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ASIC vs SOC vs FPGA

Confused ?
Ramdas
What is an ASIC
- ASIC - Application Specific Integrated Circuit

- A chip that is custom designed for a specific application

- Designed by a company for self use or for a specific customer

- Targeting a specific application and a very specific system.

- Customize for high performance and low power for the given system

- ASIC need not be just digital logic - can be digital or analog or mix of both

- Example - A 24x24 10G ethernet switch that is custom designed for a specific system
to meet performance/power demand.
What is an ASSP?
- ASSP - Application Specific Standard Parts

- A chip that is designed for a specific application but not customized for a system or a
customer.
- Design for an application but target to sell in a wider market and multiple customers

- Design and implementation similar to ASIC process

- Following Chips are designed for a specific application but targets wider market

- A stand alone USB interface chip, PCIE controller, Ethernet Controller etc
- An audio/video encoder/decoder chip
What is a SOC?
- SOC - System On Chip
- New trend with more and more integration of components on a chip

- Contains one or more processor cores

- Microprocessor or Microcontroller or DSP or GPU etc

- On chip memory, hardware accelerators, peripheral functions

- Ethernet controller, PCIE controller, SATA , USB etc


What is a SOC
- An ASIC or ASPP can be an SOC or a non-SOC

- An ASIC/ASSP with processor - SOC

- An ASIC/ASSP without processor - non-SOC

- Software development equally important in SOC designs along with H/W


to control the processor cores on the chip
What is an FPGA
- FPGA - Field Programmable Gate Arrays
- Array of Programmable blocks with a programmable interconnect

- Designs captured in an HDL can be synthesized for the FPGA


technology and downloaded into an FPGA
- Reconfiguration is possible by changing the design and downloading
to same FPGA
- Most popular FPGA
- Xilinx Spartan and Virtex Series
- Altera Stratix and Cyclone Series
FPGA vs ASIC compared
FPGA ASIC/ASSP - SOC/non-SOC

Faster Time to Market - No layout, masks and Need longer design times to take care of all
manufacturing steps needed manufacturing steps

Field reprogrammability - Design changes can Once manufactured, need to spin again a new
be absorbed even in field and FPGA chip in case of bugs
reprogrammed

More power consumption and may not be high Custom design for an application helps in
performance because of programmable design designing for power/performance efficiencies
and low clock speeds

Good for prototyping and low volume designs For larger volume of production, cost per unit
as cost would be less will be much less for an ASIC

Generally not possible to have analog/mixed Can support analog and mixed signal designs
signal designs and limited to what vendor
supports
What is an FPGA SOC ?
- Latest FPGA has processor subsystem embedded along with
programmable logic blocks
- Most commonly a single or dual ARM cortex processors

- Peripherals like PCIE controller, high speed transceivers, accelerators etc

- This helps in building a programmable SOC chip with all FPGA advantages

- Example - Altera Cyclone V with dual core Cortex A9 processor


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