ARM manufacturers, which ones offer the best toolchains?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by josef.van.niekerk, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. josef.van.niekerk

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 18, 2013
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    0
    The past few weeks I've been busy designing an Atmel SAM3S Cortex M3 experimental board using Eagle CAD, and I'm getting close to, hopefully, finalising the design. The entire project is an attempt to learn how the design process works from beginning, right through to the end, and also to get familiar with ARM technology.

    Getting closer to the beginning of the end, I've started researching the various methods for debugging and programming the CPU, and I'm slightly worried that I'm making a mess, picking a chip that doesn't have an affordable, easy to use and less painful toolchain. The idea is to use JTAG for debugging and programming the CPU, and possibly looking at including SWD as an option.

    I'm also investigating the possibility on including and entire USD to JTAG circuit like this one, on the experiment board itself, but the problem is, which toolchains would support full on debugging and programming with it.

    I've mostly been looking at the following primary manufacturers of chips for my design:
    and I'm wondering which of these manufacturers offer the most seamless toolchains for developing, debugging and loading firmware onto their ARM Cortex M3/M4 processors.

    Texas Instruments' Stellaris ARM chips seem like they are quite popular, have a bit more supportive software, lots of documentation, and it looks to me like Texas Instruments is one of the front runners when it comes to ARM technologies.

    ST look like they know what they are doing, and seem to have loads of documentation on their CPUs.

    I heard, that sometimes Atmel discontinue products at a whims notice, and that often suppliers are having issues with stock. I do find their chips to be a bit more on the cheaper side. Atmel also has the SAM-ICE JTAG programmer, which seems quite nice, but the price is a bit steep. I do find it quite neat that Atmel Studio 6 is available for free from Atmel's website.

    I also looked at NXP a tiny bit, but not sure how they compare to the rest of the crowd.

    There are hordes of other suppliers like Freescale, Energy Micro, Silicon Laboratories, Toshiba and probably a lot more.

    The thing I'm concerned about is that I'm going to be picking a CPU that's going to be extremely difficult to program and especially debug with JTAG, requiring many painful hours of tweaking, fidgeting and reconfiguring toolchains etc. I want to avoid that a bad toolchain process as much as I can.

    I practically read the entire 1000 odd page datasheets for the Atmel AT91SAM3S and Stellaris LM3S5R36 chips, and it seems, thanks so ARM, that the architectures and concepts pretty much stay more or less the same.

    I'm thinking of using Eclipse CDT for my IDE, on Mac OS X if possibly, as this is my main OS of choice. I understand that GCC is commonly used, and also see that OpenOCD gets mentioned a lot in toolchains.

    I want to stay away from expensive proprietary software.

    Would it be better for me to use the Texas Instruments Stellaris? Am I completely wrong, and should I rather go with ST, what if Atmel isn't the right choice?
     
  2. josef.van.niekerk

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 18, 2013
    7
    0
    Mmm, I came stumbling onto the STLINK/V2 which, according to RS Components, is much cheaper than the SAM-ICE? Wondering if this makes the STM32 a better candidate for my experiment board?
     
  3. josef.van.niekerk

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 18, 2013
    7
    0
    It seems that ST has quite a nice toolchain for their STM32 chips. Might be a cheaper option, taking that their programmer doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
     
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