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FPGAs shrink for mobile devices

Aug 21, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

[Updated: Aug. 25, 2008] — Xilinx has added to its line of Linux-friendly Spartan-3A FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays). The company has added models with non-volatile DSPs (digital signal processors), as well as lower-power models in smaller packaging aimed at “cost-sensitive” consumer electronics, communications, and networking designs.

Sold under the new umbrella term of the “Extended Spartan 3A” family, the FPGAs are said to be offered in densities ranging from 50,000 to 3.4 million system gates, and provided in small form-factors ranging from 16x6mm to 27x27mm. New package options are said to include 16x6mm chips with 68 I/O (Input/output) pins and 17×7 designs with 161 pins.

The devices offer power management and anti-cloning security features, and support 26 different I/O standards, claims Xilinx. Cost and power consumption have been reduced by integrating features and eliminating components, says the company. The chips are said to offer lower static power consumption, as well as dual power management modes that eliminate the need for external components such as heat sinks and fans. Other features include quick wake-up time and system-level synchronization, as well as a lower-power hibernation mode.

Development board included with
MicroBlaze Development Kit
Spartan-3A DSP 1800A Edition

(Click for details)

The Extended Spartan-3A family provides embedded Linux support with the Xilinx MicroBlaze soft processor, says Xilinx. In February, the company announced a Linux development kit for running MicroBlaze on the Spartan-3A FPGAs. Called the MicroBlaze Development Kit Spartan-3A DSP 1800A Edition, the kit is equipped with a Spartan-3A development board (pictured at right), as well as LynuxWork's commercially supported BlueCat-ME (MicroBlaze Edition) Linux distribution.

By integrating the DSP and nonvolatile versions of the chip under a single “Extended” family, developers now have a compatible path between SRAM and non-volatile FPGAs, says the company. Since the Spartan series launch, the FPGAs have earned some $2.52 billion in cumulative revenue, as of Q1 FY09, claims Xilinx.

Stated Patrick Dorsey, a senior Director of Marketing at Xilinx, “The Extended Spartan-3A Family delivers lower component counts, less expensive printed circuit boards, higher reliability, reduced testing costs, and higher yields to customers in cost sensitive applications.”


The Extended Spartan-3A FPGA devices, including new package options, are in production and available now, says Xilinx. By 2Q 2009, prices for the low-end XC3S50A device in a VQ100 package at 500,000 unit volumes should cost less than a dollar a chip, says the company. More information may be found here

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