The Xilinx Artix-7 field programmable gate array (FPGA) is a low-cost, low-power programmable logic device built on a 28nm high-performance, low-power (HPL) fabrication process. The Artix-7 combines cost-optimized programmable logic fabric along with integrated functional blocks to address compute-intensive applications with rigorous cost and power constraints like embedded vision, motor control, software defined radio, and functional safety systems.
This article provides a comprehensive technical overview of the Artix-7 architecture, available features, design considerations, target applications and key benefits for system designers.
Introduction to Xilinx Artix-7 FPGAs
The Artix-7 represents Xilinx’s low-cost FPGA offering within its overall product portfolio. Key aspects include:
- High density programmable logic fabric for flexible implementation of digital systems
- Integrated hardcore functional blocks – DSP slices, block RAM, transceivers
- High-performance interfacing – memory controllers, PCI Express, Ethernet
- Low power 28HPL process optimized for embedded applications
- Small form factor packaging – FPGA and SoC configurations
- Mature Vivado Design Suite for development and debug
Artix-7 devices achieve optimal balance between capabilities, power efficiency and costs for high volume embedded applications requiring programmable logic resources in the 50K to 350K logic cell range.
Artix-7 FPGA Family Overview
The Artix-7 family provides a range of devices with different sizes and capabilities to match diverse application needs:
Programmable Logic Density
- Small – Up to 75K logic cells
- Medium – 140K to 270K logic cells
- Large – Over 300K logic cells
- GTH – 3.75Gbps to 12.5Gbps
- GTX – Up to 28.05Gbps
- Up to 12.8Mb of block RAM
- Up to 3.1Gbps external DDR3 memory interfaces
- CSP – Chip scale packages for space constrained designs
- FBGA – Flip-chip fine pitch BGA packages
- SBGA – Low cost small form factor packages
Power consumption is optimized down to the 1-2W range making Artix-7 ideal for embedded applications. Larger density options integrate ample hardened blocks for interfacing, signal processing and data movement.
Artix-7 FPGA Architecture
The Artix-7 architecture is optimized to deliver cost-efficient programmable logic capability along with essential integrated peripherals.
Programmable Logic Fabric
The core of the architecture consists of flexible, high-performance programmable logic implemented using 6-input LUTs:
- The basic logic cell is a 6-input LUT which can also be fractured into two 5-input LUTs
- 4 LUTs and 8 flip-flops grouped into a slice for efficient packing
- Fast interconnect and abundant local routing for building complex datapaths
- 36Kb Block RAM for on-chip data storage
Key hardened functional blocks to accelerate system processing:
- Up to 16 GTH transceivers operating up to 12.5Gbps
- Implements protocols including PCIe, Ethernet, CPRI, USB
- Up to 400 DSP slices, each performing arithmetic operations
- Optimized for math-intensive DSP and analytics workloads
- Two 32-bit PCIe Gen2 interfaces up to 5Gbps
- DDR3/3L SDRAM controllers at up to 1866Mbps
The Artix-7 I/O capabilities support interfacing wide range of on-board peripherals and signals:
- High speed differential I/O like LVDS for sensors and video
- Single-ended standards – LVCMOS, LVTTL
- SSTL and HSTL for external memories
- Digitally adjustable I/O drive strength and slew rates
- Termination resistors for memory interfaces
Artix-7 Benefits for Hardware Designers
For embedded systems engineers, the Artix-7 architecture delivers several compelling benefits:
- 6-input LUTs reduce LUT count by 20% vs 4-input LUTs improving density
- Integrated DSP blocks, transceivers and memory accelerate processing
- 28Gbps transceivers support high-throughput serial interfacing
- Small 28nm geometry results in very low static and dynamic power
- Intelligent clock gating removes power from inactive regions
- Power optimization across device, software and PCB design
- Mature 28nm process provides cost-efficient manufacturing
- Integrated blocks reduce external logic and interface components
Ease of Use
- Vivado productivity enhancing IP and system integration tools
- MicroBlaze soft-core eases C/C++ software programming
For embedded systems with rigorous cost targets, Artix-7 enables optimized implementation of compute-intensive parallel workloads.
