Microcontroller vs Microprocessor vs Computer

Last Updated: 2023-03-24

Raspberry Pi produces Single-board computers, Arduino procudes Single-board microcontrollers, what are the differences?

Microprocessor vs Microcontroller

  • Microprocessor: a single CPU consists of only Register, ALU and CU (no RAM and storage, etc).
  • Microcontroller: a single chip which consists of RAM, External Hard Disk and one or more CPUs inside the Chip.


Microprocessor: a single integrated circuit (IC), or a small number of ICs.


A microcontroller is a small computer with low-powered and low memory (which makes them low-cost) and programmable input/output peripherals. A microcontroller will run just one program repeatedly, not a full operating system. E.g. Arduino programs only need two functions: Setup and loop. Setup will run once and loop will run indefinitely.

Microcontrollers are designed for embedded applications, in contrast to the microprocessors used in personal computers or other general purpose applications consisting of various discrete chips.

In modern terminology, a microcontroller is similar to, but less sophisticated than, a system on a chip (SoC).

Usage: Internet of Things, like flipping a switch or controlling small components like a LED light.

Single-board microcontrollers

Arduino sells Single-board microcontrollers which uses Atmel's Microcontroller (e.g. 8-bit AVR and 32-bit ARM Cortex-M based microcontrollers) plus peripherals.

Single-board computers (SBC)

A single-board computer is a full computer (a board which contains CPU, RAM, Ports, and secondary storage) built on a single circuit board.

Raspberry Pi is a simple version of the same hardware in the laptop.

Single-board computers vs Single-board microcontrollers

A single-board microcontroller differs from a single-board computer in that it lacks the general-purpose user interface and mass storage interfaces that a more general-purpose computer would have.

Raspberry Pi runs a Linux operating system. Microcontrollers can’t run an operating system. Microcontrollers also don’t have the same amount of computing power or resources as most single-board computers.