What’s the Cheapest MCU? My Try: Holtek HT48R002 8-bit MCU Selling for $0.085

Somebody asked what was the cheapest MCU available on Google+, so I thought it would be fun to find the cheapest one regardless of specifications. It turns out there an older thread with this very question on StackExchange, and at the time (2011) Microchip PIC10F200 8-bit MCU with 256B RAM in SOP-23 package was the cheapest one among the answer, and somehow the price has not changed as it’s still $0.32 per unit for 1k orders.

Holtek_HT48R002Not bad price, but back in the days when I wrote on CD and DVD players, we had some price pressure from customers, so we looked for a cheaper a microcontroller, and ended up using Holtek because of the competitive pricing. We suffered a bit during development due to incomplete documentation, but eventually did the job. Anyway, I went to Holtek website found a “cost effective I/O MCU” category, and HT48R002 appears to be the lower end. I checked the price on 1688.com, and several sellers offer it for as low as 0.56 RMB for 1k orders, which converts to about $0.085 per MCU.

Let’s look what we get for that outrageous price:

  • 8-bit RISC MCU @ 8MHz
  • 1K x 14-bit ROM (OTP)
  • 64 x 8-bit RAM data memory
  • 6x I/O including 1x external interrupt pin, and 1x 8-bit timer
  • Two oscillators –  Internal high speed RC: HIRC; Internal low speed RC: LIRC
  • Low voltage reset function
  • Operating Voltage – 2.3 to 5.5V
  • Package – 8-pin DIP/SOP

HT48R002_Block_Diagram

e-ICE + Adapter Board
e-ICE + Adapter Board

Since this MCU has an OTP (One Time Programming) memory, you’d need an ICE (In-Circuit Emulator) to develop for the micro-controller in assembly, and once you’ve debugged your code, which should not be too complex considering the available RAM and storage, you’d have the factory burn the firmware to the device before or during mass-production. More details including the instruction set can be found in the datasheet.

Do you have other candidates to claim the “cheapest MCU” crown?

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15 Comments
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zoobab
4 years ago

Way cheaper then an AT Tiny85.

Holteck seems to use a patched version of GCC: http://www.holtek.com.tw/tools_latest_news

But I don’t know if it is for that chip.

Abdulbasit
Abdulbasit
4 years ago

None can beat the 48MHz Cortex M0 STM32F030F4P6 for less than $0.4 in performance/price

Abdulbasit
Abdulbasit
4 years ago

You just can’t do anything cool with just 1K OTP ROM and 64 bytes ram, so practically this can’t be compared to the stm32f0 or even attiny’s

TC
TC
4 years ago

well, you could blink LEDs… lol

zoobab
4 years ago


http://www.stcmcu.com/ gives HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable.

zoobab
4 years ago


Waouw, that’s a website 🙂

szaflik
szaflik
4 years ago
theguyuk
theguyuk
4 years ago

When you think back to what 8 bit computers like Atari, Comodore, Spectrum, Dragon and Oric use to cost it is amazing how cheap these things are.

Dehuan
Dehuan
4 years ago

Surprisingly we are still in the RISC fever when everything is RISC.

This ISA is accumulator-memory, how is that RISC?

TLS
TLS
4 years ago

http://www.sinowealth.com/en/softdatasheet.asp
Found some pricing on Alibaba for one of their 8-bit chips at $0.01 (this model http://www.sinowealth.com/en/softdown.asp?soft_id=327&class_id=110&cat_id=32). They mostly make MCU’s for AC remotes and kitchen appliances, so these guys are dirt cheap.

Xeus32
Xeus32
3 years ago

I saw the datasheet and it looks very similar to PIC 16F family.
Only one register , program memory based on 14bit size.
Most commands run in 1 cycle
4 clock per cycle , the same of PIC 16F.

For me is the copy of PIC 16F

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