RT vs NIL Comparison and Performance

RT and NIL are the two RTOSes part of the ChibiOS families, they share most of the API and are very compatible but the internal solutions are entirely different and driven by different requirements:


RT is meant to be a very complete embedded RTOS focused on:

  • Very complete features set, it has to offer a very comprehensive API.
  • High performance, no compromises in this area.
  • Compact as possible given the first two requirements.


NIL is wholly different beast focusing on different requirements:

  • As compact as possible.
  • Compatible with RT as long this does not impact code size.

Features Comparison

This table summarizes the differences in features, note that a - marks a missing feature, a + is a compatible feature available in OSLIB.

Feature RT NIL LIB Notes
Weak-SMP yes no - Support for multiple cores running isolated OS instances.
Full-SMP yes no - Support for multiple symmetric cores running cooperating OS instances.
Integrity check (FuSa) yes no - Self-diagnostic capability.
RFCU (FuSa) yes no - Runtime Faults Collection Unit.
System Time yes yes - 16 or 32 bits system time counter.
High Resolution Time yes no - System time, timers and delays at very high resolutions.
Time Stamps yes no - High resolution 64 bits time stamps.
Real Tick-less Mode yes yes - There is no periodic system tick for optimal power management.
Critical Sections yes yes - Critical sections abstraction.
IRQ Management yes yes - ISRs abstraction.
Zero Latency Interrupts yes yes - IRQs unaffected by the kernel and with no kernel-related added latency.
Virtual Timers yes no - Unlimited software one-shot/continuous timers with no IRQ overhead.
Timeouts yes yes yes Wait primitives with time-out specification.
Time Measurement yes no - Execution time measurement with clock-cycle precision.
Full Threads Paradigm yes yes - Threads create/join functionality.
Threads Registry yes yes - Runtime tasks state structure for debuggers.
Preemption yes yes - Fully preemptive scheduling.
Round Robin Scheduling yes no - Round robin scheduling for threads at equal priority.
Messages yes yes - Inter-thread synchronous messages.
Mailboxes + + yes Message queues.
Pipes + + yes Characters pipes.
Counter Semaphores yes yes - Semaphores with resources counter.
Binary Semaphores + + yes Semaphores with boolean state.
Mutexes yes no - Mutexes implementing the Priority Inheritance algorithm.
Condition Variables yes no - Condition Variables and Monitors.
Events yes yes - Events, Event Flags, Event Sources.
Dynamic Threading + - yes Dynamic threading.
Memory Allocators + + yes Various memory allocators (core, pools, heaps).
Objects FIFOs + + yes FIFOs of generic objects.
Objects Factory + + yes Handling of dynamic reference-counted objects accessible by a readable name.
Runtime Statistics yes no - Execution times of critical code paths with clock cycle resolution.
System State Checker yes yes - Development time call protocols check.
Parameter Checks yes yes - Development time function parameters checks.
Assertions yes yes - Development time kernel consistency checks.
Trace Buffer yes no - Storage for the latest N context switch events.
Stack Overflows Check yes yes - Runtime stack overflow checks.
Stack Fill yes yes - Stack pattern fill for usage measurement.
CMSIS RTOS yes no - CMSIS RTOS emulation layer.
NASA OSAL yes no - NASA OSAL emulation layer.

Performance Table

The benchmark is: number of thread-to-thread context switches per second.


RT has excellent performance across the board.

Platform GCC IAR Keil GCC IAR Keil
STM32F303 (M4 72MHz) 894.264 688.856 856.976 628.696 519.728 610.024
STM32G0 (M0+ 64MHz) 591.904 - - - - -
STM32G4 (M4 170MHz) 2.566.024 - - 1.730.272 - -
STM32H7 (M7 480MHz) 7.164.080 - - 5.338.384 - -


The difference with RT is not much but it is clear that RT is more performance-oriented, NIL is optimized for code size.

Platform GCC IAR Keil GCC IAR Keil
STM32F303 (M4 72MHz) 671.272 - 509.688 - -
STM32G0 (M0+ 64MHz) 540.648 - - - - -
STM32G4 (M4 170MHz) 2.124.984 - - 1.491.216 - -
STM32H7 (M7 480MHz) 8.135.512 - - 5.680.392 - -


Full performance data is available as test reports. Note that those reports can be generated by any ChibiOS demo.

21.6 branch

20.3 branch