More than Storing Bytes: Flash can Reduce MCU System Power

March 31, 2020

Device designs are increasingly adopting microcontrollers that are either limited in the amount of embedded memory they have on-chip or have eschewed flash memory in its entirety.  One reason for this is that while it’s feasible to embed however much memory you want, the natural trend toward smaller geometries to achieve higher performance makes it prohibitively expensive to include or expand the embedded memory.

New breeds of high-performance controllers, such as the flash-less NXP RT series of MCUs, are removing embedded flash to meet the price and performance requirements of today’s equipment designs for the IoT and the industrial IoT.

This means that external SPI flash is edging into the spotlight. With it comes the challenge to operate seamlessly with the MCU to ensure its CPU performance is not affected, while also keeping power consumption to a minimum.

To serve as an ideal partner to the MCU, the external flash should:

  • perform low-power fast read and write operations,
  • offer extremely low-power sleep modes,
  • reduce the CPU cycles required to erase and store data,
  • reduce or eliminate the need for bus transactions between the MCU and flash to determine status, and
  • avoid the use of system RAM buffers when modifying data stored in the flash.

Features like these are built into our new FusionHD NOR flash memory. Check out our latest TechShop video demonstrating FusionHD’s contribution to reducing overall system energy usage by up to 70%, while operating 5 times faster compared to competitive flash devices.

FusionHD achieves this performance by leveraging a low-power architecture with a set of system enhancing features. These features include:

  • A small page erase architecture for faster write performance and reduced system power
  • An easy-to-implement Active Interrupt feature that stops the MCU from wasting valuable CPU cycles and power to monitor the status of the flash
  • A single Read Modify Write command which simplifies software, speeds up data logging, and reduces CPU overhead

Plus, FusionHD has a host of other power saving features that make it a best-fit for your next power conscious or battery powered design needing code storage, data storage or intensive data logging.

Related article: A Fresh New Look for Microcontrollers and their Memory Architectures


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