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W H I T E
PA P E R
Zack Albus,
Applications Engineer;
Adrian Valenzuela,
Product Marketing Engineer;
Mark Buccini
Texas Instruments
Ultra-Low Power Comparison:
MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP
Tech Brief
A Case for Ultra-Low Power
Microcontroller Performance
Introduction
The MSP430’s power consumption is unmatched in the industry.
Ultra-low power is in our DNA: As the
All MSP430 internal peripherals are carefully designed to be intelligent and with features
world’s lowest-power microcontroller, the
that reduce CPU load. For example the internal ADC converters offer an automatic channel
MSP430 was designed from the ground
scanning feature and a direct transfer controller or DMA for off-loading basic data movement
up with low power in mind. We’ve wo-
tasks from the CPU. This enables higher system performance and reduces power consumed.
ven low power into every aspect of the
The transparency of the MSP430 architecture is first experienced with it’s revolutionary 16-bit
MSP430 from the highly agile instant-on
orthogonal CPU that has more effective processing, is smaller-sized, and more code-efficient
clock architecture, the modern 16-bit or-
than other 8-/16-bit microcontrollers. In addition to a common instruction set there is a strict
thogonal CPU, to the smart integrated pe-
memory-mapped peripheral library for easy migration.
ripherals, to our easy-to-use tool chain.
The MSP430 is a true family concept offering consistent performance. For example, in the
MSP430F2xx family of general-purpose devices, both the simplest 14-pin MSP430F2001 device with only 1kB Flash and the most complex 80-pin MSP430F2619 with 128kB Flash offer
ultra-low power performance figures that are extremely close for these very different devices.
This enables an engineer to select just the right device for their application from a wide and
scalable portfolio of compatible devices.
MSP430 development is in-system and subject to the exact same characteristics of the
final application. Today’s applications operating at lower voltages, with tighter packaging and
higher-precision analog, benefit greatly from the MSP430 MCU’s in-system emulation
MSP430: World’s Lowest-Power MCU
•
•
•
Ultra-low power by design
– 100nA storage mode, <500nA standby, <1µA RTC mode
– 0–16MIPS <1µs, agile instant-on clock system
– Intelligent peripherals reduce CPU load, improve performance
A modern transparent family architecture
– Compatibility top-to-bottom
– Consistent performance throughout
– True embedded emulation
Mixed signal processor
– 10-, 12-, 16-bit ADC
– 12-bit DAC, op-amps, comparator
– Enabling higher performance, low total cost systems
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approach. The MSP430 MCU’s dedicated embedded emulation logic resides on the actual device itself and is
accessed via JTAG or Spy-Bi-Wire using no additional system resources. From the first day of development,
firmware engineers can now unobtrusively develop and debug their embedded code with full-speed execution, breakpoints, and single stepping in an application. The MSP430 offers a variety of high-performance
mixed-signal peripherals that enable high-performance system solutions, at a lower total cost using few
external components. Designing with an MSP430 in many cases allows a single-chip solution for a specific
application. For example the MSP430FW42x is designed specifically to implement a single-chip water/flow
meter. The MSP430FG4xx integrated peripheral set, including ADC, op-amps, and DACs, is ideal for portable
medical devices or glucose meters. The MSP430F2xx MCUs on the other hand are designed for more
general-purpose ultra-low power applications with the same system-on-chip capabilities.
The MSP430 is designed
specifically for batterypowered measurement
applications.
The average system power consumption is the absolute lowest, without compromise in performance. The
system enters and remains in an ultra-low power standby mode for as long as possible, and is awakened
only to service interrupts as fast as possible. Multiple oscillators are utilized to provide both an ultra-low
power standby mode and “on demand” high-performance processing. The clock system is very flexible and
allows the MSP430 to operate optimally from a single 32KHz crystal – with the internal digitally controlled
oscillator (DCO) used for the CPU and high-speed peripherals. A low-frequency Auxiliary Clock (ACLK) is
driven directly from a common 32KHz watch crystal with no additional external components. The ACLK
enables the MSP430’s ultra-low power standby mode (LPM3) and an embedded real-time clock function. In
LPM3, the MSP430 typically consumes current in the 1µA range. The integrated high-speed DCO can source
the master clock (MCLK) used by the CPU and high-speed peripherals. By design, the DCO is active and fully
stable in less than 6 µs with no intermediate steps. This enables “instant on” high-performance processing –
no long start-up for a second crystal or 2-speed start-up required. Because the DCO is digitally adjustable
with software and hardware, stability over time and temperature is assured.
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
Texas Instruments 3
To service interrupt driven events, the software efficiently uses the 16-bit RISC CPU’s performance in very
short “burst” intervals. Transition from standby to fully active is less than 6 µs. This results in a combination
of ultra-low power consumption and very high performance immediately when needed.
To support non-low power applications, a high-speed crystal up to 16MHz can also be used. The device
can also operate with no external crystal at all using only the internal DCO.
Microchip’s application report and video compares the PIC24F XLP specifically to the MSP430. The
fundamental claim is that the PIC24F XLP is lower power compared to the MSP430F2xx – this is also
demonstrated in a video using a special Microchip measurement board. What is misleading and causes error
are the unrealistic use-case conditions. For example, testing at 1.8V is unusual with few real-world sources –
perhaps two discharged alkaline batteries? Most ultra-low power systems are powered directly from a 3V
lithium coin-cell battery for low cost and a long run time because of its very low leakage. Another common
battery solution is two fully charged alkaline batteries at 3.3V. The benchmark needs to be shifted closer to a
real-world 3V supply. In the report and in the video, modes of operation are shown that disable BOR
protection and remove power to RAM – these techniques will reduce power but are both a dangerous and an
inconvenient practice. The importance of brown out is clear for any application in which batteries could be
replaced or power could be disrupted for any reason. In the example where RAM is de-powered and the
content lost, this lost data would likely be stored temporarily into on-chip Flash. With the PIC24F XLP, this
would be a Flash program operation that needs 10mA for 2ms for each 96-Byte block – this adds significant
power consumption that is never mentioned.
It is important also to note that all XLP modes of operation require summing various adders together to get
the total current for any mode – this is confusing and can be misleading. For example, the mentioned 195µA
for PIC24F XLP “1MHz run” is just for the CPU with an external square wave clock source. Because of a /2
divider to the CPU, the CPU clock is running at only 500kHz at 1.8V and does not include the internal clock
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
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generator. At a real 1MIPS CPU clock, with internal clock generation at a realistic 3V operation, the PIC24F
XLP’s total active 1MIPS power consumption is calculated at well over 1mA. This is 2–3× more than any
MSP430F2xx under the same conditions.
The PIC24F XLP 32kHz oscillator specification does not include the power required for the must-have
crystal and load capacitors – this adds on the order of 200nA. All MSP430F2xx ultra-low power figures
include an always-on BOR for safety and fully powered RAM. MSP430 active mode includes the entire device
and active on-chip DCO clock system. LPM3 includes the crystal and load capacitors in the device datasheet
specification as is needed in the real world.
The XLP 20nA “deep sleep” mode is enabled under the restrictive conditions of no BOR, no RAM and
at 1.8V. This is more like a literal off mode. The only exit from deep sleep is an external pin interrupt that
actually resets the entire device – this is not a useful mode in most microcontroller applications. Moving to a
more typical 3V node increases power and restoring RAM and BOR protection increases PIC24 XLP power to
160nA – this is 60% higher than the MSP430F20xx in LPM4 which is an equivalent storage mode. By definition, without the ability of self wakeup, this mode is considered storage and not a sleep mode. Sleep requires
the ability to self-wake.
Adding a self-wakeup feature using an internal watchdog timer and oscillator to enable a real sleep mode,
the PIC24F XLP power increases to over 800nA – this is 41% higher compared to the MSP430F2xx in
LPM3_VLO an equivalent sleep (also called standby) mode.
PIC24F XLP figures used in this analysis are adjusted to 3V by taking the 3.3V datasheet value * 0.8.
MSP430 figures are at 3V directly from the device datasheet.
The low power scorecard on the following page summarizes the low-power modes of the PIC24F XLP,
MSP430F20xx and MSP430F26xx devices. Both the device datasheet figures for all devices and actual
bench measurements are shown.
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
Texas Instruments 5
For the lowest overall power, the system stays in standby as the normal mode and as long as possible.
Transition to active is by interrupt as quickly as possible and stays in active mode for as short a period as
possible. In general, overall power can approach that of standby by keeping the active period as short and
low as possible. To achieve this, the lowest possible standby, fastest wakeup to active, and the lowest active
power are all important and required.
From the scorecard, the MSP430F2xx family is significantly lower power compared to the PIC24F XLP in
both the device datasheets and as measured on the bench. From the scorecard, the MSP430 excels in all
modes of operation.
The MSP430 is a true family concept offering consistent performance. For example, in the MSP430F2xx
family of general-purpose devices, both the simplest 14-pin MSP430F2001 device with only 1kB Flash and
the most complex 80-pin MSP430F2619 with 128kB Flash are used for comparison. The low-power figures
for these very different devices are extremely close. This enables an engineer to select just the right device
for the application from a wide portfolio of compatible devices. All MSP430s are ultra-low power by design.
XLP technology is both higher power compared to MSP430 and applied on only a few of Microchip’s devices –
moving from XLP to other PIC devices within the PIC24F family for example, increases typical power by more
than double.
The PIC24F XLP 3V values are the datasheet 3.3V values adjusted to 3V by using an 0.8 multiplier. The
MSP430 datasheet values are directly from the device datasheet.
This example on the following page shows a typical ULP application where the system is in standby mode
99% and active 1%. This translates to 14.4 minutes of active time / day – this is similar to what would be
experienced in a battery-powered portable consumer medical device or measurement system. Standby mode
power is very important but in this example active power has an even bigger impact at over 80% of the total
power. Managing active power is a top priority in this example.
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
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Also, any used internal and external peripheral power needs to be added to the total power consumption
and this will negatively impact the total power used and reduce battery life accordingly. The impact depends
on the complete application. All MSP430 internal peripherals are carefully designed to be intelligent and
provide features that reduce CPU load and power consumption. For example the internal ADC converters
offer an automatic channel scanning feature and a direct transfer controller or DMA offload these tasks from
the CPU. This enables a higher performance system and reduces power.
Figures assume a 3V CR2032 with 200mAh usable capacity at 25°C. Total average current is the sum of
standby using watchdog with internal oscillator × 0.99 and active power consumption at 1MIPS × 0.01.
Datasheet specifications are used.
M430F20xx = 0.6µA × 0.99 + 300µA × 0.01, 200mAh/0.0036mA/24/365 = 6.34 years
M430F26xx = 0.6µA × 0.99 + 515µA × 0.01, 200mAh/0.0058mA/24/365 = 4.0 years
P24F XLP = 0.8µA × 0.99+1110µA × 0.01, 200mAh/0.0119mA/24/365 = 1.9 years
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
Texas Instruments 7
This example shows a typical ULP application where the system is in standby mode 99.9% and active
0.1%. This translates to 1.4 minutes of active time / day which is 4k active cycles every 4 seconds, at 1MHz
CPU clock. This scenario is similar to what would be experienced in a wireless sensor network for example.
Standby mode power consumption is very important but so is active mode power.
In this example, active power ~30 – 60% of the total power depending on the device used. Also, any used
internal and external peripheral power needs to be added to the total power consumption and this will negatively impact the total power used and reduce battery life accordingly. The impact depends completely on the
application. All MSP430 internal peripherals are carefully designed to be intelligent and provide features that
reduce CPU load. For example the internal ADC converters for an automatic channel scanning feature and a
direct transfer controller or DMA offload these task from the CPU. This enables higher performance system
and reduces power.
After 20 years of operation the self leakage of the battery has a significant impact as well as the overall
reliability of the system.
Figures assume 3V CR2032 with 200mAh usable capacity at 25°C. Total average current is the sum of
standby using watchdog with internal oscillator × 0.999 and active power consumption at 1MIPS × 0.001
Datasheet specifications are used.
M430F20xx = (0.6µA × 0.999)+(300µA × 0.001), 200mAh/0.009/24/365 = 25 years
M430F26xx = (0.6µA × 0.999)+(515µA × 0.001), 200mAh/0.011/24/365 = 21 years
P24F XLP = (0.8µA × 0.999)+(1110µA × 0.001), 200mAh/0.019/24/365 = 12 years
The screen capture shows an interrupt signal on channel 1 (top), the startup of the MSP430F2xx DCO on
channel 2 (middle) and PIC24F16KA102 internal fast RC oscillator startup on channel 3 (bottom).
