High throughput and design flexibility have positioned FPGAs as a solid silicon solution over traditional DSP devices in high-performance DSP applications like mobile base stations, medical imaging, and document imaging. In many cases, high density ASICs and DSPs appear on the same board as the FPGA. Hardware tasks, traditionally partitioned between the ASIC and FPGA, now primarily fall to FPGAs, which provide a cost-effective alternative for DSP implementation that easily can be adopted for a broad range of applications. This article tells how.
Standard-cell ASICs usually were chosen for their performance, density, complex logic designs, and cost-per-unit benefits. However, these same ASICs also increase time to market, have high development costs, and represent considerable financial risk if feature requirements change or the product doesn t hit expected volume levels.
For example, many companies suffered significant financial setbacks developing ASICs for DSP functionality as part of the cellular base station development for the 3rd Generation Partnership Program (3GPP) standard; the culprits proved to be significant development changes in the standard as it was being established.
In addition to higher throughput and flexibility, FPGAs provide more raw data processing power than traditional DSP processors. Since FPGAs can be reconfigured in hardware, they offer complete hardware customization while implementing various DSP applications. FPGAs also boast features critical to key DSP applications, such as embedded memory, DSP blocks, and embedded processors