Altera Extends Embedded Processor Leadership with New Low-Cost Solutions

9/26/2002 - Altera continued to tear down FPGA cost barriers to high-volume applications by offering immediate Nios® embedded processor support for the new CycloneTM device family, the industry's lowest-cost FPGA. Cyclone devices embedded with the Nios soft-core processor address cost-conscious designers' need for a low-cost, configurable, embedded processor that can be targeted for a wide range of applications.

With a $4 volume price for the smallest density Cyclone device, a 32-bit Nios microprocessor and peripherals configuration consumes less than 1,400 logic elements (LEs) and delivers 50 Dhrystone MIPS (DMIPS). Consuming less than half the smallest density Cyclone device, the effective price for the Nios processor is less than $2, which is dramatically lower than any other 50 DMIPS processor. A single Cyclone device with multiple Nios embedded processors can achieve designers' goal of reducing costs without sacrificing system performance.

"The ability to deploy multiple processors on very low cost FPGAs will be useful in new applications whose workloads can be distributed across several engines," said Max Baron, principal analyst at Microprocessor Report. "Altera's Nios processor and soft DSP cores may turn out to be especially attractive because they deliver a custom solution and remain royalty free."

Additionally, Altera's powerful SOPC Builder system development tool provides an easy-to-use development environment for the creation of custom microcontroller configurations.

"The low-cost Cyclone device family has opened the doors to applications where programmable logic traditionally could not compete," said Joe Hanson, director of marketing and applications for Altera's Excalibur Business Unit. "The Nios processor fulfills the market's need for configurable, embedded processors while offering a single system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) solution. At these prices, embedded systems based on programmable logic will continue through to volume production."

Combined with the Cyclone devices' volume pricing of $4, a 32-bit Nios processor is one of the lowest-cost RISC processors available today. Nios processors are suited for a wide range of volume-driven consumer, communications, computer peripheral, automotive, and industrial applications, such as digital entertainment boxes, low-end routers and switches, industrial motor and servo controllers, and automotive telematics.

"As a cutting-edge design services provider, we have great visibility into current and prevalent design issues. We're as keenly aware of MCU end-of-life issues as we are of overall system cost. The soft-core Nios embedded processor gives us a very flexible and obsolescence-free processing solution," said Frank Berze, president of Microtronix Datacom Ltd. "Combining the Nios processor with Altera's new low-cost Cyclone device family is the best of both worlds: the flexibility of FPGAs and a low-cost solution."

Using SOPC Builder, designers can create the exact microcontroller they need customizing the Nios CPU data path and creating the peripheral set to meet unique design requirements. Systems designers fearing obsolescence also enjoy the portability of the Nios processor. Since the processor supports all of Altera's FPGAs, and will continue to support future device families, obsolescence becomes a thing of the past.

"We choose Altera's Nios processor for our new secure wireless OmniStation 802.11b for two reasons," said John Yin, chief technology officer at OmniWerks. "First and foremost, the combination of a soft-core microprocessor and SOPC Builder, along with our intellectual property (IP), lets us build custom systems that deliver unmatched ease-of-use and flexibility to our customers. Second, we are able to immediately take advantage of Altera's new device families providing ever-increasing performance and value to our customers."

Pricing and Availability
Altera's Nios Development Kit can be purchased for $995 and contains all the necessary tools to develop high-performance SOPC applications right out of the box. The Nios Development Kit is available today from Altera distributors or the Altera web site.

About the Cyclone Device Family
Cyclone devices are the industry's lowest-cost FPGAs. With densities ranging from 2,910 to 20,060 logic elements, Cyclone devices feature up to 288 Kbits of embedded memory and are based on a 1.5-V all-layer-copper SRAM process. Cyclone devices offer up to two phase-locked loops (PLLs) per device and a hierarchical clocking structure for extensive on- and off-chip clock management. Each device supports a variety of single-ended I/O standards such as LVTTL, LVCMOS, PCI, and SSTL-2/3. Cyclone devices have dedicated circuitry to interface with high-performance external single data rate (SDR) SDRAM and double data rate (DDR) SDRAM and FCRAM memory devices.

About the Nios Embedded Processor
Altera's Nios soft-core embedded processor is optimized for programmable logic and SOPC integration. One of Altera's Excalibur embedded processor solutions, the Nios core is a general-purpose RISC processor that can be combined with user logic and programmed into an Altera FPGA. The processor features a 16-bit instruction set and user-selectable 16- or 32-bit data paths, configurable for a wide range of applications. The Nios embedded processor is royalty free when used in Altera PLDs and HardCopyTM devices.

About Altera
Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) is the world's pioneer in system-on-a-programmable-chip (SOPC) solutions. Combining programmable logic technology with software tools, intellectual property, and technical services, Altera provides high-value programmable solutions to approximately 14,000 customers worldwide.

Altera, The Programmable Solutions Company, the stylized Altera logo, specific device designations and all other words that are identified as trademarks and/or service marks are, unless noted otherwise, the trademarks and service marks of Altera Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.

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