Freescale Kinetis Family

Some months ago I bought my first Kinetis development board. I have always been a big fan of Freescale and the objective was to test the Kinetis family of processors for a personal project. Last week I had the opportunity to assist to a seminar organized by Freescale. This post is about the things I have learn about this relatively new family of processors.
The Kinetis family is Freescale’s proposition for ARM Cortex-M solutions. The Cortex-M microprocessors are designed by ARM with embedded applications in mind, in parallel to the Cortex-A and Cortex-R families which are design for mobile and real-time applications respectively.

“The Cortex-M family is optimized for cost and power sensitive MCU and mixed-signal devices for applications such as Internet of Things, connectivity, motor control, smart metering, human interface devices, automotive and industrial control systems, domestic household appliances, consumer products and medical instrumentation”.

Cortex-M Comparison

The Kinetis family of MCU makes use of the microprocessors M0+, M4 and, by the end of 2015, M7. By using this three levels of processing power, Freescale is able to provide a big range of controllers for all kinds of needs and budgets, and these are divided in eight different groups: K, V, M, E, L, W, EA and Mini.
Everything started on 2010 with the released of the first Cortex-M4 MCU. Part of the K family, this microcontroller was the first 32bits M4 on the industry. Followed on 2012 by the first M0+ MCU, part of the L family. To this, the M, E and V families followed on finals of 2012 and 2014 respectively. Finally, the first MCU based on Cortex-M7 is expected to be released by the end of this year.
To identify a product of a family, all of Kinetis products are identified by a code starting with MKx in which x determines the name of the family; with the exception of families K (which are named MK) and Mini (which is composed by the smallest packages of all the other families). This way a MCU from the L family would be coded MKL02, while one from the K family would be MK64.

The MK Family : Cortex-M4

Centered on scalability, performance and low-power application, this is the most general of the Kinetis families. Divided in 9 subfamilies, enumerated from MK0 to MK8, each level adds different functionalities to the previous model, increasing its capabilities, but also its price and complexity. All of the characteristics of these subfamilies are explained in detail here.
Some of the main characteristics of this series are:

  • Tamper detection (for some of the subfamilies)
  • Crystal-less USB
  • The K8 family is optimized for security

The MKL Family: Cortex M0+
Centered on low energy consumption, the L family have a 9% increase in performance compared to the M0 architecture and uses the ARMv6 instruction set, 32bit performance with 16 bit conde density.
All the µC included on this family ran at 48MHz, but this changed with the introduction of the KL28 and KL8x which run at 72MHz and have increased flash and ram size.
The MKE Family: Motor Control
Designed for motor control, this family runs on either M0+ or M4 depending on the desired functionalities. Compatible with 2.7-5.5 V, they count on a strong noise reduction to operate on  application where maintaining high robustness and high-reliability are expected.
The MKV Family: Motor Control
As for the MKE family, Kinetis V Series µC’s are based on Cortex-M0+, M4 and M7 cores and are designed for motor control and digital power conversion applications. This family also counts with a high precision PWM generation, which makes them suitable for all these applications.
The MKW Family: W for Wireless connectivity
Based on Cortex-M0+ and M4, the W family include 1GHz and 2.4GHz transceivers, which perfectly suits them for Wireless SOC design. Every subfamily of this group include the capabilities of BLE transmission, 802.15 transmission or both.
These are the most important groups of microcontrollers designed by NXP (ex Freescale). Three smaller families are also available: MKEA, ultra-reliable for automotive and industrial design; Mini, reduced in size for when the most important constraint is the space; and the M series of metrology microcontrollers.
Choosing the correct microcontroller for an specific application can be hell; I hope this article has been useful as a summary of all the different families of µC presented by Freescale/NXP and that it can help you all and guide you.
Good luck!


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