Beyond Semiconductor Announces BA21 Processor Core for Embedded MCUs

Beyond Semiconductor, a Ljubljana, Slovenia based company, has recently announced BA21, a 32-bit processor core, with 2.5 Coremark per megahertz, and clocked up to 125 MHz, that’s roughly equivalent to a Cortex M3 core @ 120 MHz. Target applications include mixed signal embedded processing, wireless communications ICs (e.g. Bluetooth, Zigbee, GPS), industrial Microcontrollers, and battery-powered or ultra-low-cost devices.If you’ve never heard about Beyond Semi, you may want to read my previous article about their BA25 core (Cortex A7/A8 equivalent) for a bit more details about the company.


Here are the key features of BA21 core:

  • 32-bit Processor
    • Small silicon footprint (less than 10k gates) for lower leakage and dynamic CPU power
    • Two-stage pipeline architecture
    • Extreme Code Density for lower instruction fetching energy
    • Advanced power management
      • Dynamic clock gating and power shut-off of unused units
      • Software- and hardware-controlled clock frequency
      • Wake-up on tick timer or external interrupt
  • Performance
    • Up to 2.5 Coremarks/MHz in highest performance configuration
    • 125+ MHz on TSMC 65 nm LP
  •  Optional Processor Units
    • Programmable Vectored Interrupt Controller Unit
    • Memory Protection Unit
    • Timer unit
    • Debug unit
      • Software PC breakpoints
      • Hardware PC breakpoints, hardware data watchpoints
      • Single stepping
      • Debug control by software or external debugger
      • Trace port support
    • ROM patching unit
    • Floating Point Unit
    • Hardware Multiplier/Divider
  • Pre-Integrated Subsystems
    • Microcontroller peripherals such as GPIO, UART, Real-Time Clock, Timers, I2C, and SPI
    • Memory controllers, interconnect IP, and more

The core is available for ASICs in synthesizable Verilog source code, and includes everything required for successful implementation. Development can be done with BeyondStudio, an Eclipse-based IDE for Windows or Linux, compilation is done with the GNU toolchain, and the company provide 2 board based on Xilinx or Altera FPGA:

  • Talos board – Based on Terasic DE0-Nano Development and Education board with Altera Cyclone IV 4C22 FPGA.
  • Beyond Raptor Platform – FPGA development board based Xilinx Virtex-5 ML501 with SDRAM, Flash, Gb Ethernet, UART, audio codec, VGA output, USB, JTAG, and more.
Beyond Raptor System (Click to Enlarge)
Beyond Raptor Platform (Click to Enlarge)

The boards are capable of running uCLinux on BA21, and “full” Linux on other Beyond Semi cores such as BA22.

Beyond Semi cores are royalty-free (one time-fee only), and BA21 is said to be already in use by early customers. IP cores are provided by a company called CAST. Further information is available on Beyond Semiconductor BA21 page, as well as on CAST website.

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