Difference between DSP and microcontroller

Thread Starter

Bamerni

Joined Jun 26, 2016
51
Hello everyone

I have a simple question
What is the difference between DSP chip like TMS320xxxx, and microcontroller chip like Atmega328

Thanks in advance
 

Thread Starter

Bamerni

Joined Jun 26, 2016
51
A DSP is optimized for speed, fast mathematical computations.
A microcontroller is your Swiss army knife, good for all jobs.
you mean that all job implemented on DSP could be implemented on a microcontroller with slower speed
 

402DF855

Joined Feb 9, 2013
194
Originally, DSPs, as the name suggests, were somewhat specialized parts used for digital signal processing; FFTs and filters and such, and as has been suggested, speed was a primary design factor. Microcontrollers, on the other hand, are more generic and come with a set of accompanying peripherals: serial interfaces, ADC/DAC, timers, counters, PWM, NVM, etc. Both have evolved of course. DSPs nowadays often have a lot of peripherals built into its design too. Still the trade offs remain mainly about speed, cost, and complexity.
 

joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
4,374
Originally, DSPs, as the name suggests, were somewhat specialized parts used for digital signal processing; FFTs and filters and such, and as has been suggested, speed was a primary design factor. Microcontrollers, on the other hand, are more generic and come with a set of accompanying peripherals: serial interfaces, ADC/DAC, timers, counters, PWM, NVM, etc. Both have evolved of course. DSPs nowadays often have a lot of peripherals built into its design too. Still the trade offs remain mainly about speed, cost, and complexity.
As I tried to indicate in a prior post, the only thing that separates a standard traditional MCU from a DSP capable MCU is the presence of a MAC module. Nothing else matters.
 
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MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
20,902
As @joeyd999 said.

Intensive mathematical computations usually involve a lot of arithmetic on large volumes of data.
Invariably, the math requires one to multiply and add the data.
Hence the MAC hardware.
MAC stands for Multiply and Accumulate.
A DSP will have MAC hardware in order to perform this arithmetic efficiently.
Microcontrollers do not usually have MAC hardware. Event thought an MCU might have hardware multiply, the instruction set is not optimized to do MAC. A DSP instruction set is optimized to use the MAC efficiently.
 

danadak

Joined Mar 10, 2018
4,057
The MAC of course stands out as key item in DSP operations. But along with that
one usually wants DMA so that a DSP operating on a signal stream does not have
to flow code thru a CPU to get the job done. No DMA slows down the max sampling
rate one can have with a MAC fed by A/D via code.

As far as distinguishing them, today some UPs offer a complete signal path of DSP
like operations. An example Cypress PSOC has a peripheral to do FIR, IIR, and BiQuad
filtering, along with a SAR A/D and DAC and OpAmps and Vref and analog muxing and........

This is just part of what is on this chip (note DelSig A/D was used, also onchip is SAR
which is faster and could have been used.) -



Note there was a lot of work done on Digital Filters with a power of 2 constraint
for pole zero locations. This technique can eliminate MAC as we think of it and
use simple shifting rather than full up multiplier for sample computation. But this places
constraints on realizability, eg. cannot be used in ALL specification goals.

DSPs now exist with clocking rates into the Ghz region, TI, Analog Devices.

Regards, Dana.
 
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