nRF5x SoC Overview

nRF5x SoC Overview

The Nordic Semiconductor nRF5x SoCs are ideal for ultra-low power (ULP) and cost effective short-range wireless solutions. Typical applications for the nRF5x SoC are Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wearables, smart home, wireless mobile phone accessories, PC Peripherals, beacons, Bluetooth-enabled consumer electronics in general, human interface devices, sports equipment, medical equipment, security and toys. The nRF5x supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) (also known as Bluetooth Smart) among other short-range wireless protocols. What made these devices so popular is that they can be operated for months and sometimes years on a small battery such as a button cell battery if properly programmed and configured . Samples of the nRFx SoC are shown below :

There are two series in the nRF5x SoC family. The original nRF51 series which was introduced in 2012, and the more advanced and relevantly newer nRF52 series . The nRF52 has extra features ,more memory, RAM and even lower than its predecessor in power consumption , however , when it comes to the chip cost ; the nRF51 has the advantage here.

nRF51 Series logo (Left) / nRF52 Series logo (Right)

The key differences between these two series are highlighted in the following table:

nRF52/nRF51 Comparison

Each of these two series ( nRF52 and nRF51) has three chips options.


The nRF5x SoCs are flash memory based. It means that the firmware will be residing on a flash memory inside the SOC itself . When compared with ROM or OTP SoCs, flash based SoCs are easy to work with and more fixable to update/patch the firmware later on.

The RAM memory is also hosted in the chip die. nRF52 and nRF51 chips differ in the available hardware peripherals and available RAM and Flash as shown in the tables below :

Available Hardware Peripherals in nRF51 and nRF52 Series

Available Hardware Peripherals in nRF51 and nRF52 Series


Available Flash and RAM in nRF51 and nRF52 series

In the next labs (Lab2) nRF51 architecture. and Lab3) nRF52 architecture. ) we will examine these two series thoroughly to get a clear idea of whats under the hood , available analog and digital I/O and interface, available system peripherals ( timers, counters , etc..) and advanced radio and power saving features.

References and pictures:
Nordic Semiconductor