Thursday, December 10, 2009

And the winner is…

Last week I did a small survey of microcontroller preferences. Although I had an idea what to expect, there were some surprises in the responses. First of all I received much more reactions than I had hoped for. I would like to say thank you very much to all of you who took the time and effort to reply to this survey! The people that posted a reply (in English!) directly to the blog will find it added to my original post. Those that sent me an email, well, I am very sorry, I am not going to add them all to this blog as there were way, way too many. However, I did spend a few hours reading all the messages and a summary follows here.
What we all want to know now is of course: who won?

But before I will tell you, you will have to read through the following advertisement.

Just joking: the winner is… AVR! Yes, the AVRs received 43% of the votes, while the PIC family lagged behind with 35%. The rest of the votes went to other families of which the MSP430 and the Propeller were mentioned quite often. 8051/2 clones are also reasonably popular.

The main reason for the AVR domination was the available tools. Although free tools exist for many microcontrollers, BASCOM for AVR was mentioned several times and also Arduino. Now this survey originated at Elektor and was read mostly by Elektor readers, so it is biased as Elektor has published quite some projects using BASCOM-AVR, but in general it was felt that the free tools (BASCOM is free only for small executables) for AVR are better than those for PIC. Also the AVR seems to be more easily available and cheaper than a PIC (even more so since Microchip restricted their sampling program), especially important outside the US and Western Europe.

In favour of the PIC was the abundant documentation, examples and free libraries. It is true that Microchip puts a lot of effort in that. On a pure technical level, some people felt that the PIC is less sensitive to noise than the AVR.

Other processors were of course mentioned, but as the survey mainly spoke about PIC and AVR, most people restricted themselves to these two families. However, as stated by several people, if the MSP430 would exist in more DIP packages (only the smallest ones are available in DIP packages), they would definitely prefer it over both PIC and AVR. Surprisingly to me the Propeller from Parallax was mentioned a few times too. Personally I think of this processor more as a sort of freak processor and I would not easily invest time and money in it. Maybe the future proves me wrong, what do I know?

Several people liked the Stellaris, now from TI, others love Freescale.

What is very clear from all the responses and which didn’t surprise me much: architectural reasons clearly do not dominate the choice of a controller family. Once people have learned to use a certain microcontroller family and have invested in tools, they are not very likely to switch to another family from another manufacturer just for the fun of it.

So, my next question is: what does it take to make you switch to a competing microcontroller?


  1. A development kit as a surprise Chrismas gift :-)

  2. Hi there,

    The MSP430 actually has several DIP packages available, which you can see here:

    TI also offers a free software IDE, Code Composer Studio, which includes a suite of tools used to develop and debug embedded applications. It includes compilers for each of TI's device families, as well as a source code editor, project build environment, debugger, profiler, simulators and many other features.

    TI MCU IM Team

    TI MCU Community: