Monday, June 24, 2024

FPGAs ‘vs.’ ASICs, or a symbiotic relationship?

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In case of high volume production, ASICs really shine. Also In terms of useful logic, sizes, and resource optimization, ASICs will outperform FPGAs. ASICs have very high density in terms of logic gates on the chip, due to the optimal design. Gate counts and hence power consumption can give ASICs a competitive edge over an FPGA. All the internal structures/IPs are used for customer specific or mission specific applications or functions. So, while an ASIC may consume more power per unit die size than an FPGA, the power is normally amortized over a higher density solution; and hence, provides better power efficiency.

Bringing them together
The choice of ASIC vs FPGA for volume production is case-to-case basis. In mobile applications, it makes more sense to have an ASIC-based solution due to high density/performance. Time-to-market is also a parameter in such consumer applications, but with newer shorter ASIC development cycles and with less focus on quality, ASICs are the logical choice. On other hand in network applications, where typically the requirement is moderate in terms of complexity and density, FPGA solutions are preferred due to shorter time-to-market. Quality could be addressed through flexibility in soft-hardware bug fixes.

Generally for lower production volumes, FPGA may be more cost effective then ASIC. But the recent trend is suggesting that FPGA could be better alternative solution in high volume applications since cost related to ASIC development are increasing on account of more complex technology nodes. However, at this juncture, it is not very clear whether this trend is sustaining or a temporary aberration.

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To summarize, in general, “the designing and producing circuits is extremely expensive and time consuming, but inevitable for certain high-end applications. So ASICs are advantageous when it comes to high port density complex applications with high volume. FPGAs are preferred when it comes to faster time-to-market requirement, lower production/volume and flexibility”.


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