What's the difference between a microprocessor and a microcontroller?

What is the difference between a microprocessor and microcontroller?

So Raspberry Pi, or any kind of SBC, or even system on ship (SOC) - like a Qualcomm Snapdragon, or like Apple’s A series chip that are in your watch. Those are computers in the traditional sense, there’s a CPU, there’s memory, there’s long term storage and there’s an OS that is orchestrating all of that.

So those are computers. Then there’s microcontrollers, this would be something like, the Nordic Semiconductor series of chips. The ESP32 is also a very popular one for wifi applications. They’re not computers, you flash them with firmware and they don’t have that kind of computing architecture.

Now they’re kind of blurring in the current technology because you have things like the ESP32 which does not have a hard drive, does not have separate RAM, does not have all these various computing cores in an OS. But it comes with some small amount of RAM and it does have two computing cores - one high power, one low power. But it doesn’t behave like computer.

So I’d say that’s kind of where we’re at there, and that’s kind of the two domains. But they’re starting to blur as computers are moving down and controllers are moving up. There’s a lot of things kind of fuzzy in the middle.

For a while consider microprocessor as Vanilla ice-cream and microcontroller as Chocolate (or any other flavoured) ice-cream.
Microprocessor contains Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) operations and is independent of any other peripherals or memory (like RAM). It is just the Central Processing Unit.
Whereas, microcontrollers are bit different, just like chocolate ice-cream it is infused with combination of a CPU, Memory, I/O all integrated into one chip.

======

Microcontroller is used in embedded system where particular task is expected to be repeated or automated. On the other hand, a microprocessor has a much powerful CPU speed so is used in personal computers or high performance computing.

Check this article, it might help you.

3 Likes