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What is Intel MAX 10 FPGA?


The Intel MAX 10 is a low-cost, instant-on, non-volatile field programmable gate array (FPGA) by Intel (formerly Altera) aimed at a wide range of industrial IoT, embedded vision and compute applications.

This article provides an overview of the Intel MAX 10 architecture, features, design considerations, available options and target applications to help designers evaluate its capabilities.

Intel MAX 10 Architecture

The MAX 10 architecture is built on Intel’s 14nm process and consists of the following key components:

Logic Fabric

  • Based on Intel’s Adaptive Logic Module providing optimal balance of logic, memory and DSP resources
  • Up to 50K LEs (logic elements) providing over 300K logic cells
  • LABs (logic array blocks) with 10 LEs each, carry chains, registers
  • ALM and register packing boosts utilization

Embedded Memory

  • Up to 5.5 Mbits of embedded memory blocks
  • MLAB (640b blocks), M9K (9 Kb blocks) and M144K (144 Kb blocks)
  • Memory mode configurable as ROM, FIFO etc.

DSP Blocks

  • Up to 252 18×19 variable precision DSP blocks
  • High performance arithmetic and signal processing

Clock Management

  • Up to 6 PLLs (phase-locked loops) for clock management
  • Clock conditioning, frequency synthesis, deskew


  • Up to 4 full-duplex transceivers up to 10.3 Gbps
  • Multi-protocol support including Ethernet, PCIe, DisplayPort

Hard IP Cores

  • Rich library of instant-on Intel FPGA IP cores
  • Peripheral sets for interfacing, communications, computing

Non-volatile Configuration

  • Unique flash memory based configuration unlike SRAM FPGAs
  • Instant boot up, low power retention during shutdown

This combination of flexible programmable fabric along with abundant hardened blocks for common functions enables creating a wide range of embedded and industrial electronic systems using the MAX 10 FPGAs.

Intel MAX 10 Features and Benefits

Intel FPGA

Some of the major highlights of Intel MAX 10 devices are:

Low Cost

  • Aggressively priced for high volume markets
  • Lowest cost programmable logic solution

Small Form Factor

  • Compact fine-pitch packages including CSP/BGA options

Power Efficiency

  • Typical static power under 100 mW
  • Hibernate power mode for μW retention

Non-Volatile Operation

  • No external configuration memory needed
  • Instant power on with flash-based configuration

Mixed-Voltage Support

  • 1.2V core with 3.3V I/O supply

Robust Security

  • AES-GCM 256-bit encryption blocks
  • Pubkey authentication, access prevention

SEU Immunity

  • Resistant to radiation induced errors

-40°C to +125°C Operation

With its compelling combination of low-cost, low-power, mixed-voltage operation, reliability and abundant hardened blocks, the MAX 10 brings new flexibility and capabilities compared to CPLD or microcontroller solutions for embedded systems.

Intel MAX 10 Design Considerations

Key aspects designers should keep in mind while working with the MAX 10 FPGA:

Programming and Debug

  • Leverage Intel Quartus Prime for design entry, synthesis, place and route
  • Debug via SignalTap logic analyzer

IP Selection

  • Choose relevant interface, peripheral, instruction sets from Intel IP library

**Pin Planning **

  • Plan I/O early based on package options

Board Design

  • Follow Intel reference design guidelines

Power Analysis

  • Use power analysis tools to optimize current consumption

Thermal Design

  • Employ proper heat sinking for high power variants


  • Make use of robust built-in security capabilities

Team Skills

  • Prior experience with Intel/Altera FPGAs is beneficial

Considering these aspects early in the design cycle helps harness the full potential of MAX 10 devices.

