Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Microcontroller and Microprocessor both terms seem similar. But both devices has huge difference. The microprocessor is the heart of the system and the microcontroller is the brain of the system. Both ICs have different applications and have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Both ICs can be differentiated in terms of Application, structure, internal parameters, power consumption, and cost. Let’s explain all difference in details.

Applications

The microprocessor used in an application where the task is not predefined. It depends on the users. It is used in computers, mobiles, video games, TVs, etc. In these applications, the task is not fixed it depends on the user. Generally, the microprocessor used where intensive processing is required.

A laptop is the best example where a microprocessor is used. The laptop is used for media streaming, simulation, editing image, web browsing, gaming, creating a document and many more.

The microcontroller is designed for a specific task. The process of the microcontroller is fixed according to their application. Hence, it does some processing, based on the input given to the microcontroller and gives the predefined results as an output.

The input could be given by the user or it could be given by the sensors. It is used in the washing machine, microwave oven, timer, etc. You can see these applications, where the process is predefined and it works on the specific task.

In this equipment, users input some parameter and according to that it does process and gives predefined output. Let say washing machine. Once the user sets the input parameters, it performs according to the input parameter and clean cloths. So, the task for the washing machine is fixed. You cannot do anything else from the washing machine.

Structure

The microprocessor used in the very intensive processes. It only contains a CPU (central processing unit). There are many other parts are needed to work with the CPU to complete a process. These all other parts are connected externally.

Internally, the microprocessor chip is not containing all these parts. The number of external parts and the size of the external parts depends on the application. It connected with memory elements like RAM and ROM, I/O ports, timers, serial interface, etc.

The overall size of the microprocessor is large compared to the microcontroller. The advantage of the microprocessor is that it has a flexible structure. It means you can decide the size of ROM, RAM, number of I/O ports. All the things which are connected externally, you can modify according to the application.

In the case of a microcontroller, the task to be performed is fixed. Hence, the number of I/O ports and the amount of memory required is less compared to the microprocessor. So, here all these external parts are integrated with CPU in a single chip that is known as the microcontroller.

Because of the integrated structure the overall size of the microcontroller is very small compared to the microprocessor. But here you cannot change the size of RAM, ROM or you cannot modify the components. Once a controller is designed the structure is fixed. So, the structure of the microcontroller is not flexible.

Internal Parameter

Both ICs are different in internal parameters like; clock speed, memory (RAM and ROM), peripheral interface.

Clock Speed

The microprocessors are run at higher clock speeds. The clock speed of a microprocessor is in the range of 1 GHz to 4 GHz. While in the case of microcontroller, high clock speed is not required. The clock speed for the microcontroller is in the range of the 1 MHz to 300 MHz.

Memory

The microprocessors have to run an operating system or it is used for very complicated tasks. Hence, the amount of memory required for the microprocessor is very large. The volatile memory (RAM) for the microprocessor is in the range of the 512 MB to 32 GB. The hard disk (ROM) for the microprocessor is in the range of the 128 GB to 2 TB.

The microcontrollers are designed for a specific task. The amount of memory required for the microcontroller is quite less compared to the microprocessor. The volatile memory (RAM) for the microcontroller is in the range of 2 KB to 256 KB. The hard drive or flash memory (ROM) is in the range of the 32 KB to 2 MB.

Peripheral Interface

The common peripheral interface for the microprocessor is USB, UART, and high-speed Ethernet and the microcontroller peripheral interface is I2C, SPI, and UART.

Programming

The program for the microprocessor can be changed for different applications. While in the case of the microcontroller once it is designed, the program is common for that application. There is no option for the modification of the program. So, the programming of the microprocessor is difficult compared to the microcontroller.

Bit Size

Modern-day microcontrollers are 32-bit and 64-bit. The 32-bit microprocessor can handle 32-bit binary data at the same time. Hence the address and data bus are 32-bit. Similarly, the 64-bit microprocessor can handle 64-bit binary data at the same time.

So, the microprocessors are 32-bit or 64-bit. The microcontrollers are 8-bit, 16-bit or 32-bit. Therefore, the amount of data that can be handled by a microcontroller in a single cycle is lesser compared to the microprocessor.

Cost

As we have discussed in the structure difference in both ICs, RAM, ROM, I/O ports and peripheral devices are connected externally in the case of the microprocessor. Hence the overall cost of the microprocessor is less than the microcontroller.

Because in microcontroller all parts are connected to the single chip. So, the cost of the microcontroller is decreased.

Power Consumption

The power consumption for the microprocessor is high compared to the microcontroller.

I hope you understand the difference between the microprocessor and microcontroller. Now, let’s summarize.

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Below table summarize the difference between microprocessor and microcontroller.

  Microprocessor Microcontroller
Application It used where intensive processing is necessary. Microprocessor  used in personal computers, laptops, mobiles, video games, etc. It used where the task is fixed and predefined. It is used in the washing machine, alarm, etc.
Structure It has the only CPU in the chip. Other devices like I/O port, memory, timer is connected externally. CPU, Memory, I/O port and all other devices are connected on the single chip.
The structure of the microprocessor is flexible. Users can decide the amount of memory, the number of I/O port and other peripheral devices. The structure is fixed. Once it is designed the user cannot change the peripheral devices.
Clock speed The clock speed of the microprocessor is high. It is in terms of the GHz. It ranges between 1 GHz to 4 GHz. The clock speed of the microcontroller is less. It is in terms of the MHz. it ranges between 1 MHz to 300 MHz.
RAM The volatile memory (RAM) for the microprocessor is in the range of the 512 MB to 32 GB. The volatile memory (RAM) for the microcontroller is in the range of 2 KB to 256 KB.
ROM The hard disk (ROM) for the microprocessor is in the range of the 128 GB to 2 TB. The hard drive or flash memory (ROM) is in the range of the 32 KB to 2 MB.
Peripheral interface The common peripheral interface for the microprocessor is USB, UART, and high-speed Ethernet. The common peripheral interface for the microcontroller is I2C, SPI, and UART.
Programming The program for the microprocessor can be changed for different applications. The programming of the microprocessor is difficult compare to the microcontroller. The program for the microcontroller fixed once it designed.
Bit size It is available in 32-Bit and 64-bit. It is available in 8-bit, 16-bit, and 36-bit.
Cost The cost of the microprocessor is high compared to the microcontroller. It is cheaper.
Power consumption The power consumption for the microprocessor is high. The power consumption for the microcontroller is less.
Size The overall size of the system is large. The overall size of the system is small.
     

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