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?

6 Answers 6


Arduino is a prototyping board, and the term "Arduino" is also used to refer to the IDE and library on the PC side, and the whole ecosystem. AVR is the architecture (developed by Atmel) of the microcontroller chip used in all official 8-bit boards, and almost all clones. Arduino UNO and 2009, the most used boards, use the AtMega328P chip.

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

Newest and advanced Arduino board use a different chip with a very different architecture; the Arduino Yun uses a SAM plus a classic AVR, the Due uses an ARM (same architecture used by many smartphones), the Galileo use an x86 (like a classic single-core cpu).


Arduino is a set of open-sourced hardware- and software specifications, originally conceived as a students' platform. I would add that the specifications, though openly available, are distributed under various public licenses.

There are "official" Arduino boards made by an Italian company of the same name, but as the board designs are open-sourced, there are lots of good (and a few "less good") variants from other sources.

AVR refers to the line of MCUs manufactured by Atmel and used in the original designs. Atmel was acquired in 2016 by Microchip Technology, who continue to manufacture the AVR devices.

Some of the more recent Arduino designs use more capable processors from other chip manufacturers, but many still use the Atmel/Microchip AVR processors. The smaller AVRs' relative simplicity (ATtiny & ATmega, f/ex) make them ideal for quickly designing/building boards and software for less demanding applications and for learning about programming and digital controls.


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.

  • 1
    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, 2014 at 21:10

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.


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


Although the previous answers are technically correct, I think there is currently a shift in the meaning of "Arduino".

When the original Arduino boards were released they were head and shoulders better than the competition, especially when looking at the cost vs performance tradeoff.

But this is no longer the case. Boards based around the ESP8266 and ESP32 chips are cheaper and far more powerful than the Atmel chips. Also, the AVR IDE environment has been extended to support these chips. And to further confuse the issue this "Arduinio" forum has almost 2000 questions tagged ESP8266 and around 850 tagged ESP32.

So expect changes. They are already happening. Will "Arduino" come to mean any chip supported by the IDE? Will this forum move to a more generic name like IOT? I really don't know.

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