Don’t know what those words mean? Don’t worry, here’s an introduction:

ASIC is short for Application Specific Integrated Circuit. That means, it’s an electronic chip that is designed specifically to perform a certain task or calculation. It is usually pretty good at that task in the sense that it has high performance or low power consumption compared to if a generic off-the-shelf processor was used for the same task.

On the other hand, an ASIC can’t do anything else than exactly what it was designed to do, and once it has been manufactured, it can’t be changed.

One example of an ASIC is the graphics processor in a computer, which performs graphics calculations much better than the main processor, but is not able to run the operating system or other general programs.

In short: a company that designs an ASIC designs their own chip.


An ASIC with exposed interior.

FPGA means Field Programmable Gate Array. This is a chip that contains a large amount of look-up tables (LUT), small electronic circuits, that each can be configured to perform an arbitrary logic function. These LUTs are then connected in a grid to perform the overall functionality required for the specific application.

The LUTs can be reconnected and reconfigured several times, which makes it possible to test and develop the FPGA on the actual circuit board where it will be used. FPGAs are off-the-shelf products, and the same device can be used for many different applications.

In short: a company that uses FPGAs buys chips and configures them to do the task they want.


FPGA chip from manufacturer Altera