The key differences between Arduino and ARM processors come down to architecture, performance, applications, and cost. Arduino is based on simple AVR microcontrollers while ARM offers a family of more powerful and customizable processors. Arduino is designed for simpler projects and prototyping while ARM powers more complex devices including smartphones and tablets. Ultimately, Arduino offers an easy starting point for beginners while ARM provides greater flexibility and power for advanced designs.
The most fundamental difference between Arduino and ARM is their internal architecture. Arduino boards are based on 8-bit AVR microcontrollers from Atmel. These are relatively simple RISC processors with fewer instructions and limited memory compared to more advanced architectures. Most Arduino boards feature the ATmega328 or ATmega2560 chips clocked at 16 MHz with 2-256 KB of flash memory and 1-8 KB of RAM.
In contrast, ARM offers a family of 32-bit and 64-bit RISC processors designed by ARM Holdings. ARM licenses its architectures and cores to companies that manufacture and integrate the chips into their own products. ARM processors typically run at faster clock speeds from 200 MHz to 2 GHz+ with more instructions, larger memory capacities, and advanced features like multiprocessing support.
The differences in architecture lead to significant performance advantages for ARM over the simple AVR chips used in Arduino boards. With faster clocks, more advanced pipelines, and greater memory bandwidth, ARM processors achieve much higher processing throughput and power efficiency.
For example, the Cortex-A72 core can reach 2 GHz and deliver up to 15,000 DMIPS. Compare this to the 20 MIPS on an Arduino Uno’s ATmega328. ARM processors also integrate features like SIMD processing and multiple cores to further boost performance.
This performance edge allows ARM processors to power smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other advanced applications. The lower throughput of AVR microcontrollers makes Arduino better suited for simpler embedded projects in hobbyist, education, and prototyping use cases.
The applications for Arduino and ARM reflect their differing levels of performance and complexity. Arduino boards are designed to provide an easy introduction to embedded systems and microcontroller programming. Typical Arduino projects include basic robots, IoT devices, sensor systems, and interactive props.
Professionals may use Arduino for rapid prototyping before developing a product with more robust components. The simplicity and approachability of Arduino make it popular for education and hobbyist uses.
ARM processors address much more demanding applications. ARM cores power the majority of smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and other mobile devices. ARM also targets embedded systems requiring significant processing power such as medical devices, industrial control, automotive subsystems, and networking gear.
Programming and development on Arduino and ARM reflects their differing scopes. Arduino provides an open-source IDE based on a simplified C/C++ framework. Developers can use Arduino’s libraries and functions to quickly program behavior without low-level hardware access.
ARM supports numerous toolchains including GCC, RealView, and Keil IDEs. Programming ARM requires deeper knowledge of C and assembly language for direct register and memory access. However, this allows developers to fully leverage ARM’s performance and configure processors for specific applications.
Arduino boards are generally quite inexpensive, ranging from under $10 to around $50 for official boards. Third-party Arduino-compatible boards can be even cheaper. This makes Arduino accessible for hobbyists, students, and in education contexts.
ARM processors themselves have varying costs depending on the specific chip and features. But ARM-based finished products usually have higher retail pricing due to having more advanced capabilities, components, and development costs compared to simpler Arduino-based devices.
Arduino benefits from an extensive hardware ecosystem of compatible shields, modules, sensors, and other components. This lets developers easily add features like motor control, GPS, displays, etc. Many products provide Arduino libraries for simplified integration.
ARM’s ecosystem includes development boards like Raspberry Pi but focuses more on embedded system designs. ARM’s partners provide various SoC packages integrating ARM cores with peripheral IP to build customized chips. ARM’s software ecosystem includes major operating systems like Linux, Windows, and Android.
Arduino has a very active community with beginners and hobbyists sharing projects and troubleshooting online. The simple Arduino C framework and tons of libraries make it easy to learn through forums and tutorials. Events like Maker Faires also showcase innovative Arduino projects.
ARM has extensive industry adoption but there isn’t quite the same grassroots following of hobbyists. The technical product documentation and developer forums provide support for professionals working with ARM processors and designs.
In summary, Arduino provides a more accessible introduction to microcontroller programming and simple electronics projects. Hobbyists and education users can start quickly and build skills on Arduino’s AVR boards.
For advanced embedded applications requiring high performance and customization, ARM’s family of 32-bit/64-bit processors delivers the processing power, capabilities, and flexibility needed. ARM dominates mobile devices and is extensively used in demanding embedded use cases.
So while Arduino is better for beginners, ARM powers the core of computationally intensive modern devices and platforms.