PIC32 vs. STM32: Everything You Need To Know


When it comes to choosing a 32-bit microcontroller for your embedded project, two of the most popular options are the PIC32 family from Microchip and the STM32 series from STMicroelectronics. Both offer a wide range of devices with impressive performance and features. However, there are some key differences between PIC32 and STM32 that are important to understand in order to select the best microcontroller for your specific application.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at PIC32 vs. STM32, covering their architectures, product lineups, development ecosystems, performance, power consumption, pricing, and more. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of the strengths and trade-offs of each family to help guide your decision.

PIC32 Overview

The PIC32 is a family of 32-bit microcontrollers from Microchip Technology that are based on the MIPS32 M4K and M-Class processor cores. Some key characteristics of the PIC32 family include:

  • Modified Harvard architecture with separate instruction and Data Buses
  • Up to 2MB of flash memory and 512KB of SRAM
  • Operating speeds up to 200 MHz
  • MIPS32 instruction set with DSP extensions
  • Integrated peripherals optimized for embedded control and connectivity

PIC32 microcontrollers are used across a wide range of applications including IoT devices, consumer electronics, motor control, medical devices, industrial automation, and more.

PIC32 Product Lines

The PIC32 family encompasses multiple product lines optimized for different applications and price/performance points:

Product Line Description
PIC32MX General purpose, entry-level PIC32 devices
PIC32MZ High performance devices with advanced peripherals and connectivity
PIC32MM Low cost, low power PIC32 microcontrollers in small packages
PIC32MK Motor control and digital power conversion MCUs

Each product line offers a range of devices with varying amounts of flash, SRAM, package sizes, peripheral sets, and more to meet the needs of different use cases.

PIC32 Development Ecosystem

Microchip provides a comprehensive ecosystem to support PIC32 development:

  • MPLAB X IDE: Free integrated development environment for writing, debugging and programming PIC32 applications in C/C++ and assembly
  • MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC): GUI-based tool for quickly configuring and generating peripheral drivers and application code
  • MPLAB Harmony: Flexible software development framework with libraries, drivers, and RTOS options to accelerate development
  • PIC32 Compilers: Free versions of the MPLAB XC32/32++ C/C++ compilers for PIC32 development

Microchip also offers a selection of development boards, programmers/debuggers, and starter kits to help you prototype and evaluate PIC32 microcontrollers for your application.

STM32 Overview

The STM32 is a family of 32-bit microcontroller ICs produced by STMicroelectronics. It is based on the Arm Cortex-M processor core, which is a popular choice for embedded applications due to its balance of performance, power efficiency, and ecosystem support. Important features of STM32 MCUs include:

  • Arm Cortex-M0/M0+/M3/M4/M7 processor cores
  • Up to 2MB of flash and 1MB of SRAM
  • Operating speeds up to 480MHz
  • Thumb/Thumb-2 instruction set with DSP instructions on some cores
  • On-chip peripherals tailored for control, connectivity, analog, and security

STM32 microcontrollers are widely used in consumer electronics, IoT, industrial, automotive, medical devices, and many other applications.

STM32 Product Lines

STMicroelectronics has steadily expanded the STM32 family over the years to offer devices across a broad range of performance, power, and feature integration levels:

Series Cores Performance Flash SRAM Description
STM32F0 Cortex-M0 48 MHz Up to 256 KB Up to 32 KB Entry-level, low-power devices
STM32G0 Cortex-M0+ 64 MHz Up to 512 KB Up to 144 KB New entry-level series
STM32L0 Cortex-M0+ 32 MHz Up to 192 KB Up to 20 KB Ultra-low-power, low-cost MCUs
STM32F1 Cortex-M3 72 MHz Up to 1 MB Up to 96 KB Mainstream series, good value
STM32F2 Cortex-M3 120 MHz Up to 1 MB Up to 128 KB High-performance, connectivity
STM32F3 Cortex-M4 w/ FPU 72 MHz Up to 512 KB Up to 80 KB Analog + DSP optimized
STM32F4 Cortex-M4 w/ FPU 180 MHz Up to 2 MB Up to 384 KB High-performance, full-featured
STM32F7 Cortex-M7 w/ DPFPU 216 MHz Up to 2 MB Up to 512 KB Very high performance, graphics
STM32H7 Cortex-M7 w/ DPFPU 480 MHz Up to 2 MB Up to 1 MB Extremely high perf, dual-core ready
STM32L1 Cortex-M3 32 MHz Up to 512 KB Up to 80 KB Ultra-low-power, energy efficient
STM32L4(+) Cortex-M4 w/ FPU 120 MHz Up to 2 MB Up to 640 KB Ultra-low-power, high performance
STM32L5 Cortex-M33 TrustZone + FPU 110 MHz Up to 512 KB Up to 256 KB Ultra-low-power, security-enhanced
STM32G4 Cortex-M4 w/ FPU 170 MHz Up to 512 KB Up to 128 KB Mainstream + advanced analog
STM32WB Cortex-M4 + M0+ 64 MHz Up to 1 MB Up to 256 KB Multiprotocol wireless + application
STM32WL Cortex-M4 + M0+ 48 MHz Up to 256 KB Up to 64 KB Multiprotocol sub-GHz wireless

