NXP's LPC3180 is an ARM9-based microcontroller (see "Off-The-Shelf ARM9 MCU Handles Java," ED Online #9977) with its eyes on portable applications. The 208-MHz ARM926EJ-S core runs Java but most developers will use the standard ARM instruction set, typically using the Keil-based C/C++ development tools that are included in the LPC3000 EVB (evaluation board) kit available from Nohau (see the Figure). The EVB is priced at $1195. The JTAG and development tools are priced separately.
The LPC3180 found in the EVB has 64 Kbytes of RAM but no on-chip flash. Instead, a boot ROM can load executable images from a variety of sources, including NAND flash. This allows developers to try out a range of options using the same board. The processor supports access to off-chip mobile RAM and MMC/SD cards. The EVB comes with 32 Mbytes of SDRAM and 32 Mbytes of NAND flash. There is also an SD card connector.
The 256-pin BGA chip is designed for mobile battery operation as well as a range of embedded applications such as point-of-sale (POS) equipment and robotics. It has an ultra-low-power 0.9-V operation mode. The IO pins have 3.3-V interfaces. The IO is comparable to the LPC2000 series. There are dual serial ports, dual I2C ports, eight-channel 10-bit ADC, SPI and plenty of general purpose IO ports, shared with other peripherals, of course. The other kicker is USB On-The-Go (OTG) support. The EVB has three USB connectors including the usual USB A receptacle connector for USB host, USB B receptacle connector for USB device, and the mini USB AB receptacle connector for OTG. The latter uses the NXP ISP1301 chip.
NXP did not use the usual AMBA hardware bus (AHB) with the LPC3180. Instead, the chip has a switch matrix that gives the DMA and processor simultaneous access to peripherals and memory. This is key to the chip's performance, since the two main bus controllers do not step on each other, essentially doubling system throughput, assuming there are no access conflicts.
The LPC3180 has a lot of potential. Judicious use of the DMA and processor at the appropriate clock speed can keep power consumption low while delivering some impressive throughput.
LPC3180 Out Of The Box
The EVB kit comes with some great hardware and tools but you will be expected to get programming quickly because there are minimal examples and getting started manuals. Contrast this with extensive documentation on the board, including detailed schematics and lots of online documentation for the RealView tools and debugging hardware.
The kit comes with a pair of CDs. One covers the EVB and the Nohau JTAG ICE that is part of the RealView diagnostic support plus the Seehau software interface. This USB-based JTAG interface provides access to the 6-kbyte on-chip emulation trace buffer (ETB). The ETB stores trace data in compressed form so it is comparable to a larger buffer on other ARM chips.
The EVB includes connectors for all the peripheral interfaces. It also has an LCD module with a built-in NXP PCF8558 LCD controller that interfaces with the LPC3180. There are four switches and a pair of LEDs plus a small patch area. This means most custom interfacing will have to be done off-board. Connectors provide access to all the microcontroller's pins, though.
The RealView development tools are generic for ARM-based processors rather than specifically configured for the EVB. There are board specific docs and code including a board support package with source code drivers.
The LPC3180 is an impressive chip, but you will need the EVB and extras like the JTAG interface and Keil or RealView development tools to make things work. This puts the platform in a different league than the lower cost LPC2000 development kits available from Nohau, NXP and others like Keil. It will be interesting to see if the EVB will be refined for those needing more initial support, but the current package is more than adequate for developers with existing ARM and RealView expertise.