The Arm Cortex-M4 processor is Arm’s high performance embedded processor. 


The Cortex-M4 processor is developed to address digital signal control markets that demand an efficient, easy-to-use blend of control and signal processing capabilities. The combination of high-efficiency signal processing functionality with the low-power, low cost and ease-of-use benefits of the Cortex-M family of processors is designed to satisfy the emerging category of flexible solutions specifically targeting the motor control, automotive, power management, embedded audio and industrial automation markets.

Block Diagram on Cortex-M4.

Key benefits

  • Gain the advantages of a microcontroller with integrated DSP, SIMD, and MAC instructions that simplify overall system design, software development and debug.

  • Accelerate single precision floating-point operations up to ten times over the equivalent integer software library with the optional Floating-Point Unit (FPU).

  • Develop solutions for a large variety of markets with a full-featured Armv7-M instruction set that has been proven across a broad set of embedded applications.

  • Achieve exceptional 32-bit performance with low dynamic power, delivering leading system energy efficiency due to integrated software controlled sleep modes, extensive clock gating and optional state retention.


Architecture Armv7E-M Harvard
ISA Support Thumb/Thumb-2
Pipeline 3-stage + branch speculation
DSP Extensions
Single cycle 16/32-bit MAC
Single cycle dual 16-bit MAC
8/16-bit SIMD arithmetic
Hardware Divide (2-12 Cycles)
Floating-Point Unit
Optional single precision floating point unit
IEEE 754 compliant
Memory Protection
Optional 8 region MPU with sub regions and background region
Interrupts Non-maskable Interrupt (NMI+ 1 to 240 physical interrupts
Interrupt Priority Levels 8 to 256 priority levels
Wake-up Interrupt Controller
Up to 240 Wake-up Interrupts
Sleep Modes
Integrated WFI and WFE Instructions and Sleep On Exit capability.
Sleep & Deep Sleep Signals.
Optional Retention Mode with Arm Power Management Kit
Bit Manipulation
Integrated Instructions & Bit Banding
Optional JTAG and Serial Wire Debug ports. Up to 8 Breakpoints and 4 Watchpoints.


Optional Instruction Trace (ETM), Data Trace (DWT), and Instrumentation Trace (ITM).

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Machine Learning on Cortex-M


The Cortex-M4 has been specifically developed for partners to design high-performance low-cost devices for a broad range of digital signal control embedded market segments.




Sensor fusion and wearables

Signal processing such as power and motor control

Smart home/enterprise/

Key features

SIMD, saturating arithmetic, fast MAC

Powerful instruction set for accelerating DSP applications, built right into the processor.  A highly optimised DSP library built using these instructions is available free-of-charge from the Arm website.

Powerful debug and non-obtrusive real-time trace

Comprehensive debug and trace features dramatically improve developer productivity. It is extremely efficient to develop embedded software with proper debug.

Memory Protection Unit (MPU)

Software reliability improves when each module is allowed access only to specific areas of memory required for it to operate. This protection prevents unexpected access that may overwrite critical data.

Integrated nested vectored interrupt controller (NVIC)

There is no need for a standalone external interrupt controller. Interrupt handling is taken care of by the NVIC removing the complexity of managing interrupts manually via the processor.

Thumb-2 code density

On average, the mix between 16bit and 32bit instructions yields better code density when compared to 8bit and 16bit architectures. This has significant advantages in terms of reduced memory requirements and maximizing the usage of precious on-chip Flash memory.


Performance Efficiency: 3.40 CoreMark/MHz* and without FPU: 1.25 / 1.52 / 1.91 DMIPS/MHz**, With FPU: 1.27 / 1.55 / 1.95 DMIPS/MHz**

Arm Cortex-M4 Implementation Data***

(7-track, typical 1.8v, 25C)
(7-track, typical 1.2v, 25C)
(9-track, typical 1.1v, 85C)
Dynamic Power 151 µW/MHz 32.82 µW/MHz 12.26 µW/MHz
Floor planned Area 0.44 mm2 0.119 mm2 0.028 mm2

 * see:

 ** The first result abides by all of the “ground rules” laid out in the Dhrystone documentation, the second permits inlining of functions, not just the permitted C string libraries, while the third additionally permits simultaneous (”multi-file”) compilation. All are with the original (K&R) v2.1 of Dhrystone .

 *** Base usable configuration includes DSP extensions, 1 IRQ + NMI, excludes ETM, MPU, FPU  and debug.


Arm training courses and on-site system-design advisory services enable licensees to efficiently integrate the Cortex-A17 processor into their design to realize maximum system performance with lowest risk and fastest time-to-market.

Arm training courses Arm Design Reviews

  • Manual containing technical information.
  • Cortex-M4 Technical Reference Manual

    For system designers, integrators and testers, the Technical Reference Manual (TRM) provides details of the Cortex-M4 processor.

    Read here
  • A program that is running on a desktop.
  • White Paper: Cortex-M for beginners

    This White Paper compares the features of various Cortex-M processors and describes how to select the right processor for the application.

    Read here
  • A guide on software optimization.
  • Cortex-M System Design Kit (CMSDK)

    CMSDK is a comprehensive system solution designed to work seamlessly with Cortex-M processors out-of-the-box.

    Learn more
  • a ulink, a board, a desktop.
  • Embedded Development Tools for Cortex-M Series

    Arm and its ecosystem partners provide a wide range of tools for embedded software development on Arm Cortex-M processors.

    Learn more

  • Product due to be released to  market.
  • Arm Design Reviews

    Arm's on-site design review service gives licensees confidence that their Cortex-M4 CPU is implemented efficiently, to provide maximum system performance, with lowest risk and fastest time-to-market.

    Learn more
  • The top half of a human.
  • Questions? Request more information

    Learn more about Cortex-M4, Arm’s  high performance embedded processor. Contact us to speak with our technical team.

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