This diversity of STM32 product lines provides options to closely match the cost and capability of the microcontroller to a given application’s requirements.

STM32 Development Ecosystem

STMicroelectronics provides extensive tools, software, and resources to accelerate STM32 development:

  • STM32CubeIDE: cross-platform C/C++ IDE with peripheral configuration, code generation, and debug support
  • STM32CubeMX: GUI tool for easily configuring STM32 microcontrollers and associated middleware stacks
  • STM32Cube MCU Packages: Embedded software bricks including low-level drivers, middleware, FreeRTOS support, and application examples
  • X-CUBE Expansion Packages: Software expansion packages for special applications (i.e connectivity, audio, security, AI)

ST offers a very wide selection of STM32 evaluation boards, discovery kits and nucleo boards in various form factors to support prototyping and development.

PIC32 vs. STM32 – Key Differences

Now that we’ve looked at an overview of the PIC32 and STM32 families, let’s examine some of the key differences and trade-offs between them.


Both PIC32 and STM32 microcontrollers provide very good computational performance, but there are some differences:

  • The top-end PIC32MZ devices based on the MIPS M-Class core run at up to 200 MHz, while the flagship STM32H7 series with the Cortex-M7 core can reach 480 MHz.
  • Core-for-core, the Arm Cortex-M cores used in STM32 have higher IPC (instructions per clock) than the MIPS32 cores in PIC32. So an STM32 will generally deliver more performance at a given clock speed.
  • Certain STM32 subfamilies have additional architectural advantages like caches, TCMs, and more advanced pipelines that give them an edge over PIC32.

Overall, the STM32 family tends to have a performance advantage, especially at the high end. But both are more than sufficient for most embedded applications.


The development ecosystems for PIC32 and STM32 have some commonalities and differences:

  • Both have professional cross-platform IDEs available (MPLAB X for PIC32, STM32CubeIDE for STM32)
  • STMicroelectronics’ STM32Cube software framework is more mature and full-featured compared to Microchip’s MPLAB Harmony
  • There tends to be better 3rd party ecosystem support (operating systems, stacks, drivers, tools, etc) for STM32 due its use of Arm Cortex-M, which is a very popular architecture
  • PIC32 benefits from Microchip’s experience and history in the embedded space, with good documentation, support, and a user community

In general, the STM32 has an ecosystem advantage, thanks to the momentum behind Arm Cortex-M in the industry. But both families are well supported.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is an important consideration for battery-powered and energy-constrained applications. Here are some power consumption characteristics of PIC32 vs. STM32:

  • Both families offer low-power modes to minimize power consumption when the microcontroller is idle
  • The STM32L series is specifically optimized for ultra-low-power applications, with industry-leading specs. PIC32 does not have an equivalent.
  • In general, STM32 devices tend to have lower active mode power consumption and more granular low-power modes than comparable PIC32 MCUs

For the most power-sensitive applications, STM32L is likely the best choice. But PIC32 MCUs are efficient enough for many low power applications as well.

Peripheral Mix

The on-chip peripherals integrated into PIC32 and STM32 devices is another area of differentiation:

  • STM32 offers a richer and more capable set of peripherals overall, covering a wider range of application areas
  • PIC32 has some specialized peripherals for motor control and power conversion that are less common in STM32
  • STM32 MCUs tend to have more advanced connectivity like USB, Ethernet, and CAN-FD interfaces
  • STM32 has dedicated subfamilies with advanced analog (STM32F3) and wireless capabilities (STM32WB)

The expansive STM32 peripheral set provides more flexibility. But PIC32 devices still cover the embedded essentials, with some unique peripheral options as well.


