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Using logic-optimized FPGAs in displays

Posted: 16 Apr 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:display design? FPD TV? FPGA for displays?

Not long ago, high-definition flat-panel display (FPD) TVs were too expensive for the average consumer. Today, they are abundant and affordable for most households. Panel manufacturers are expanding their production capacities to meet demand and encourage greater adoption.

Consumers are looking for features that differentiate the plain models from those with higher resolutions, better color reproduction and the least amount of digital motion artifacts. These features determine price points beyond the lowest entry point for a specific screen size.

Digital-display product designers are continually under pressure to integrate more functions, service more needs, support more standards and still go to market faster than ever before. ASIC vendors can produce customized chips to meet their required features. But it takes more than a year of development for increasingly complex video/image processors, and they will incur a large NRE charge with finer fabrication processes.

Although many ASSP solutions are available from IC vendors such as Pixelworks, Genesis, Trident, Philips and ST, they do not allow display manufacturers to produce house-brand premium features. Hence, programmable solutions can complement ASIC solutions with more frequent incremental improvements to the whole system, and also complement ASSP solutions with product differentiation. This differentiation can come in the form of image-enhancement technology, peripheral interfaces, storage interfaces, connectivity or even simple implementations such as GPIO extension.

Thus, FPGAs provide a platform for implementing these functions because of their programmability and flexibility. In addition, they are useful in many digital video applications because of their parallel processing operation and integrated features specifically targeted at the consumer display market.

Along with all of these features, logic-optimized FPGAs are inexpensive because they use smaller 90nm process technology and larger 300mm wafer sizes while maintaining high wafer yields. Interconnectivity has always been the traditional strength of reprogrammable logic. Today, with changing standards and interface technology, FPGAs are becoming more of a necessity in display solutions.

Time-to-market concerns
Xilinx offers a development platform that enables the design and validation of display technologies in flat-panel TV monitors, rear-projection TVs and digital projectors to speed designs to market. With this platform, you can create and modify complex algorithms to enhance display image quality and color settings.

The FPGA-based display solutions board integrates a logic-optimized 90nm, 1.6-million gate XC3S1600E FPGA device in a 484-pin BGA package, an associated configuration PROM and an SPI that you can use to optionally program the FPGA. Moreover, the board contains four 512Mbit x 16 DDR SDRAM memories, which are ideal for supporting frame buffering.

Xilinx offers different reference designs for display panel and video board applications.

With this display solutions board, you can expect a 266Mbps DDR SDRAM controller and image-processing algorithm reference designs. The board also comes with optional boards such as GPIO, USB, CameraLink and a DVI option board. These optional boards allow you to easily connect to standard display panels and video boards, and to verify connectivity solutions and video/image processing algorithms.

Display designers can use the display solutions board to develop better image quality, multiple memory interfaces and varying form factors for flexible, low-cost, high-performance solutions. The board enables designers to incorporate critical display features such as integrated MCUs, embedded soft-core 32bit RISC processors, LVDS, reduced swing differential signal and mini-LVDS interfacing, parallel DSP, on-chip memory and high-speed external memory access on a single logic-optimized 90nm XC3S1600E FPGA device.

Image quality in FPDs is highly subjective, and image-enhancement algorithm specifications continue to evolve. As a result, low-cost, logic-optimized FPGAs and reference designs enable designers to modify image-enhancement algorithms quickly and easily. Design engineers should look for low-cost FPGAs that have been broadly adopted in high-volume consumer applications such as DVD players, plasma displays and HDTVs. This assures them of a highly reliable and readily available supply of parts for their consumer applications. These low-cost FPGAs must continue to add new market-specific features to keep pace with new standards and display reference designs as their costs continue to come down.

- Steve Prokosch

- Josephine Sy
Senior Manager

Vertical Markets, Consumer
Xilinx Inc.

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