What are the differences among the 8-bit PIC MCU sub-families?

8-Bit PIC® Microcontrollers come in several core architectures. This can be confusing to someone trying to decide the best choice for their product or project. This summary will describe the different options to help you make the correct choice.

The 8-Bit family has four categories:

We'll cover these in detail below.


The 8-bit PIC Microcontroller uses a RISC architecture that has a separate address and data bus. This means they can be separate in size as well. All 8-bit PIC Microcontrollers have an 8-bit wide data bus but the program bus will vary in size depending on the family. This can also cause confusion since the memory structure of an 8-bit PIC Microcontroller will be reported in words of a size equal to the program bus not the data bus. A larger program bus allows the device to place more information in one instruction line and thus more efficient execution. So memory for each device is reported in words and then a byte reference.

For example an 8k program memory on a 14-bit core device contains 8k words of program space which is the equivalent of 14k of space in bytes.

All 8-bit devices execute assembly commands in one instruction cycle except for branches and fetches. This makes for a very efficient operating system. The oscillator speed in most devices is divided by four to produce the instruction clock but enhanced parts have a Phase Lock Loop (PLL) feature that allows you to step up the oscillator by four before the divide to get a one to one relationship between the oscillator speed and the instruction clock speed.

The 8-bit family has some of the lowest current draw in the industry and many features that will run in sleep mode.
Now lets look at the family features.


Baseline PIC microcontrollers utilize a 12-bit instruction word and provide the right amount of features and options to minimize expenses and get the job done right. Baseline have the simplest architecture of the 8-bit family and therefore are the easiest to work with and understand. They feature:

  • Simple 33 (12-bit wide) instruction set for ease of use and quick development
  • 2K word (3 KB) addressable program memory
  • 144 bytes RAM (max)
  • 2 level hardware stack
  • 1 (8-bit) file select register
  • Multiple product options and easy migration
  • Smallest form factors available

The Baseline can be recognized by their part number structure.
10Fxxx, 12Fxxx and 16Fxxx

You can see the full line-up of Baseline devices at the link below:
Baseline Devices


Mid-Range PIC Microcontrollers are the next tier in performance and features from the Baseline PIC microcontrollers. Utilizing a 14-bit instruction word, these peripheral-rich devices are ideal for many applications that require a higher level of embedded control and more memory.

  • 35 (14-bit wide) easy instructions to learn
  • 8K word (14 KB) addressable program memory
  • 368 bytes RAM (max)
  • 8 level hardware stack
  • 1 (9-bit) file select register
  • Hardware interrupt handling
  • Highly integrated feature set, including EEPROM, LCD, mTouch® sensing solutions and serial communications

The Mid-Range can be recognized by their part number structure.
10Fxxx, 12Fxxx and 16Fxxx

You can see the full line-up of Enhanced Mid-Range devices at the link below:
Mid-Range Devices

Enhanced Mid-Range

The newest family is the Enhanced Mid-Range core which builds upon the best elements of the Mid-Range core and provides additional performance, while maintaining compatibility with Mid-Range PIC MCUs for true product migration. These devices have the latest features and the lowest power in the 8-bit core. The Enhanced core adds more program memory and higher operating speeds. They also feature the highest accuracy, highest frequency internal oscillators.

  • 49 (14-bit wide) assembly commands
  • 32K word (56 KB) addressable program memory
  • 4KB RAM (max)
  • 16 level hardware stack
  • 2 (16-bit) file select registers
  • Hardware interrupt handling with content save
  • Advanced feature set, multiple serial communications and motor control capability

The Enhanced Mid-Range can be recognized by their part number structure.
12F1xxx and 16F1xxx

You can see the full line-up of Enhanced Mid-Range devices at the link below:
Enhanced Mid-Range Devices

High End

These parts have their own prefix named PIC18. This family conbines the maximum level of performance and integration with the ease-of-use of an 8-bit architecture. With up to 16 MIPS of processing power, PIC18 Microcontrollers feature advanced peripherals, such as CAN, USB, Ethernet, LCD and CTMU. They offer the largest pin count and memory size in the 8-bit family of parts. The architecture is optimized for C programming.

  • 83 (16-bit wide) assembly instructions
  • Up to 2 MB addressable program memory
  • 4KB RAM (max)
  • 32 level hardware stack
  • 1 (8-bit) file select register
  • Integrated 8x8 hardware multiply
  • Highest performance 8-bit architecture

The High End devices can be recognized by their part number structure.
18Fxxxx, 18FxxJxx and 18FxxKxx

You can see the full line-up of Enhanced Mid-Range devices at the link below:
High End Devices

Development Tools

All the 8-bit devices can be programmed/debugged with the same set of Microchip Development Tools.
They include:

Single Integrated Development Environment supports all PIC MCUs

MPLAB X C Compiler for 8-bit devices
Free versions available with no time or memory limitations

PICkit 3
Most affordable in-circuit debugger/programmer with simple breakpoints

High-speed hardware debugger/programmer with complex breakpoints

High-speed emulator with complex breakpoints and trace capability

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