Pricing is another factor to consider when comparing PIC32 vs. STM32 microcontrollers:

  • STM32 offers a wider range of devices at the entry-level and low-cost end of the spectrum
  • Comparable PIC32 and STM32 devices tend to be priced similarly, but STM32 has more options for cost-sensitive applications
  • At the high end, STM32 devices like the STM32H7 series provide industry-leading performance and features for the price

From a pure pricing perspective, STM32 gets the edge due to better selection at the low end. But pricing is competitive between the two families.

PIC32 vs. STM32 – Strengths and Weaknesses

To summarize, here are some of the key strengths and weaknesses of PIC32 and STM32:

PIC32 Strengths

  • Powerful MIPS32 cores with DSP extensions
  • Good development ecosystem with MPLAB X IDE and Harmony Framework
  • Specialized peripherals for motor control and power conversion
  • Backed by Microchip’s experience and support in embedded

PIC32 Weaknesses

  • Lower performance and efficiency than comparable STM32 devices
  • Fewer low-power and high-performance options than STM32 lineup
  • Less advanced peripheral set and connectivity options vs. STM32
  • Smaller 3rd party ecosystem than Arm Cortex-M based STM32

STM32 Strengths

  • Excellent selection of devices across wide performance range
  • Industry-leading ultra-low-power with STM32L series
  • Rich set of peripherals with dedicated analog and wireless options
  • Extensive STM32Cube software ecosystem and resources
  • Popularity of Arm Cortex-M architecture and 3rd party support

STM32 Weaknesses

  • Breadth of options can be overwhelming, more complex to navigate
  • Fewer specialized options for power and motor control vs. PIC32
  • Some legacy STM32F1 parts have tighter supply than PIC32
  • Slightly pricier than PIC32 at the mid-to-high end

Ultimately, both are very capable microcontroller families. The best choice depends on the specific requirements and constraints of your embedded application.


What applications are PIC32 microcontrollers best suited for?

PIC32 excels in applications that require a balance of good performance and value, especially in areas like motor control, power conversion, automotive, and general embedded control. The specialized PIC32MK subfamily is optimized for these power and motor applications.

Should I choose PIC32 or STM32 for an ultra-low-power design?

For the most power-sensitive applications, STMicroelectronics’ STM32L series is generally the better choice. It offers industry-leading low-power modes and energy efficiency that surpass what is available in the PIC32 family. The STM32L0/L1/L4/L4+/L5 subfamilies provide a range of performance and feature options for ultra-low-power embedded designs.

How do PIC32 and STM32 compare on development ecosystem and resources?

Both PIC32 and STM32 are well supported with development tools, software, and resources from their respective suppliers. STM32 has a more extensive ecosystem overall, thanks to the prominence of its Arm Cortex-M cores and STM32Cube platform. But Microchip’s MPLAB X ecosystem for PIC32 covers the development essentials and benefits from good documentation and support.

Is PIC32 or STM32 a more cost-effective choice for my application?

It depends on the volume and exact requirements, but in general, STM32 tends to provide better options at the entry-level and low-cost end of the spectrum. Its sheer breadth of devices means that it’s easier to find a cost-optimized part that still meets the needs of the application. PIC32 pricing is competitive in the mid-range and up, but STM32 is often more flexible from a cost perspective.

Can I use PIC32 and STM32 microcontrollers together in the same product?

Absolutely. While there are benefits to sticking with one architecture when possible, PIC32 and STM32 are interoperable and can be mixed and matched as needed. This is common in applications that have subsystems with differing requirements. For example, an STM32 could be used for the central processing and connectivity, while a PIC32 handles the motor control functions. Both families use 3.3V logic and can share common interfaces like SPI and I2C.


PIC32 and STM32 are both powerful and popular 32-bit microcontroller families with a lot to offer embedded developers. PIC32 delivers a strong combination of performance, ecosystem, and specialized peripherals, while STM32 offers industry-leading low power, a broad range of options, and an extensive software platform.

Choosing between PIC32 vs. STM32 comes down to the specific needs of your application and your familiarity with each ecosystem. If ultra-low power, maximum performance, or Arm architecture are the top priorities, STM32 is generally the better option. If a balance of

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