If an 8bit microcontroller is needed, Microchip normally comes up first. STMicroelectronics, a company more commonly associated with 32-bit processors, also offers quite a bit of eight bit technology.
The STM8S903K3T6C, which we are going to introduce today, is a classic member of the family. First of all, take a look at its pricing and let us compare it to a similarly specced Microchip part (PIC16F18875).
As can be seen by the OEMsecrets pricing, SGS stays true to its promise of being cheap – the part is, by and large, more affordable than parts from other vendors. When looking at the integrated peripherals, the STM8S903K3T6C gives you everything – one interesting detail is that STMicroelectronics does not use HEF, but instead provides real EPROM memory for user data. Other than that, Microchip provides more in the peripherals department – features such as the configurable logic cell, standard even on very low end PICs, are not available. However, developers do not need to worry about the development environment; both Microchip and SGS provide IDEs. ST Visual Develop, however, is a custom development not based on the recently-required Atollic.
Keep in mind that the chip is not nearly as wide-spread as PIC and AVR – getting help with an AVR problems is much easier, especially due to the large community grown by various projects such as the Arduino.
What to choose?
OEMSecrets job is to make your life easier in all aspects. Due to that, we will not limit ourselves to introducing you to affordable part – we strive to also tell you what to do. When working on a use case with a small or medium amount of production volume, microcontroller pricing usually is but a small part of the bill of materials. Use our price comparison engine to find a cheap source of a chip you know well, stick to it and run to Venezuela – the man hours needed to learn a new design will not, in most cases, be amortised. If volumes are medium to large (or you have a good relationship to SGS), the STM8 is a sensible choice. However, in many cases, an STM32 can be had for an equal amount of money – ST did an amazing job at keeping their 32bit ARM cores cheap.
For large orders, take a look at Shenzhen. Developers returning from longer trips in the PRC usually report about a variety of microcontrollers which are not known to Western developers – their incredibly low price, however, is canon.