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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Lowest power and area

Cortex-M23
TrustZone in smallest area, lowest power

Cortex-M0+
Highest energy efficiency

Cortex-M0
Lowest cost, low power
Freely available for design and simulation via DesignStart

Performance efficiency

Cortex-M33
Flexibility, control and DSP with TrustZone

Cortex-M4
Mainstream control and DSP

Cortex-M3
Performance efficiency

Highest performance

Cortex-M7
Maximum performance, control and DSP

Cortex-M series performance graph

 

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

Environmental

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Retail

Retail

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Sensor fusion

Sensor fusion

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Medical instruments

Medical instruments

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Connected clothing

Connected clothing

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Smart lighting

Smart lighting

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Smartwatch

Smartwatch

ARM Cortex-M Series - Applications - Smart cities

Smart cities