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Differences between a DSP and Microcontroller (Micro-controller).
This FAQ compares the different Applications and Peripherals of DSPs and Microcontrollers.
Microcontrollers (Micro-controllers) and DSPs are both types of microprocessors that are programmed by the user to perform a given application or task. Both device types operate in the digital domain by manipulating binary data based on the machine code loaded into the device. However, Microcontrollers and DSPs are very different in the applications that they are used for, mainly due to the differences in the device type architecture and peripherals.
Microcontrollers are traditionally used for control and interface applications where simplicity of design is more important than speed. Microcontrollers use a Von Neuman Architecture that uses a shared memory space and bus for both program (instruction words) and data (digital quantitative values) memory. The peripherals on a Microcontroller include on chip Input/Output Control Pins, analog to digital converter, and specialized serial port standards.
DSPs are used in computationally intense applications such as image processing, speech processing, and other complex signal manipulation. DSPs use a Modified Harvard Architecture that has dedicated memory spaces and buses for both data and program memory. This attribute and the addition of a hardware multiplier that performs a single cycle (one device clock cycle) multiply, significantly increases processing speed. Peripherals on DSPs differ from product to product, because the primary concern of the DSP design is the concentration upon signal processing.
The purpose of the DSP is preserving the real-time (delayed data that is not detectable in a given system) nature of the manipulated signal while a Micro-controller is lower speed control device.
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