Cortex-M Series Family

Smallest and lowest power Cortex processors - optimized for deterministic real-time embedded processing and microcontroller applications

The ARM Cortex-M processor family is a range of scalable, energy efficient and easy-to-use processors that meet the needs of tomorrow’s smart and connected embedded applications. The processors are supported by the world’s #1 embedded ecosystem and have already been shipped in tens of billions of devices. Cortex-M processors help developers deliver more features, in less time, at a lower cost, with versatile connectivity, comprehensive code reuse, standard security and state of the art energy efficiency.

ARM offers:
  • Cortex-M0, Cortex M0+, and Cortex-M23 for applications requiring minimal cost, power and area
  • Cortex-M3, Cortex-M4, and Cortex-M33 for all applications where a balance between 32-bit performance and energy efficiency is desirable
  • Cortex-M7 is designed for embedded applications requiring high performance

The Cortex-M23 and Cortex-M33 include ARM TrustZone technology for solutions that require optimized, efficient security.

The ARM Cortex-M4, Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M33 processors integrate Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and floating point operations for fast and power-efficient algorithm processing of digital signal control applications such as sensor fusion, motor control and power management.

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ARM Cortex-M Series - Lowest power and area

Lowest power and area

TrustZone in smallest area, lowest power

Highest energy efficiency

Lowest cost, low power
Freely available for design and simulation via DesignStart

ARM Cortex-M Series - Performance efficiency

Performance efficiency

Flexibility, control and DSP with TrustZone

Mainstream control and DSP

Performance efficiency

ARM Cortex-M Series - Highest performance

Highest performance

Maximum performance, control and DSP

ARM - DesignStart

New to ARM? Try an ARM Cortex-M0 for free

The Cortex-M0 is available in ARM's DesignStart portal so designers can use a Cortex-M0 for free, and then once ready to commercialize their product, they can do this with a low-cost, simplified, fast-track license.

Cortex-M characteristics

The ARM Cortex-M processors utilize ARM Thumb-2 technology to offer superior code density compared to 8-bit,16-bit and fixed 32-bit architectures - reducing the memory requirements to maximize the usage of precious on-chip Flash memory. Thumb-2 technology supports a fundamental base of 16-bit Thumb instructions, extended to include more powerful 32-bit instructions. In many cases, a C compiler will use the 16-bit version of the instruction unless the operation can be carried out more efficiently using a 32-bit version.

ARM Cortex-M processors provide:

  • High performance and efficiency
  • Easy software development, as all Cortex-M processors are fully C programmable
  • Compact data footprint, with support for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit data transfers
  • Fast and power-efficient algorithm processing with DSP extensions in Cortex-M4, Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M33

The ARMv8-M based Cortex-M processors also include TrustZone technology. TrustZone has been proven as a security foundation in billions of devices. TrustZone for the Cortex-M profile has been optimized for microcontroller class devices offering deterministic real-time interrupt response, low power and a small area with fast cross-domain calls.

Processors of choice

ARM Cortex-M processors are the most popular choice for embedded applications, licensed to over 350 ARM partners and supported by the world’s #1 embedded ecosystem with the widest third-party tools, RTOS and middleware support of any architecture. Using a standard processor within a design allows ARM partners to create devices with a consistent base, enabling them to focus on creating superior device implementations.

Cortex-M System Design Kit

To enable faster design cycles and time to market, ARM has created the Cortex-M System Design Kit (CMSDK), a comprehensive solution designed to work with Cortex-M processors out-of-the-box. It includes:

  • A selection of ARM AMBA AHB and APB infrastructure components
  • Essential peripherals such as GPIO, timers, watchdog, and UART
  • Example systems for Cortex-M0, Cortex-M3 and Cortex-M4 processors
  • Compilation and simulation scripts for the Verilog environment
  • Software drivers and example programs
  • A comprehensive solution for embedded designs

A growing number of fabless semiconductor companies are designing silicon around ARM Cortex-M processors for the first time, bringing the benefits of an efficient, easy-to-use, standard architecture to their end customers. With CMSDK and a Cortex-M processor, you can integrate a processing subsystem in to your product quickly, effectively and with minimum risk.

Cortex-M applications

The Cortex-M family is optimized for cost and power-sensitive MCU and mixed-signal SoCs for applications including:

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Environmental


ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Sensor fusion

Sensor fusion

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Connected clothing

Connected clothing

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Retail


ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Smart lighting

Smart lighting

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Smart cities

Smart cities

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Industrial


ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Energy grid

Energy grid