XMOS boosts performance & connectivity with 2nd-generation multicore MCUs

March 23, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
Multicore microcontroller maker Xmos has refreshed its product line with two series; xCORE-200 is a general purpose series that steps up performance, memory and I/O count over its predecessors, and xCORE-Audio is a family of devices specifically optimised for audio applications.

The latter family are “Hi-resolution Audio connectivity processors”, which Xmos says will enable “high resolution [sampling rate] audio to be deployed in a wider range of consumer and professional product designs. Asked if – in the light of the xCORE Audio introduction, and the company’s recent visibility in audio-centric designs – audio has become the main focus area for its activities, and Xmos spokesman says that to the contrary, its intent is to be a supplier of MCU products to the broad market.

“Audio happens to be one of the sectors where designs have progressed faster [making that activity higher profile].” He comments that the Xmos processors – with their multi-threaded and deterministic behaviour – have been gaining acceptance in many areas, and are, “finding a space between [conventional] microcontrollers and FPGAs; the flexibiity of FPGAs, but at the price point of MCUs.”

The xCORE-200 multicore microcontroller family is “Gigabit Ethernet enabled” - integrating 16 32bit-RISC-processor-cores in a single device, the first xCORE-200 device delivers up to 2000 MIPs of real-time computing power and is 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet-equipped, with programmable MAC layer and Internet webserver support. This, Xmos, says, opens a path to Gigabit-speed Internet-of-Things applications. It has a dual-issue pipeline, that contributes to the “2x performance” claim; four times the RAM of its predecessors (up to 512 kB SRAM) and up to 2Mbytes of on-chip flash. There is a programmable USB 2.0 interface (the interface is emulated by a process running in the xCORE multicore fabric; the Ethernet MAC is also a software implementation).

Xmos is introducing a complete family of chips in the 200 series, in three bands characterised by being general-purpose controllers; or having the USB interface; or with USB plus Gigabit Ethernet. An evaluation board contains, as well as all the expected hooks and access features needed to check out the processors (inlcuding 53 I/Os), a selection of the types of sensor that users might employ