SiLabs 8bit MCUs share 32bit development platform

  • November 15, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

Texas-based Silicon Labs is targeting IoT devices with a family of 8bit microcontroller units (MCUs) that use the same development platform as its 32bit MCUs.

The 8bit MCUs join the PG2x family of 32bit MCUs in sharing a single development platform, Silicon Labs Simplicity Studio, which is inclusive of all tools that are required such as compilers, integrated development environments (IDEs) and configurators.

“In today’s world, with an ever-expanding list of IoT devices, MCUs play a critical role in embedded computing,” said Dhiraj Sogani, senior director at Silicon Labs. “The new BB5 family of MCUs expands our portfolio to now offer the broadest range of MCU options on the market today.”

As the applications for embedded computing continue to expand, developers need to select the right hardware for the job. While 32bit MCUs are ideal for more complex and compute-intensive tasks such as machine-learning inference or word recognition, there are much simpler tasks that don’t require the added power, and cost, of a 32bit MCU. What has been difficult for developers, however, is that most 8bit and 32bit MCUs use different development tools, making it hard to develop for both, so developers will often absorb the extra development costs despite not needing the greater compute.

That’s why Silicon Labs designed its 8bit and 32bit MCUs so both can leverage Simplicity Studio. This development platform, also shared by the firm’s wireless enabled SoCs, simplifies and accelerates the ability of device manufacturers to bring a broad range of devices to market. This eliminates the need for developers to learn two sets of tools and enables them to cost-optimise their devices by selecting the part that best fits the application.

Because it is also the development platform for the wireless SoCs, developers can develop once and deploy in multiple product variations regardless of whether some are connected and some are not. For example, many consumer products such as electric toothbrushes now come in connected and non-connected versions. The connected versions are for consumers who wish to track their brushing habits, while the non-connected versions are for those who simply want to brush. For developers, this means they can develop once and deploy twice – or more – for connected and non-connected products.

The BB5 family includes what are claimed to be the most powerful 8bit MCUs on the market, as the 50MHz core frequency in the BB5 family generates 36% more compute power than other general 8bit MCU. Suitable for battery-powered applications such as power tools, handheld kitchen tools and even children’s toys, the BB5 family supports voltage options from 1.7 to 5.5V, allowing them to last for years in the field on a coin-cell battery.

They also come in various packing sizes, from 2 by 2mm for the BB50 MCU, to 3 by 3mm for the BB51 and BB52, which have additional GPIOs and increased analogue functionality. For certain applications, the 8bit BB52 even offers greater price-performance than competitive 32bit MCUs.

The new BB5 family is now generally available from Silicon Labs and distributors.

Silicon Labs ( specialises in secure, intelligent wireless technology. Its integrated hardware and software platform, development tools, ecosystem, and support make it a suitable partner for building industrial, commercial, home and life applications.