system on a chip

A Deep Dive into System on A Chip Technology and Why We Recommend It

There are many questions regarding the use of system on a chip (SoC) technology these days and why many experts recommend it. To gain more knowledge about SoC, here are basic information about this type of technology.


What is system on a chip technology?


SoC is an integrated circuit with all the components of a computer. These include a CPU, I/O ports, memory, and secondary storage. This type of circuit can consume less power and consume less space compared to a multichip design. They are also common in embedded system designs.


Unlike a motherboard-based architecture, all the components are in a system on a chip design. Usually, SoCs are built around a microcontroller, a microprocessor, or designed as a programmable SoC for a specific application with some programmable aspects.


In comparison to microcontrollers, SoCs have more pins and more systems integration of various peripherals. This can also refer to many things found on the market, which generally means a single chip that does everything instead of multiple chips. So, do not get misled by the name.


Why is SoC better than similar technologies?


The initiative to take on more complex tasks with minimal number of components has given rise to system on a chip in the mobile phone industry.


From the early days of a 2G handset containing a dozen chips until the advent of smartphones compressing all functions into a couple of chips, chip designers were able to sell early versions of SoCs as fabless designs to handset manufacturers.


The use of SoC is a priority of companies like Apple leading to the mass production and extreme integration of modern system on a chip technology into their products.


Reportedly, it helped in the reduction of cost of earlier generations of SoC so that devices like the Raspberry Pi can use this technology and offer it at affordable prices to everyone.


Is it different than a microcontroller?


There is a difference between SoC and a microcontroller unit which can be based on definition. While SoC has a lot of definitions and will typically change over time. A microcontroller unit already has a clear definition. But the distinction between the two can be a bit confusing at some point.


  • Microcontroller unit – This is a small computer on a single integrated circuit. These have a processor core, memory, and programmable I/O peripherals, among others. This also provides minimal interface, memory, and processing power.


The peripherals you can see inside a microcontroller are less specific in comparison to those inside a system on a chip. Thus, it focuses on small, embedded control systems or control applications.


  • System on a chip – An SoC is an encapsulation of 1 or more CPUs, microcontrollers, accelerators, or other supporting hardware. It does not have a specific standard about the type of circuitry it must have.


Moreover, it is designed for applications with more complex requirements. There might be more than 1 microcontroller inside a SoC. This is because it is like a complete computer system on a single chip. This makes it able to do complex tasks with higher resource requirements.

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