Yesterday I played with a SRAM 621024 SRAM 1 Mbit IC and since I use a lot of pins, digitalReads and digitalWrites are needed including shift registers (see Example

Since it took a long time for reading/writing one byte, I checked for faster ways and found some posts, one of them was using digitalWriteFast: Library

However, it did not make any difference... is it possible that the (fast) digitalWrite is already implemented in the default Arduino IDE/library?

Update: I found out I made a stupid mistake and the library was not used.

Now I get different values:

  • Writing 397.880 us per byte
  • Reading 386.524 us per byte

Without the fast library:

  • Writing 502.152 us per byte
  • Reading 483.752 us per byte

Note, there is also a digitalReadFast, but this does not affect the speed.

I did some more testing and found out that a digitalReadFast/digitalWriteFast cost just about 8-12 us, a pinModeFast is 0 us (negligable), however a shiftOut for setting the address cost 120-124 us ... since 3 shifts are needed to set an address, this results in 360-372 us. Subtracting this from the measured times above, writing takes around 25-38 us and reading 15-27us. I possibly can maybe optimize the bit operations a little bit.

However, the end result for using this RAM chip with enough speed is to either change the shift register to a faster one or remove the shift registers at all. This would mean about 30 pins needed for the SRAM only. The conclusion is: better use a 3K256, 23LC1024 or similar variant.

(Note: I tried a ShiftOutFast file), which reduces a shiftout to 36 us but 3 times 36 is still over 100 us, too much to compare to a 3K256/23LC1024 solution.

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    If it made no difference then the chances are the bottleneck isn't the digital pin manipulation. – Majenko Apr 8 '17 at 13:05
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    The current digitalWrite() still does quite a lot of stuff. – Edgar Bonet Apr 8 '17 at 14:57
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    Last time digitalWrite() changed was six years ago – Edgar Bonet Apr 8 '17 at 15:20
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    I should point out that micros() has a 4 µs resolution, so a difference of less than 4 µs would not be measurable (if that is how you are measuring it). – Nick Gammon Apr 9 '17 at 0:03
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    a pinModeFast is 0 us (negligable) - it may in fact be 3 µs is my point. Unless you did a loop of 1000 of them, written in such a way that the compiler didn't optimize the loop away. – Nick Gammon Apr 9 '17 at 0:18

I just tried to time digitalWrite() against direct port access with the following code:

void setup()
    uint16_t overhead, start, end;

    TCCR1A = 0;
    TCCR1B = 1;

    // Time digitalWrite().
    overhead = 7;
    start = TCNT1;
    digitalWrite(2, HIGH);
    end = TCNT1;
    Serial.print("digitalWrite(): ");
    Serial.print(end - start - overhead);
    Serial.println(" cycles");

    // Time direct port access.
    overhead = 4;
    start = TCNT1;
    PORTD &= ~_BV(PD2);
    end = TCNT1;
    Serial.print("direct port access: ");
    Serial.print(end - start - overhead);
    Serial.println(" cycles");

void loop(){}

The result was:

digitalWrite(): 78 cycles
direct port access: 2 cycles

I used an old Arduino core (1.0.5), but that function has not changed since. You can try with your current core and see.

PS: In this program, the correct value for overhead can only be determined by examining the generated assembly. It's a count of the cycles you are measuring but do not directly belong to the operation you really want to measure.

  • WOW! That's a difference! Very interesting to know. Where does all that extra MPU cycle usage come from? – Enric Blanco Apr 8 '17 at 17:03
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    @EnricBlanco: Here is the link to the source code again. Look at the disassembly: saving registers to the stack and restoring them back (20 cycles) table lookups, tests... and 8 cycles of call overhead. – Edgar Bonet Apr 8 '17 at 18:06
  • is there any related trick like this for the ESP8266? – dandavis Apr 8 '17 at 21:31
  • @dandavis: I have no experience on that chip. – Edgar Bonet Apr 8 '17 at 21:36

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