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Microprocessor vs Integrated Circuit: The Main Differences

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

microprocessor vs integrated circuit

Integrated circuits and microprocessors are both small chips with a lot of electronic components inside. They are both necessary for most modern electronics.

However, they have differences, especially regarding their roles.

If you are an electrical enthusiast with a great interest in working with electronics, understanding the differences between a microprocessor vs integrated circuit might be essential. Read on to learn more about their purpose, pros and cons, and more.

Integrated Circuit vs Microprocessor


What is An Integrated Circuit?

An IC or integrated circuit is a small electronic device made of silicon with a thousand to billions of microscopic components inside. Typically, it is also known as a chip or microchip, a type of semiconductor that comes in different variants.

In general, two types of integrated circuit are employed in different electronic equipment. The first is the analog type, which only function to deliver and transfer continuous signals.

The second type is digital, which is more intelligent than analog and works with discontinuous signals. It includes Logic Gates, Counters, Memory, Flip-Flops, Processors, and Shift Registers.

How Do Integrated Circuits Work?

ICs are one of the crucial parts of a circuit board that is primarily found in any electrical device nowadays. Usually, you can see one or more ICs in a circuit board with different pins.

Depending on the type of IC, it requires a different number of pins, which also dictates its role.

For example, analog ICs are mostly voltage regulators or operational amplifiers, which has 3 and 8 pins, respectively. What does it mean for a circuit to have these? They can both regulate its voltage. Operational amplifiers, for instance, can increase the output voltage.

On the other side, digital ICs are mainly used for a circuit or a system that needs to process data.

  • Typically comes in a smaller size, has low power consumption, and is less expensive
  • Easy to install or replace with its simple layout
  • Excellent reliability, can operate in -55 to 125℃

It cannot be repaired in terms of any type of damage

  • It can only operate at a low power rating (most ICs are only 10W)
  • Its lack of space means work is necessary to connect externals to ICs

A Related comparison:

Motherboard vs Circuit Board: What is the difference?

What is Microprocessor?

A microprocessor definition is a device used as the main brain of a computer system or any device that requires a computing process. Moreover, you can also find three components of a microprocessor.

Which devices do microprocessors contain?

First is the ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit), which calculates the received data. The second part is the Register, which holds and transfers data to other circuits. Lastly, the Control Unit controls the given data and distributes it based on the given instruction.

How do Microprocessors work?


As the main brain of a circuit, it first collects the received data that needs to be processed. After that, it performs the computation process and sends the result when done.

However, if the data is not complete after one cycle, it will continually repeat these steps as many times as necessary.

  • Made to carry out high-speed computing processes, able to collect and send a lot of data
  • It is relatively small in size, thereby reducing the weight of computers and other devices
  • Versatile, can serve many gadgets, such as microwaves, dishwashers, stereos, ovens, etc.
  • Extremely reliable, can last for a long time
  • Uses low power
  • It can easily get overheated, thereby needing a cooling system
  • Mistakes can happen during information processing
  • Expensive and time-consuming to produce

Difference Between Integrated Circuits and Microprocessors

Integrated circuits and central processing units (CPUs) or microprocessors are related since the latter is an IC type. That said, a microprocessor different from an integrated circuit mainly in the way its functions.

Unlike other types of IC, which can perform tasks that aren’t processing information, a microprocessor acts as the main brain of a circuit to give and receive instructions.

Some examples of devices with microprocessors are embedded computers, smartphones, and more.



How is an Integrated Circuit Different from a Transistor?

An integrated circuit is more complex, as it contains up to billions of electrical components, including transistors, capacitors, resistors, and inductors.

Are Microprocessors the Same as Semiconductors?

When comparing a semiconductor vs microprocessor, they are not the same but are related. A microprocessor is one of several semiconductor types. Other kinds include memory chips and integrated chips.

Is a Microprocessor an IC?

A microprocessor also known as a type of IC, consists of up to a billion transistors. It functions as a computer system’s brain, performing various operations based on the instructions received.

Are Microprocessors Smaller Than Integrated Circuits?

A microprocessor has a typical size that is a much smaller size than other types of transistors integrated circuits. Moreover, with today’s technology, it is now possible to make a microprocessor tiny, even down to 45 nanometers wide.

Why is a Microprocessor Said to be a General Purpose Integrated Circuit?

Due to its high level of intelligence, a microprocessor has been referred to as the general purpose integrated circuit computer system. It has a central processing unit (CPU) that can perform complicated tasks and suit many systems. In other words, it’s not created specifically for one purpose alone.

Microprocessor Vs Microcontroller, What is the Difference?

The main difference between a microprocessor and a microcontroller is their structural features. Unlike a microprocessor chip with external peripherals such as memory, timers, and more, a microcontroller is a stand-alone chip with complete said peripherals inside.

Is a Microcontroller an IC?

IC and microcontroller are similar in that the latter is a type of the former. However, the speed of microcontrollers can differ from that of an IC. Plus, they are also more programmable.

The integrated circuit used in which generation of computers?

For your information, the integrated circuit was first used when they introduced the 3rd generation of computers, which happened from around 1965 to 1971.


From their designs to features, the microprocessor chip and integrated circuit have numerous similarities that could lead to confusion among users. However, once you completely understand them, assembling a circuit with each part will come naturally to you.

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