What are FPGAs

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are programmable semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects.

What are ASICs

Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) are devices custom built for the particular design.

What are FPGA Design Advantages

  • Faster time-to-market – no layout, masks or other manufacturing steps are needed
  • No upfront NRE (non recurring expenses) – costs typically associated with an ASIC design
  • Simpler design cycle – due to software that handles much of the routing, placement, and timing
  • More predictable project cycle – due to elimination of potential re-spins, wafer capacities, etc.
  • Field reprogramability – a new bitstream can be uploaded remotely

What are FPGA Design Limitations

  • Power consumption – FPGAs fundamentally use a lot more power than ASICs
  • Price – they also fundamentally cost more
  • Speed – ASICs can still blow any FPGA away in sheer speed although design techniques can help with this issue.
  • Density – ASIcs can still pack a lot more logic into a single chip than an FPGA
  • IP – modern, complex IP (a complete PCI Express of Hypertransport core for example) may take up most or all of an FPGA but only 10% of an ASIC

What are ASIC Design Advantages

  • Full custom capability – for design since device is manufactured to design specs
  • Lower unit costs – for very high volume designs
  • Smaller form factor – since device is manufactured to design specs
  • Higher raw internal clock speeds

What are ASIC Design Limitations

  • High NRE cost – for design since device is manufactured to design specs
  • Lower unit costs – for very high volume designs
  • Smaller form factor – since device is manufactured to design specs
  • Higher raw internal clock speeds