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 DesignStart provides the fastest, simplest, no-risk route to custom silicon success. Create custom SoCs with the Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 processors, with no upfront license fee, just a success-based royalty model. Access ARM’s comprehensive solution of industry-proven Cortex-M processors, subsystems, system IP and Artisan physical IP for the ideal compute platform.


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: