Use of digital signal processing (DSP) is exploding. Designers have three choices when implementing DSP: they can use a DSP processor, a field programmable gate array (FPGA), or a masked application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). ASICs offer the highest throughput, lowest power consumption, and lowest cost, but their huge non recurring engineering costs (NREs) and long lead times make them impractical for many designs. FPGAs have been shown to offer much better throughput than DSP processors, without the drawbacks of ASICs. However, they have their own drawbacks—most notably, very high power consumption, relatively slow performance, and high costs.

This paper introduces an alternative technology: the new Customizable Atmel Processors (CAP) microcontrollers (MCUs), which provide gate densities, unit cost, performance and power consumption comparable to those of cell-based ASICs, together with low NREs and quick development times.

Reprinted in its entirety from ARM IQ Vol. 6, No. 3, 2007