Xilinx Inc. is extending its Spartan-IIE low-cost FPGA family to the high end to go after a broader segment of high-volume consumer and automotive applications that might otherwise use ASICs.
By adding two devices with more logic and I/O pins, Xilinx claims the Spartan-IIE family can address as much as 65% of the total ASIC market.
The XC2S400E features 10,800 logic cells, 160,000 Block RAM bits, and 410 single-ended I/Os, while the XC2S600E has 15,552 logic cells, 288,000 Block RAM bits, and 514 single-ended I/Os.
It's a tough balancing act to increase density without driving up unit price, and price is what customers look at hardest when volumes are high, said Babak Hedayati, senior director of product solutions marketing and partnerships at Xilinx, San Jose.
"Our Virtex architecture covers those densities, but from a features perspective it demands a higher price," Hedayati said. "Customers said they wanted more logic and more I/Os, but they wanted it in a low-cost FPGA."
With the industry's downturn putting more pressure on OEMs to reduce cost, Xilinx said its Spartan families are among its fastest growing, and now represent 15% of the company's revenue.
The race has been on for some time to offer the right combination of price, performance, and density to replace low-end ASICs in sockets that typically wouldn't use FPGAs because of their high cost structure--applications like handheld automotive diagnostics, broadband access devices, and home entertainment.
The contest became more heated with rival Altera Corp.'s recent introduction of its Cyclone low-cost FPGA family, a scaled-down Stratix spinoff designed to be produced in high volume.
While Cyclone is a clear challenger to Spartan-IIE, the architecture comes up short on one critical feature, according to Hedayati.
"When they came in with lower density and lower cost, they forgot about I/O issues," he said.
According to Altera documents, the Cyclone family tops out at 301 I/O pins.
Users will have an opportunity to compare the largest Spartan-IIE and Cyclone parts side by side come January, when samples of both are expected to be available.
Adding more fodder for comparison, Xilinx said Spartan-IIE devices will be supported in the new embedded design kit for its MicroBlaze 16/32-bit soft processor core, a device with customizable peripherals similar to Altera's Nios core, which is offered in Cyclone.
The new Spartan-IIE parts support 3.3, 2.5, and 1.8V I/Os, 400Mbit/s LVDS, and PCI 32/33 and 64/66 buses, while eight flexible I/O banks support 19 I/O standards.
Like existing family members, the XC2S400E and XC2S600E will be made using 300mm wafers, with volume production slated for first-quarter 2003. In a variety of packages, the devices are priced at $27 and $45, respectively, in 250,000-unit quantities.