You might already know about AVR microcontrollers, or you might have just stumbled upon them.
If you are wanting to make the switch to an AVR microcontroller but are not convinced yet of what the big deal about is with them, below are some of the many advantages of an AVR microcontroller
- Easy to use
- Readily Available
- Community (Tutorials, resources, forums etc)
- Different types of boards depending on your needs
- Many different Peripherals
- Easy to program
- Extensive detailed datasheets
- Easy to set up
- Onboard memory
I will give a more detailed explanation of each advantage further in this article.
While there are many more advantages, these are the most notable ones.
What is an AVR microcontroller
Let’s take a brief look at the AVR microcontroller.
The AVR microcontroller was first developed in the late 90’s by a company known as Atmel. However, in 2016 they were acquired by Microchip.
They were the first set of microcontrollers to use on chip flash memory for program memory.
AVR microcontrollers are most commonly used for embedded applications, and have been popularised by the Arduino Development Boards,(most predominantly the AT Mega 8).
They are the go to microcontroller for beginners to experts, being used in DIY and Industrial applications.
The AVR family is comprised with a series of microcontrollers listed below;
Of the many options, these three are the most popular of the series of AVR micrcontrollers used.
11 advantages of an AVR microcontroller
Ok, let’s take a look at the many advantages of AVR microcontrollers. Whether you have never used them before or you are just curious to know, it will benefit you to know the advantages.
Advantage #1 of an AVR microcontroller: Price
No matter what you are buying, you want the best price to quality ratio (or as I like to call it, the Golden ratio)
What I mean by this is that you don’t want to spend a lot of money on something which isn’t of great quality.
Also, it would be nice to pay the least amount of money for something of great quality.
In life you might seldom stumble upon gems which meet the Golden Ratio. Things that don’t break the bank but still provide great value for a long time.
The AVR microcontroller is one of those gems that has the perfect cost to quality ratio. It is decently priced while still delivering on functionality.
Advantage #2 of an AVR microcontroller: Easy to use
I will approach this advantage from two vantage points.
One as a beginner, and the second as the expert.
For the beginner who is just starting to get into the world of microcontrollers, you want a microcontroller that is easy to use. The last thing you want is to spend years learning how to use it.
From the eyes of the expert (say an engineer), who is prototyping a project that involves a microcontroller.
However, this engineer only has a little knowledge using microcontrollers, he or she will want to be able to use a microcontroller with a little small learning curve as they do want to spend all their time learning how to use the microcontroller, but rather get stuck into finishing their project.
The AVR microcontroller is perfect for both parties as it is easy to use. It has a small learning curve allowing you to get stuck right into the fun stuff.
Advantage #3 of an AVR microcontroller: Availability
The third advantage of the AVR microcontroller is Availability.
So we know the AVR microcontroller is reasonably priced and easy to use, but imagine if it was impossible to get your hands on, that would be utterly pointless.
In this day and age we are lucky to live with the Internet where you can buy things online with a click of a button.
However, even then it can be hard getting certain products, especially if you live in far away countries.
I live in New Zealand! The far corner of the world!
Trust me trying to get some items shipped to New Zealand can be near damn impossible.
Fortunately for me, the AVR microcontroller is not one of those items!
I have access to it online as well as physical stores not too far from where I live.
Advantage #4 of an AVR microcontroller: Community
No matter what hobby we might start, we all start as amateurs.
Back in the earlier days of microcontrollers when the internet was at its infancy, the path to learning how to use microcontrollers would have been a bit harder.
You would either have to go to university to learn how to use them, read thick books about microcontrollers, or spend many hours using trial and error.
If you are starting out learning how to use AVR micrcontrollers now, you have hit the jackpot!
The AVR microcontroller community that has grown online to this date is massive. There are people with years of experience who are willing to help you with any problem you might be having.
Also, there are a plethora of resources available ranging from video tutorials, projects, example codes, theory and many more to help you get started.
So, if you ever get stuck, look to the AVR community who are there to help you solve any problem.
Advantage #5 of an AVR microcontroller: Range of Speeds
Now we come to the technical advantages of an AVR microcontroller.
The first of them being speed.
Every microcontroller has a clock which is needed for timing control. The rate at which instructions are carried out is determined by the speed of the clock.
The higher the speed the faster that instructions are carried out and vice versa.
The initial assumption is that the faster the clock speed the better. But, it all depends on the application’s needs.
For example, if you have a weather station, where data is only processed every 24 hours, you do not need high clock speeds.
