Microcontroller vs Microprocessor vs Computer

Updated: 2021-11-23

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 CPU inside the Chip.


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.

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.