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Mentor FPGA synthesis users speak out

Posted: 06 Apr 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mentor graphics? fpga? synthesis tools? e-mail synopsys users group? precision rtl?

Over 50 users of Mentor Graphics FPGA synthesis tools shared their stories in the latest edition of the E-Mail Synopsys Users Group (ESNUG), adding credibility to a report that Mentor has increased its market share. But some had concerns about the move from Mentor's existing Leonardo product to its more recent Precision RTL.

In a recent Industry Gadfly column,, ESNUG moderator John Cooley questioned Dataquest's recently-released 2002 FPGA synthesis market share numbers. Dataquest reported that Mentor had surged to a virtual tie with Synplicity, each with around 43 percent market share. Cooley said he had heard many users talking about Synplicity FPGA synthesis tools, but few talking about Mentor's Leonardo or Precision.

Letters from 52 Leonardo and Precision users made Cooley decide the Dataquest numbers may be plausible. In the newly-released ESNUG 426 bulletin, Cooley ran the letters along with his own commentary. "These aren't sanitized success stories carefully filtered by the Mentor Exemplar sales staff," he wrote, "but actual users bitching about bugs, likes, dislikes, gripes, comparisons."

There were also letters from users of Synplicity's Synplify Pro product, and a number of postings in which users compared Synplicity and Mentor synthesis tools. Synplicity had its fans, and several said that Synplify Pro provides faster run times, smaller netlists, better timing, smaller area, and more ease of use compared to Leonardo or Precision.

But most of the postings were from Leonardo or Precision users, and many expressed satisfaction with those products. Some said that the Mentor tools outperform Synplify Pro. Others provided pro-and-con comparisons of tools from the two vendors.

Some Mentor Leonardo users, however, are not happy about the move to Precision. Complaints about Precision included instability and missing features. One engineer noted that Leonardo made it possible to view new cells, instances, views and nets with a "create" command, but he said Precision removes this capability.

"I would renew my Leonardo license but I would not buy a Precision RTL license," said another engineer. "The day Mentor stops supporting Leonardo to force their customer transition to Precision...I will have a look at all existing synthesis tools (like Synplicity) and make a real comparison," wrote another.

Still, some said that Precision is an improvement over Leonardo, with better synthesis results. One engineer said Precision is easier to use and less buggy than Leonardo.

There were also postings from engineers who use the free synthesis tools from Xilinx or Altera. One engineer who has a Synplify license wrote that he uses Xilinx' synthesis tool "because it works." Another advised designers to "stick with what you get for free."

Bernie Aronson, Synplicity CEO, sent a letter questioning the Dataquest synthesis market numbers. He noted that Dataquest numbers didn't include Synplicity's OEM revenues from Actel, Lattice, and QuickLogic. The real figures, he said, would show Synplicity with a 47 percent market share in 2002, and Mentor with a 41 percent share. But even Aronson's readjusted figures show Mentor gaining, and Synplicity losing, market share in 2002.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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