Linear vs Switching Regulators
Voltage regulators can generate a fixed output voltage and keep the magnitude of that voltage constant despite changes to load conditions or input voltage. Two categories of voltage regulators are linear regulators and switching ones. Generally, linear voltage regulators provide significantly less noise output, while switching regulators are capable of driving higher current loads.
A linear voltage regulator uses an active pass device controlled by a differential amplifier at high gain. The device compares the output voltage with a reference voltage and consequently adjusts itself to compensate and maintain a consistent output voltage.
A switching voltage regulator operates by converting DC input voltage and feeding back the filtered output voltage through a circuit that controls the device's power switch, turning it on and off in such a way as to maintain constant output voltage. Switching regulators can be designed at various switching frequencies. The benefit of using higher switching frequencies is that the device can be fabricated with smaller capacitors and inductors.