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What is the difference between an ASIC and an FPGA?

ASICs and FPGAs have different value propositions, and must be carefully evaluated before choosing one over the other. Information comparing the two technologies abounds. Whereas FPGAs used to be selected for lower speed/complexity/bulk designs in the past, today’s FPGAs easily push the 500 MHz performance barrier. With unprecedented logical density increases and a myriad of other features, such as embedded processors, DSP blocks, clocks, and high-speed series at ever lower prices, FPGAs are a compelling proposition for almost any type of design.

Benefits of using FPGAs

Why would you prefer to use an FPGA PCIe board for your calculation instead of the more common CPU or GPU? The differences with GPUs and CPUs are in the following areas –

  • Latency: How long does it take to calculate something? FPGAs are good at this.
  • Connectivity: What input/output can we connect and with what bandwidth? FPGAs can be connected directly to the inputs and can offer very high bandwidth.
  • Engineering cost: How much effort does it cost to express the calculation? The engineering cost is typically much higher than for instruction-based architectures, so the benefits should be worth it.
  • Energy efficiency: How much energy does it cost to program something? This is often listed as a great benefit of FPGAs, but whether FPGAs are better than CPUs or GPUs really depends on the application.


FPGA functionality may change with each device power-up. So when a design engineer wants to make a change, they can simply download a new configuration file to the device and test the change. Often times, changes can be made to the FPGA without the need for costly changes to the PC board. ASSPs and ASICs have fixed hardware functionality that cannot be changed without great cost and time.


Get products to market faster and increase system performance. Due to the flexibility of FPGAs, OEMs can ship systems as soon as the design works and is tested. FPGAs provide offloading and throttle functions to CPUs, effectively accelerating the performance of the entire system.


Today’s FPGAs include embedded processors, 28 GBPS transceiver I / O, RAM blocks, DSP engines and more. More features within the FPGA mean fewer devices on the circuit board, increasing reliability by reducing the number of device failures.

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

Although ASICs can cost less per unit than an equivalent FPGA, their construction requires one-time expense (NRE), expensive software tools, specialized design equipment, and long manufacturing cycles. Many FPGA models support long life cycles (15 years or more), avoiding the cost of redesigning and prequalifying OEM production equipment if one of the onboard electronic devices reaches the end of its useful life. FPGAs reduce risk, allowing prototype systems to be shipped to customers for field testing, while still providing the ability to quickly make changes before moving to series production.

You can buy high-end FPGA PCIe module online at affordable prices. But before you buy, know the requirements, whether it suits the project, above all, compare the modules to choose the best design.