i.MX RT Series—The Crossover Between Applications Processors & MCUs

i.MX RT Series—The Crossover Between Applications Processors & MCUs

Until recently, embedded processing fell into two distinct camps based on the necessity of the design. Situations calling for affordable and flexible usability would rely on microcontrollers (MCUs). Designs that exceeded the capacity of an MCU would instead use an applications processor.

Designers and manufacturers have typically made do with one solution or the other. But trends of demand—a new and unique set of hybrid needs—have created an opening in the embedded market, between the two existing product spaces. Product designers increasingly need efficient, high-performance embedded processors with better display capabilities, and increased data processing power and usability—without increasing costs and power consumption.

NXP’s unique position—as a maker of both industry-leading applications processors and MCUs—offers us some unique advantages when it comes to designing across these two disparate product groups. Our new i.MX RT series (based on the ARM® Cortex®-M core) introduces our take on this new class of crossover processing—bridging the gap between performance and usability for the industrial and consumer markets.

2x Performance

The i.MX RT series operates at a core speed of 600 MHz (as opposed to the competing solutions’ maximum speed of 400 MHz). This is the highest performing Cortex-M7 solution available—delivering 3015 CoreMark/1284 DMIPS. Comparatively speaking, that’s:

  • More than 50% higher than any other Cortex-M7 products
  • More than 100% higher than general market Cortex-A5 products
  • More than 250% faster than existing Cortex-M4 products

2x Battery Life

The i.MX RT series enables low dynamic power consumption through features such as a fully integrated -Power Management Controller with a DC-DC converter and efficient power gating. They operate on half the run mode power of other Cortex-M7 products—as low as 110uA/MHz. When operating in low power run mode (24MHz) they ultilize an impressively modest 4.5mA of energy. These features can help to effectively extend a product’s battery life.

2x Integration

Offering a highly integrated Cortex-M7 processor, the i.MX RT series lets MCU customers explore designs that include multimedia for advanced GUI and enhanced human machine interface (HMI). These processors also support greater design flexibility through extensive external memory interface options, including NAND, eMMC, QuadSPI NOR Flash and Parallel NOR Flash.

In terms of connectivity, i.MX RT products offer support for wireless standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE, Zigbee, Thread, and other options. They utilize an extensive array of peripherals found within our i.MX 6 family.

i.MX RT processors also integrate a high degree of security enabled by 128-bit AES Cryptography and True Random Number Generator (TRNG), high assurance booting (HAB), and on-the-fly QSPI flash decryption.

2x Faster Development

i.MX RT series of crossover processors will help product designers increase their performance, add more features, and simultaneously lower BOM costs. They’ll also help MCU customers move up to MPU-level performance while maintaining their current tool chain (MCUXpresso, IAR, Keil)—and without the time, cost, or complexity of adding Linux software development to their design cycle.

Rapid prototyping and development can be achieved with ease with NXP FreeRTOS, SDK, ARM mbed and the global ARM ecosystem which provide software libraries, online tools, and support. You can also accelerate development using our low-cost evaluation kit (EVK), compatible with Arduino™ hardware shields.

Half the Cost

The i.MX RT line also combines the most functionality with the lowest price for a Cortex®-M7 solution on the market (at less than $3.00 USD for 10K quantity). It uses an affordable 10×10 BGA package with .65mm pitch enabling low cost four-layer PCB design.

It also eliminates the need for expensive infrastructure. For example, the integrated PMIC with DC-DC converter removes the need for an external power supply. In addition, 512KB of on-chip SRAM means that external D-RAM can be eliminated from materials expenses.


Jintao Zeng
Jintao Zeng
Jintao Zeng is a senior product manager at NXP Semiconductors. He has more than 20 years of experience in the semiconductor industry, spanning circuit design, business development, technical marketing and product management. Jintao holds a BSEE degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, MSEE degree from Purdue University at West Lafayette and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

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