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
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Texas Instruments
Both the MSP430 and PIC24F are programmed on interrupt to run 10k CPU cycles in a loop then return to
a standby state.
In this example it can be seen that from an interrupt event the MSP430F2xx DCO is active and stable at
16MHz in well under 1us as specified in the device datasheet. In fact, in this example the measured DCO
startup time is actually 406ns.
The PIC24F XLP fast RC shown on channel 3 starts slower in the 3µs range and is also limited initially to
4MHz. For higher-speeds, a 1ms delay is required for an internal PLL to lock. This is called a 2-speed start-up.
With the MSP430, clock startup is “instant-on”. It is important that the high-speed DCO not only starts
instantly, but also stabilizes instantly. Both instant-on and instant stability are important for features like asynchronous serial communication. A common benefit of an instant-on and stable oscillator is response to serial
communication; a high-speed UART for example. As long as the oscillator – as the clock source for the UART
– starts instantly and is stable, no characters are lost. If a slow or 2-speed oscillator is used, at a minimum,
the first character in the received data stream is lost and will need to be resent. This wastes time and power.
With the MSP430 DCO, no delay or 2-speed clock startup occurs. The user’s application has instant access to the high-speed DCO from any operating mode. Instant-on capability saves power as the system does
not have to waste energy waiting for start up. Interrupt activities are serviced immediately.
The screen capture shows an interrupt input on channel 1 (top), the startup of the MSP430F2xx DCO on
channel 2 (middle) and PIC24F16KA102 internal fast RC oscillator startup on channel 3 (bottom) over an
extended time scale.
Both the MSP430 and PIC24F are programmed on interrupt to run 10k CPU cycles in a loop then return to
a standby state.
This example uses 16MHz for both the MSP430F2xx and PIC24F XLP CPU clock. It can been seen that the
MSP430F2xx starts instantly at 16MHz and completes the 10k cycle burst in 625µs = 10,000/16,000,000.
Ultra-Low Power Comparison: MSP430 vs. Microchip XLP Tech Brief October 2009
Texas Instruments 9
The PIC24F XLP oscillator is initially limited to 4MHz as can be seen, then after 1ms, when the PLL locks, the
clock moves to 16MHz. This means the PIC24F XLP takes much longer to finish the task.
In this 10k burst example the PIC24F takes 1.44ms to complete the task – this is more than 2× as long as
the MSP430F2xx. Additionally the instant-on MSP430 DCO can be used to clock other internal and external
peripherals.
With the MSP430 DCO the device starts faster and at a higher speed, if required by the given application, to finish the task fast and shut down sooner. The instant-on MSP430F2xx DCO is much more flexible,
improves performance and reduces system power consumption.
MSP430 Summary
•
World’s lowest-power MCU family by design
– 100nA storage mode, <500nA standby, <1µA RTC mode
– 0–16MIPS <1µs, agile instant-on clock system
– Intelligent peripherals reduce CPU load, improve performance
– MSP430F2xx is lower power compared to the PIC24F XLP in all
modes of operation, by the datasheet and on the bench
– At a measured 700nA in a true 3V standby mode with self-wakeup,
PIC24F XLP is 75% higher power compared to MSP430F20xx at
400nA
– When evaluating ULP MCUs be cautious of incredibly low marketing numbers such as “20nA deep sleep”. These are often under
unrealistic conditions such as 1.8V, no BOR, no RAM retention and
no self wakeup – this is not a very useful state for a microcontroller.
Ultra-low power is in our DNA: As the world’s lowest power microcontroller, the MSP430 was designed
from the ground up with low power in mind. We’ve woven low power into every aspect of the MSP430 from a
true standby mode under 500nA, the highly agile instant-on clock architecture that enables highperformance 16-bit MIPS on-demand, to the smart integrated peripherals, to our easy-to-use tool chain.
The MSP430F2xx general-purpose family of devices is lower power than the PIC24F XLP in all modes of
operation, compared per the device datasheets and proven on the bench.
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SLAY015
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