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ARM Processor Family: Essentials of Embedded Hardware Design

Updated: Mar 27

Understanding ARM Architectures

ARM architectures have undergone a remarkable evolution over the years, with each iteration introducing advancements in performance, efficiency, and feature set. From the early ARMv1 and ARMv2 versions to the latest innovations, ARM architectures have continually pushed the boundaries of what's possible in embedded computing. In the realm of embedded product development, processors from the ARM Cortex family have emerged as the go-to choice, with ARM Cortex processors predominantly based on the ARMv7 architecture, delivering a potent blend of performance and power efficiency.

Navigating ARM Cortex Profiles

Within the ARM Cortex family, processors are categorized into three distinct profiles, each tailored to address specific application domains and performance requirements:

A Profile – Applications: This profile caters to high-performance computing tasks, capable of running complex operating systems such as Linux or Android. With a focus on delivering robust performance, the A profile is well-suited for a diverse range of applications spanning mobile devices, network appliances, and automotive systems.

R Profile – Real Time: Designed to meet the stringent demands of real-time operations, the R profile targets applications in networking solutions and embedded control systems. Prioritizing reliability and timely responsiveness, processors within the R profile are instrumental in mission-critical environments where precision and accuracy are paramount.

M Profile – Microcontroller: Optimized for smaller, low-power devices, the M profile finds widespread adoption in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. Emphasizing energy efficiency and simplicity, processors within the M profile cater to embedded applications with constrained resources, offering a viable solution for IoT devices and sensor nodes.

ARM Processor Classifications

ARM processors can be further categorized into three main types, each serving distinct needs within the embedded hardware design landscape:

Classic Processors: Encompassing families such as ARM7, ARM9, and ARM11, classic ARM processors have played a pivotal role in powering numerous 32-bit devices. While ARM7 processors continue to find applications in simpler embedded systems, newer designs increasingly leverage advanced embedded processors for enhanced performance and capabilities.

Embedded Processors: Renowned for their low power consumption and real-time processing capabilities, embedded processors, particularly those in the ARM Cortex-M and Cortex-R series, cater to the demands of modern embedded applications. Cortex-M processors offer energy-efficient solutions for a myriad of embedded tasks, while Cortex-R processors excel in real-time embedded systems requiring high reliability and fault tolerance.

Application Processors: Representing the pinnacle of ARM performance, Cortex-A series processors find applications in high-performance computing tasks, including mobile devices, network appliances, and automotive systems. With a focus on delivering superior performance and efficiency, Cortex-A processors come in various configurations tailored to specific use cases, ranging from high-performance to ultra-high efficiency designs.

The Cortex-A Processors are further subdivided into high-performance, high-efficiency, and ultra-high-efficiency types, each offering a distinct set of processor cores tailored to specific performance and power requirements.


Processor Cores

High Performance

Cortex A73, Cortex A72, Cortex A57, Cortex A17

High Efficiency

Cortex A53, Cortex A9, Cortex A8

Ultra-High Efficiency

Cortex A35, Cortex A32, Cortex A7, Cortex A5

Selecting the Right SOC for Embedded Hardware Design

Different system-on-chip (SOC) manufacturers license ARM architectures for their designs based on target markets and specific use cases. For instance:

NXP: Known for their i.MX series of SOCs, NXP offers a range of solutions based on ARM Cortex architectures, catering to diverse applications from automotive to industrial automation.

NVIDIA: Leveraging ARM Cortex processors in their designs, NVIDIA delivers high-performance computing solutions for applications spanning artificial intelligence, robotics, and edge computing.

At Regami, we understand the critical role of selecting the right SOC in achieving optimal performance and efficiency in embedded hardware design. Our expertise in ARM architectures and embedded systems allows us to assist clients in navigating the complexities of SOC selection, ensuring that their designs meet the requirements of their target applications.

Please feel free to get in touch with us in case of any queries.



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