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For my product's blurb, it would be really great if I could find out how many transistors average MCU's have, as a comparison to something bigger, like a computer, or even a low-end x86 processor. The blurb is about the virtual challenges part of it which offloads rendering of 3D games to the Real World™ (augmented reality), so I'm comparing GPUs to Super OSD. It sounds a bit obtuse but it's fun and I think it's a cool metaphor.

I'm thinking of asking the manufacturers, but I suspect I'll just get "that's proprietary information" back. Some chips, especially those from Analog Devices and ONsemi, have "chip complexity" or "number of transistors" in the datasheet, but others don't. I'm wondering why they don't include this information, because you could hardly build another chip just by knowing the number of fets, and if you were really dedicated (and paid a lot), you could probably count them yourself with a microscope or an image of the die, or at the very least estimate them by knowing the die area and average feature size.

I'm interested in the AT32UC3B0512, dsPIC33FJ128GP802, dsPIC33FJ256GP506A, PIC24F64GA002 and PIC16F689, as well as some non-MCU's, like LMH1980, LM1881 and 24AA1025 (EEPROM.) But even if someone can hint towards a general number of transistors in their respective classes (AT32, dsPIC33F, PIC24F, PIC16F) it would be great!

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Thomas O I think you need to be careful with spamming the site trying to promote your product. It is fine to talk about it and link to items that are relevant to your questions, but the video you linked to has nothing to do with how many transistors an IC has. You should strongly consider editing this out and just giving the needed information for "How many transistors on an IC?" \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Nov 17 '10 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kellenjb given the number of questions that have been asked related to this for-sale product i assumed chiphacker was getting a cut for design consultation and paying dividends to members based on points :p \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Nov 17 '10 at 3:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mark, I am looking forward to my cut, I would settle for an honorable mention (at-least you can tell the other members this). \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 17 '10 at 4:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have seen you ask many good questions Thomas, you sometimes spam them when you ask 4 questions in 15 minutes. You need to also try to avoid asking questions that have already been asked. Otherwise, I do not mind having a few more questions. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 17 '10 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ It has not, I was just commenting that you drop a very large number of questions and it can look like spam if multiples are duplicates. I would like it if you watched for duplicates more carefully, otherwise, no worries. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 17 '10 at 16:53
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Mark does have a good answer, but I would like to add a few things.

Why not ask the company? The worst they can do is tell you no. You would actually be amazed at how much information I have been able to get from companies that I never thought I would be able to get.

As far as your question about why they don't include those numbers in the datasheets. I think the best way to answer this is to ask why would they want to include those numbers in the datasheet? Datasheets are specifically designed to give you all of the information you need to select and operate the chip, no more and no less. Now no datasheet is perfect so there always is areas that are lacking and other areas that are overboard, but in general they are aiming to be as concise as possible while still giving you everything you need. So, in the chip selection and operation process, why would a user ever need to know how many transistors are in a PIC?

The marketing process for an IC is very much different then the market process for a computer. With computers they are able to use the "it has more transistors so its better" argument. With ICs, generally the people using them don't fall for this.

Now, there was a time when the number of transistors in an IC was actually a marketing item to compete against others building similar products. However, in today's world this isn't really needed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "It has more transistors so its better" at a previous company it was a rule to use as many 2N2222 transistors as possible (or at least a few) on every test circuit. Purchasing accidentally bought the wrong temperature grade, so we had a bag of a couple thousand TO-92 2N2222s laying around in the lab. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick T Nov 17 '10 at 19:21
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Similarly-minded people have already compiled a Wikipedia page about this sort of stuff:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor_count

So for modern large processors and GPUs, it's in the 100s-1000s of millions. I don't think you'd be counting them with a microscope...

A 8-bit PIC is probably of the order of 10K, and a 32-bit risc micro more like 100K.

Obviously for both microcontrollers and large micros, there are huge numbers of gates/transistors in memory (flash or cache), which can rather distort the meaning of the figures if you're really trying to reason about core complexity.

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As found at Wiki there are

"Number of Transistors 29,000 at 3 µm" on an x86,

"Number of transistors 3.1 million" on a 32-bit processor original pentium, and

in a 64 bit xeon processor "781 million transistors"

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I doubt you'll get exact numbers for the parts but you can probably estimate. Take a look around on Opencores.org for comparable cores and peripherals to get a gate count. 1 gate is usually 4 transistors.

For those parts with memory you can probably look up the memory type and estimate based on number of bits and transistors per cell for that memory type. Those parts with lots of memory probably use as many if not a lot more transistors for the memory than they do for the core/other logic.

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