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I'd always thought Arduino was a microcontroller platform but the actual microcontroller is an AVR chip made by Atmel, or something like that made by someone else, based on a RISC ISA, and Arduino is usually used to refer to the whole circuit board powered by this AVR chip. Is my understanding correct?

What's the difference/relationship between Arduino and AVR?

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Arduino is a prototiping board, and also the term "Arduino" is used to referr to the IDE and library on the PC side, and all its ecosystem. AVR is the architecture (developed by atmel) of the microcontroller chip used in all official 8bit board, and almost all clone. Arduino UNO and 2009, the most used, use the AtMega328P chip.

Many times, Arduino is used to quick test some idea, sensor, and circuitry, then a stand-alone board is builded around the AtMega chip, as it cost 1/10 of the Arduino board, soldered ciurcuit on a stripboard or on a custom PCB are more reitable, and can be optimized on some aspect, like power utlization, space occupied, high current/voltage, and so on.

Newest and advanced arduino board use different chip with very different architecture; the arduino yun use a SAM plus a classic AVR, the due use an ARM (same architecture used by many smartphone), the galileo use an x86 (like a classic pre-multicore cpu)

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The Arduino is an AVR processor running special code that lets you use the Arduino environment.

AVR's can be used by themselves with some additional supporting components.

Arduino is a combination of both AVR(chip) and breadboard.

AVR is a single chip, and would require a breadboard.

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    For the record, you can use the Arduino environment for many AVR chips without any special code. The only extra thing you need is an AVR programmer which could be a $40, official Atmel one, or a $5 USPASP programmer, or even another Arduino running the ArduinoISP sketch. – imjosh Apr 2 '14 at 21:10
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Arduino is a set of open-source hardware- and software specifications, originally conceived as a students' platform. There are "official" Arduino boards made by an Italian company but being open-sourced, there are lots of good variants from other sources well.

AVR refers to the line of MCUs manufactured by Atmel and used in the original designs.

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The Arduino tools and ecosystem supports processors other than just Atmel AVR chips. For instance the Arduino Due uses an ARM Cortex-M3 processor.

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Arduino is really a common set of code that makes using the dev boards they sell accessible to wide range of user base.

Arduino is basically an IDE that uses the C/C++ language and a set of classes that are adaptable to common set of hardware, predominantly Atmel and mostly AVR although as people have mentioned already the Arduino boards are becoming increasingly more powerful. But is amazing how much you can do with the ATmega328p.

You don't have to use the Arduino IDE to program your board and in fact, I tend to use Atmel Studio myself or Notepad++. You can get a plug-in for Atmel Studio 6.2 and above that allows you to create sketches and upload them to most Arduino boards.

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