As today's economic climate increases the pressure on electronics makers to "do more with less," the folks at Xilinx have introduced a new generation of their low-cost Spartan field programmable gate array (FPGA) family that enable design teams to 'do much more for less.'
With samples shipping now, the new Spartan-6 FPGA Family is claimed to offer an optimal balance of cost, power, performance, and development tool support for creating innovative end products targeting consumer, automotive, surveillance, wireless, and other cost-sensitive markets.
Max interviews Brent Przybus, Director of Product Marketing at Xilinx, about new Spartan-6 and Virtex-6 FPGAs.
Built for connectivity and low power, the industry's newest low-cost FPGA family enables system developers to meet demand for new features, while at the same time reducing system costs by up to half for lower power, 'greener' products.
In related news, Xilinx also introduced its next-generation, high performance Virtex-6 FPGA Family. The company's Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 FPGA families are the programmable silicon foundation for 'targeted design platforms' from Xilinx and its third-party network that deliver development methodologies for electronic systems manufacturers who require integrated hardware and software programmability to address the financial, market, and technological challenges of today's economy. Each new family includes development tool and Xilinx Engineering Services support for digital signal processing (DSP), high-speed connectivity, and embedded systems applications.
The sixth generation in the Spartan FPGA Series, the Spartan-6 FPGA family is fabricated on a proven, low-power 45-nanometer (nm), 9-metal layer, dual-oxide process technology. The new family is said to delivers an optimal balance of low risk, low cost, low power, and high performance. The Spartan-6 FPGA family's efficient, dual-register 6-input LUT (look-up table) logic structure leverages the proven Virtex architecture to enable cross-platform compatibility and to optimize system performance. A rich selection of built-in system-level blocks – including DSP slices, high-speed transceivers, and PCI Express interface cores – are also derived from the Virtex Series for greater system-level integration.
The new Spartan-6 FPGA family includes differentiated technology for cost- and power-sensitive markets, such as automotive infotainment, flat panel displays, and video surveillance. A new high-performance, integrated memory controller core supports DDR, DDR2, DDR3, and mobile DDR memories, along with a hardened multi-port bus structure for predictable timing and performance of up to DDR2/DDR3 800 (400MHz). Design wizards make the process of building memory controllers for Spartan-6 FPGAs simple and straight forward.
Innovation in advanced power management technology and the ability to operate at a lower power 1.0V core option enables the new Spartan-6 FPGA family to achieve 65 percent lower power than previous Spartan families. Fast, flexible I/Os enable over 12 Gbps memory access bandwidth with 3.3 volt compatibility and 'greener' RoHS-compliant Pb-free packaging.
"System designers in today's price-sensitive markets face a confluence of economic, financial, and market pressures that have led to narrowing market windows, increasing design complexity, reduced product lifetimes, fluctuating unit volumes and lower profit margins," said Mark Fitzgerald, analyst at Strategy Analytics. "To survive, system developers must shorten new product development times, improve product differentiation for a competitive advantage, and lower system and development costs while using fewer engineering resources. In contrast to high-cost custom ICs, low-cost FPGAs reduce time-to-market and offer a flexible solution for doing more with less, reducing investment risks, side-stepping inventory issues and winning the product differentiation battle."
Spartan-6 FPGA domain optimization
The Spartan-6 family comprises two domain-optimized FPGA platforms with a mix of features matched to stringent market requirements for price-sensitive, high-volume applications:
- Spartan-6 LX FPGAs: Optimized for applications that require absolute lowest cost. These devices support up to 150K logic density, 4.8Mb memory, integrated memory controllers, and easy"to-use and high-performance system IP such as DSP blocks, with an innovative open standards-based configuration.
- Spartan-6 LXT FPGAs: Extends the LX platform to deliver up to eight 3.125 Gbps GTP transceivers and an integrated PCI Express-compatible core, both derived from proven Virtex technology, to provide the industry's lowest risk and lowest cost solution for serial connectivity.
A few examples of cost-sensitive applications for which Spartan-6 devices are suited are as follows:
- Automotive Infotainment: Spartan-6 FPGAs provide the cost-effective performance required to deliver a compelling automotive user experience and the flexibility to respond rapidly to changing customer requirements. Spartan-6 FPGAs give developers of in-vehicle information and entertainment systems the ability to improve video performance with customizable graphics processing and acceleration algorithms using integrated DSP, logic and memory. Developers can simplify board design and eliminate external components by using the integrated PCI Express blocks and high-speed serial transceivers to interface to host processors. Streamlined access to video and data storage in external DDR3 memory is enabled using the integrated memory controller blocks. In addition to increasing engineering productivity and reducing system costs by nearly 50 percent, developers are able to meet strict power budgets using Spartan-6 FPGA power management technology that reduces system power consumption by 70 percent.
- Flat Panel Displays: Spartan-6 FPGAs are a cost-effective alternative to application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), enabling digital TV manufacturers to rapidly develop and deliver displays offering a superior viewing experience within ever shrinking product lifecycles. Spartan-6 FPGAs easily achieve tough performance and EMI targets with integrated low-jitter spread spectrum clocking. These devices also reduce power consumption by 50 percent, not only simplifying thermal management and reducing overall system costs but also dramatically increasing system reliability. Spartan-6 FPGAs enable developers to build extendable systems that support video/tuner functionality combined with advanced panel display capability linked together using DisplayPort interface-enabled 3.125 Gbps GTP transceivers and high-performance MicroBlaze soft processors with optimized memory management unit (MMU) and floating point unit (FPU) functionality for real-time, dynamic backlight control.
- Video Surveillance: Spartan-6 FPGAs offer the ideal combination of performance and flexibility to address requirements for standard- and high-definition resolution image processing, video analytics, and multi-channel video encoding for fast, efficient video transmission. Designers can develop systems that process native resolution image data at full frame rates using highly parallel implementations based on the embedded DSP slices. They can also implement edge-based video analytics with cost-effective, customized MicroBlaze soft processors. Not only do Spartan-6 FPGAs enable these advanced capabilities, but does so while enabling up to 33 percent lower cost than previous solutions and consume 50 percent less power using advanced power management and power-over-Ethernet implementations.
Device details and software support are available now through the Spartan-6 early access program. Initial Spartan-6 devices are sampling now. Xilinx targeted design platforms providing fully integrated software support, tested IP, and reference designs with boards and kits will be available in the second half 2009.
Xilinx Engineering Services support is also immediately available with engineering resources to augment customer design teams and provide expert design-specific advice and FPGA optimization. For more information, visit www.xilinx.com/services.
To learn more or to get started on new Spartan-6 designs, system architects, system design managers and engineers can visit www.xilinx.com/6 or contact their Xilinx sales representative.