Artix-7 Design Methodology
Designing hardware systems using the Artix-7 FPGA involves:
- Design Creation – Developing the desired functionality using schematics, VHDL or Verilog
- Simulation – Simulating the design pre-implementation to verify correctness
- Synthesis – Synthesizing HDL code into optimized logic representations
- Implementation – Translating synthesized design into physical FPGA resources
- Verification – Ensuring functionality, timing and power goals are achieved
- Programming – Generating FPGA bitstream file to configure Artix-7 device
- Debug – On-chip logic analyzer assists in-system debug during integration
Leveraging FPGA’s reconfigurable property enables rapid design iterations to meet requirements.
Artix-7 Target Applications
The Artix-7 capabilities and cost-efficient performance targets a wide spectrum of embedded, industrial and communications applications:
- Surveillance systems
- Medical endoscopy
- Machine vision for manufacturing and inspection
- Autonomous robotics
- Industrial servo/motion control
- Motor drives
- Drone/UAV control systems
- Industrial process monitoring
- Automotive driver assistance systems
- Railway signaling systems
- Medical diagnostics
- Small cell backhaul processing
- RADAR and LiDAR signal processing
- Software defined radio
- Wireless infrastructure
- Weather monitoring
- Medical and particle physics experiments
- Satellite payloads
- Radio astronomy
For these use cases with constrained power budgets and device footprints but still requiring high throughput signal/image processing capability, Artix-7 hits the cost-performance-power sweet spot.
Artix-7 vs Kintex-7 FPGA Comparison
It is useful to contrast the Artix-7 family against Xilinx’s higher capability Kintex-7 FPGAs:
- Artix-7 offers up to 350K logic cells, while Kintex-7 goes up to 474K logic cells
- Kintex-7 provides higher routing interconnect performance
- Artix-7 supports up to 16 x 12.5Gbps transceivers
- Kintex-7 supports up to 16 x 12.5Gbps transceivers
- Both support similar DDR3 memory controllers with comparable speeds
- Artix-7 optimized for ultra low-power embedded apps
- Kintex-7 suits apps with higher power budgets
- Artix-7 offers a 40% cost reduction while sacrificing some performance
- Kintex-7 provides higher capability for cost-driven applications
For the ultimate in embedded processing capability, Kintex-7 is indicated. But for applications where ultra low cost and power are mandates, Artix-7 provides the logical solution.
By integrating high density programmable logic fabric with commonly needed functionality like DSP, transceivers and external memory interfaces, Xilinx Artix-7 FPGAs deliver optimized price/performance for embedded vision, motor control, communications and functional safety applications.
For hardware designers challenged to accomplish more with less, Artix-7 provides a compelling solution to accelerate innovation and facilitate transition from concept to deployed edge solution across diverse segments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the key characteristics of the Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA family?
A: The Artix-7 provides cost-optimized programmable logic, integrated processing blocks and high-performance I/O at very low power consumption ideal for embedded applications.
Q: What are some of the target applications for Artix-7 FPGAs?
A: Key application areas include embedded vision, motor control, functional safety systems, wireless communications and scientific research.
Q: How does Artix-7 compare to the higher capability Kintex-7 FPGAs?
A: The Kintex-7 offers 40% more programmable logic capability and higher performance but at greater cost over the Artix-7.
Q: What are the core programmable elements in the Artix-7 architecture?
A: This includes the 6-input LUT fabric, flexible I/O blocks, integrated DSP slices and block RAM, and high-speed serial transceivers.
Q: What design tools can be used to develop with Artix-7 FPGAs?
A: Xilinx’s mature Vivado Design Suite supports the full design flow from RTL design creation to bitstream generation and debug.