So it is all application dependent.
The great thing about AVR microcontrollers is that they come in a range of clock speeds
Advantage #6 of an AVR microcontroller: Range of Microcontroller options
As I mentioned earlier, there are many different groups of microcontrollers within the AVR family.
You are not restricted to one specific AVR microcontroller of one specific size, set of peripherals, speed, number of input/outputs etc.
AVR micrcontrollers come in a range of options that vary in size and functionality.
Also, depending on the specifications of your project/application, each microcontroller comes with a unique set of peripherals.
Your project might only involve blinking an Light Emitting Diode (LED). In this instance you do not require a 40 pin microcontroller of high speeds to perform the job.
That would be overkill!
Lucky for us, there are many AVR microcontrollers to choose from.
Advantage #7 of an AVR microcontroller: Broad set of peripherals
One of the main purposes of a microcontroller is to be able to interact with the physical world.
Whether you are receiving sensor information, controlling the speed of a motor, reading button presses, displaying information on an LCD and much more.
Peripherals are parts of the microcontroller that interfaces with the world outside of the microcontroller and help you perform functions mentioned above.
Below is a set of common AVR microcontroller peripherals.
- GPIO (General Purpose Input/Outputs)
- ADC (Analog to Digital Converter)
- DAC (Digital to Analog Converter)
- Serial Communication
- I2C (Two wire interface)
- SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface)
- USART (Universal Serial Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter)
- PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)
AVR microcontrollers have a broad set of peripherals to choose from.
Advantage #8 of an AVR microcontroller: Easy to program
Programming a microcontroller involves a number of steps which include;
- Writing the code in an IDE (Integrated Development software)
- Compiling the code to a file which gets burned onto the microcontroller (typically a .HEX file)
- Then finally sending that file to the microcontroller using an AVR programmer and an IDE capable of programming the microcontroller.
Sometimes the process of writing code, compiling it, and then burning it onto a microcontroller can be more complicated than it should be.
However, AVR has made it easy for you, me and everyone else to write a program and then program the microcontroller.
It has its own dedicated IDE (Atmel Studio), where you can write, debug and program your microcontroller.
AVR also has its own programmer which does not require an engineering degree to set it up.
Advantage #9 of an AVR microcontroller: Little needed for microcontroller setup
While we are on the topic of setting up, you might be wondering what it takes to set an AVR microcontroller.
Not much is the answer.
The last thing you want to spend your time on is setting up the microcontroller. You want to be able to get to the fun stuff as soon as possible.
Setting up a microcontroller only requires a breadboard, a couple of capacitors, hookup wire, and a supply voltage (which can be a couple of AA batteries).
Note, this setup is only applicable for temporary purposes. If you need a more permanent setup you will require a printed circuit board and will have to solder.
Advantage #10 of an AVR microcontroller: Onboard memory
Memory is a very important aspect of any microcontroller.
It’s the place where you store the program code, as well as temporary and permanent variables.
Some microcontrollers do not have on board memory, which means they come as separate modules that you have to interface with.
This is a waste of time and money.
So, having onboard memory is a great advantage as you do not have to go through the whole process of setting up external memory.
Advantage #11 of an AVR microcontroller: Extensive Datasheets
The last and final advantage of an AVR microcontroller is it’s datasheet.
Most (if not all) electronic devices and components come with some sort of datasheet, or manual that has instructions on how to use it.
But, who enjoys reading manuals!
In this instance it is important as it not only has information on how to use it, but also what are the ideal practices when using a microcontroller to ensure a long lifespan.
AVR microcontroller datasheets are very detailed containing everything you need when starting out, or when you get stuck.
So, before seeking the help of the AVR community, check the AVR microcontroller datasheet first.
Different types of AVR microcontrollers
There are three major subsets of families when it comes to AVR microcontrollers;
Within each family group are many more versions of microcontrollers.
For example, the tinyAVR family has microcontrollers that include the AT Tiny 25, AT Tiny 45, AT Tiny 85, just to name a few.
Each family of these families of AVR range in size, memory, peripheral set etc.
So, depending on your needs, there is an AVR microcontroller to solve your problems.
Which is the best AVR microcontroller
You now know that there are many different AVR microcontrollers available that can meet many of your needs.
But, with most things there are the ones that stand out amongst the rest.
AVR has a few microcontrollers that are better than their peers (this is according to my own experience as well as research done online).
- AT TINY 25
- AT MEGA 8
- AT MEGA 32
For a more detailed explanation on why I chose these three microcontrollers click here.