Intel MAX 10 Options

Intel MAX 10 FPGA Boards

The Intel MAX 10 is available in a range of variants with different I/O counts, logic, memory and DSP resources to match diverse application needs:

DeviceLogic ElementsEmbedded MemoryTransceiversGPIOPackages
MAX10M02 C22000 LEs1.1 Mb03224-pin CSP
MAX10M04 C44000 LEs1.9 Mb06036-pin CSP
MAX10M08 C88000 LEs2.2 Mb011448-pin CSP
MAX10M16 C1616000 LEs3.3 Mb015864-pin CSP
MAX10M25 C2525000 LEs3.3 Mb015864-pin CSP
MAX10M50 C5050000 LEs5.5 Mb4158/24084-pin CSP/F1517

This scalable portfolio allows developers to choose the optimal device configuration matching embedded system needs in terms of I/O, logic resources, memory and cost.

Target Applications

With its compelling blend of low-power, reliability, small form factor and real-time performance, MAX 10 FPGAs are well suited for a diverse set of industrial applications:

  • Embedded machine vision – Vision sensors, inspection systems
  • Industrial automation – Motor drives, robotics, PLC expansion
  • Aerospace and defense – Vehicles, communications, munitions
  • Communication systems – 5G, wired broadband, MANETs
  • Medical – Diagnostics, imaging, prosthetics
  • Video and imaging – Surveillance, traffic systems, video codecs
  • Edge computing – Networking gear, gateway systems
  • Automotive – Body electronics, in-vehicle communications
  • Energy infrastructure – Smart grid, power equipment

The non-volatile flash-based configuration enables reliable instant-on edge computing systems in harsh operating environments. MAX 10 provides a flexible alternative compared to custom ASIC implementations.

MAX 10 vs MAX5 Comparison

Intel OpenCL FPG

As Intel’s most recent low-cost FPGA offering, the MAX 10 provides significant improvements over the prior MAX5 generation:

  • Up to 10X higher logic density with 50K LEs
  • Addition of hard transceiver blocks
  • Higher speed grade options up to 400 MHz
  • More embedded memory blocks
  • SEU immunity for reliability
  • Lower power due to 14nm process
  • Additional hard IP including ARM cores

The enhancements make the MAX 10 suitable for more complex embedded systems compared to MAX5 devices.


The Intel MAX 10 is an extremely flexible low-power FPGA family that provides an optimal combination of programmable logic, hardened blocks and I/O tailored for edge computing, embedded vision, industrial and communication systems.

Leveraging Intel’s mature design tools and a rich ecosystem of proven IP enables rapid development of robust products. The non-volatile flash-based configuration offers reliable instant-on performance for industrial deployments.

With its aggressively priced and scalable portfolio, the Intel MAX 10 offers compelling capabilities as a replacement for CPLDs, microcontrollers and ASICs across a diverse range of embedded applications demanding real-time intelligence and connectivity at the edge.

What is Intel MAX 10 FPGA? – FQA

Q1. What applications is the Intel MAX 10 FPGA suited for?

The MAX 10 with its low cost, low power, reliability and small form factor is ideal for industrial automation, embedded vision, aerospace, medical, imaging, edge computing systems.

Q2. How does the MAX 10 architecture differ from SRAM-based FPGAs?

MAX 10 uses flash memory for non-volatile configuration unlike SRAM FPGAs that need external flash at power up. This enables instant on capability.

Q3. What are some key components in the Intel MAX 10 FPGA?

Key components are the 14nm low-power logic fabric using ALMs, ample embedded memory blocks, variable precision DSP blocks, clock management, transceivers and rich Intel FPGA IP.

Q4. What are some benefits of the MAX 10 FPGA?

Benefits include low cost, power efficiency, compact footprint, robustness, reliability through radiation immunity, mixed voltage operation, built-in security and abundant hardened blocks.

Q5. How does MAX 10 improve upon Intel’s prior MAX5 FPGA generation?

MAX 10 enhances the MAX5 with up to 10X higher density, addition of hard transceivers, higher speed grade options, more memory blocks, reliability through SEU immunity and lower power consumption.




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