432p401x-vs-tm4c123gh6pm-texas-instruments-microcontrollers-a-brief-review
    Comments are welcome!

    Final note: I tried to contact Texas Instruments product manager people for these kind of microcontrollers in order to get more information for the comparison. So far I could contact one. Let’s see what the collaboration gives out.

  7. DSP and FPU are some of the common features of Cortex-M4F uC.
    TI, ST, ATMEL and others have CM4F uC in their line (have a look at http://www.mouser.be/armcortexm4/), and globally you will find very similar peripherals on each of those.
    Some have funny features like NXP with their dual-core Cortex-M4F for performance and Cortex M0 for reduced power consumption.
    Now the most important difference between these for hackers and hobbyists is the Software support and how easy it is to get your LED blinking. I don’t think brands like Infineon are the best on that part, because being focused on industrial / safety / automotive market. Guys like TI, ST and Atmel focusing more on the generic market are better on that side.
    Personally, I’m a huge fan of STM32 (STM32F411 Nucleo is also very good and dirt cheap at 10€) + ChibiOS !
    Those uC are powerfull (100MHz for STM32F411) yet power-consumption isn’t bad.
    ChibiOS (chibios.org) is a nice RTOS with lots of features and very good STM32 support.
    It’s not as easy to setup as an Arduino board but you do get a full-features GDB-enabled debugger. And boy that comes in handy!

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