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FPGAs target portable consumer market

Posted: 30 Oct 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:programmable logic device  system gates  FPGA 

Actel Corp. has rolled out a new version of its entry-level, low-power FPGA line and claims to have regained the price point record in the programmable logic device (PLD) arena.

Actel has devised the new and so-called ''nano'' versions of its Igloo and ProASIC3 line of FPGAs. Igloo is the company's entry-level, low-power FPGA line, while ProASIC3 are low-cost products.

The current Igloo and ProASIC3 lines extend from 10,000 to 30 lakh system gates. The new ''nano'' versions range from 10,000 to 250,000 system gates and replace the corresponding values in the previous lines.

Targeted at the high-volume, portable consumer market, the ''nano'' line is a flash-based FPGA family built around a 130-nm process. With the ''nano'' products, Actel takes power consumption down to as low as 2 microwatts, compared to 5 microwatts in previous versions.

The company also shatters the FPGA price barrier by offering over 50 variants of its ''nano'' FPGAs for less than Rs.43.01 ($1). At one time, Actel held the FPGA price point record. Its entry-level FPGA line sold for as little as 99 cents.

Then, rival Xilinx Inc. recently broke that record by claiming to sell a complex PLD device for 50 cents. Actel claims to have regained the record. In high volumes, pricing for the company's new 10,000-gate A3PN010 starts at Rs.29.68 ($0.69) in a QNG48 package and Rs.21.08 ($0.49) in a known good die offering.

In fact, as part of the new rollout, Actel is offering known good die in FPGA form. Applications include portable systems, such as smart phones, PDAs, personal medical monitoring devices, personal navigation devices, eBooks, and portable point of sale tools.

"We're seeing a pull'' for bare-die FPGAs, said Rich Kapusta, vice president of marketing and business development for Actel. "Right now, we're seeing it in applications where space really matters.''

Actel will offer its low-power Igloo ''nano'' FPGAs in a 3- x 3-mm package, the smallest package for any PLD on the market. Current devices from the company come in 4- x 4-mm, 5- x 5-mm, 6- x 6-mm and 8- x 8-mm packages.

The new devices support 1.2-V to 1.5-V core and I/O operations. It is also enhancing its standard commercial ambient operating temperatures, offering new ranges for Igloo ''nano'' FPGAs from minus 20 degrees Celsius to 70 degrees Celsius.

Both Igloo ''nano'' and ProASIC3 ''nano'' FPGAs, in densities of 60k, 125k and 250k gates, are available. Additional densities will be available in volumes in early 2009.

Support for the FPGAs is available in Actel's Libero Integrated Design Environment (IDE) v8.4 For immediate prototyping and programming, designers can leverage the Actel Igloo Icicle Kit for Rs.4,258.05 ($99). In November, Actel plans to offer a low-cost ''nano'' starter kit, priced at Rs.2,148.38 ($49.95) and fitted with an Igloo AGLN250 in a VQG100 package.

-Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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