As a marketer, I never like to use the suffix “less” as it usually has a negative connotation. “Less” means not having; without; free from something. Words like hopeless, motionless, and helpless come to mind. So, when a system architect recently spoke to me about the products in the i.MX RT series and referred to them as being flashless, I cringed a little.
But, is being flashless such a bad thing? Yes, it means it has no flash memory on-chip, but that is actually giving customers more - More opportunity for differentiated on-chip peripherals. More options for selecting the perfect memory. And more opportunity to create cost competitive solutions.
More on-chip peripherals - Flash takes up a lot of die space on the MCU. By eliminating the flash, there is suddenly room for more differentiated features and peripherals. The i.MX RT series, for example, includes things like an advanced 2D graphics acceleration engine, LCD display controllers, camera sensor interfaces, and audio interfaces for high-performance, multi-channel audio streaming. And removing the flash allows the chip manufacturers to move to future technology nodes faster – thereby offering designers more peripherals and features in the same die space.
More flexibility to find the perfect memory - Because the i.MX RT series eliminates the flash, suddenly a whole world of memory options are available to designers. i.MX RT series of crossover processors support greater design flexibility through extensive external memory interface options, including NAND, eMMC, Quad/Octal/Hyper SPI NOR Flash, and Parallel NOR Flash. The combination of high-speed interfaces for external memory and on-the-fly decryption enables secure external data storage, and the need for embedded flash is eliminated. And sourcing external flash memory is easy and low-cost. By doing a quick search online, designers will see that 2MB of quad-SPI flash is only a couple of dollars.
More competitive - Embedding flash in an MCU is expensive. Shedding the burden of on-chip flash reduces the MCU cost to the OEM and also helps enable higher frequency operation for increased processor performance—which in turn lets product designers boost capabilities, increase efficiency, and add more features.
The i.MX RT1015 is the newest addition to the popular i.MX RT Series and provides a great entry-point into the crossover processor space by providing a 500 MHz ARM Cortex-M7 core in a small LQFP package that enables 2-layer PCBs. With 128 KB SRAM, the i.MX RT1015 supports external Flash memory options, and the EVK for the i.MX RT1015 features a Quad interface with Adesto’s 128Mbit, 133MHz Quad flash memory on-board.