Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Difference Between Microprocessor and Microcontroller

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller: Microprocessor and Microcontroller both are very interesting as well as important topics in electronics and computer science. Both of them has some unique characteristics that separate them from each other. In this article, we are moving towards to find the important difference between microprocessor and microcontroller. But before moving to the difference between microprocessor and microcontroller, we have to understand the basic concept of both. 

Microprocessor and microcontroller both look very identical to each other. But there are some important aspects that separate one from another. They are different in terms of applications in which they are used, they have differences in processing powers, differences in internal structure and size, differences in power consumption and cost. Now let’s discuss the difference between microprocessor and microcontroller based on these aspects.

Microprocessor vs Microcontroller

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller:

At first, let’s see how they are different in terms of application in where they are used. The perfect example of an application of microprocessor is the personal computers. The microprocessor is the brain behind the personal computers like the laptop that we use for performing different tasks. The microprocessor is basically used in the application where the tasks are not predefined. That means, it is used in such applications where the intensive processing is required.

But in case of a microcontroller, they are used to perform a specific task that should be completed within a specific deadline. The microcontroller takes various inputs from the users or the sensors and produces output after processing them. The applications of the microcontroller are the washing machine, microwave oven, ABS (antilock braking system) etc.

They are also different in terms of processing power and memory. Generally, microprocessors are operated on a much higher speed. The speed varies from 1Ghz to 4Ghz depending upon the processor. In the case of memory, the microprocessor needs a high amount of RAM and ROM as compared to microcontroller since microprocessor has to run an operating system. It supports RAM from 512MB to up to 32GB and ROM varies from 128GB to up to 2TB. The very common interfaces that support microprocessor are USB, Ethernet port, HDMI port, UART etc.

But in case of a microcontroller, the speed ranges in 1MHz up to 300Mhz. Microcontroller requires a little amount of memory since it is dedicated for a specific purpose or use. It supports RAM from 2KB to 256KB and ROM from 32KB to 2MB. The most common peripheral interfaces found in the modern generation microcontroller are I2C, SPI, UART etc.

The modern day microprocessors are of two types. Either 32 bits or 64 bits. The 32 bits microprocessors can handle 32 bits of binary data at the same time and it uses 32 bits address bus and data bus. whereas the 64 bits can handle 64 bits of binary data at a time and uses 64 bits address bus and data bus.

But in case of modern day microcontroller, they are available as 8 bits, 16 bits and 32 bits. In terms of capability the difference between microprocessor and microcontroller is the microprocessor can handle a larger amount of data in a single clock cycle than microcontroller.

Microprocessor vs Microcontroller (Power consumption, internal structure & costs):

The microprocessor is meant the general purpose processor such as Intel’s family(8086, 80286, 80386 and the Pentium). They don’t contain any RAM, any ROM and any I/O ports on the chip itself. This is the reason why they are also referred to as general purpose microprocessors. A system designer using a general purpose microprocessor such as the Pentium much add RAM, ROM, I/O ports and timers externally to make them functional. But the addition of external RAM, ROM, and I/O ports makes these systems much more expensive and bulkier. But they have the advantage of versatility such that the designer can decide on the amount of RAM, ROM, and I/O ports needed to fit the task at hand. Due to externally connected components and higher capability, the power consumption and costs are high in case of microprocessors.

This is not the same case with a microcontroller. A microcontroller has a CPU in addition to a fixed amount of RAM, ROM and I/O ports and timer all on a single chip. In other words, the processor, RAM, ROM, I/O ports and the timer are all embedded together on one single chip. Therefore the designer can’t add any external memory or other devices to it. It reduces the overall costs and size of the system. So, the fixed amount of on-chip ROM, RAM and I/O ports in microcontroller makes them ideal for many applications in which cost and space are critical.

Difference between Microprocessor and Microcontroller in tabular form:

Components like RAM, ROM, I/O ports are connected externally with the CPU.RAM, ROM, I/O ports are connected internally with the CPU within a single chip.
It is used for general purpose applications.It is used for a specific purpose application.
It is a high-cost system to set up.It is a low-cost system.
The power consumption is high.The power consumption is low.
The processing power and memory capacity are high.The processing power and memory capacity are low.
It occupies more space.It occupies less space.
It is used for tasks where the time is not a critical manner.It is used for deadline specific tasks where the time is critical.

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Also Read: PIN Diagram & Block Diagram of 8051 Microcontroller.

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Debarshi Das

Debarshi Das is a passionate blogger & full-stack JavaScript developer from Guwahati, Assam. He has a deep interest in robotics too. He holds a BSc degree in Information Technology & currently pursuing Masters of Computer Application (MCA) from a premier govt. engineering college. He is also certified as a chip-level computer hardware expert from an ISO certified institute.

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