Actel Optimizes ARM Cortex-M1 Processor Core for IGLOO FPGAs

Enabling system designers to dramatically extend the battery life of their handheld and portable designs, Actel Corporation announced it has optimized the ARM(R) Cortex(TM)-M1 processor core for its IGLOO family of field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). The combination of the industry’s lowest power FPGA family, with a pervasive, industry-standard 32-bit ARM processor specifically designed for use in FPGAs, gives designers the ideal, low-power integrated platform for rapidly deploying portable products. Furthermore, as the only FPGA supplier to offer the industry-standard processor free-of-charge to customers, Actel enables designers to cost-effectively leverage the large installed base of software and design tools available for the ARM architecture, reducing their time-to-market and development costs.

Attractive for portable applications with 5 µW static power, IGLOO FPGAs consume more than 200x less static power than competitive FPGA offerings and deliver more than 10x the battery life of the current leading PLDs in portable applications. In an IGLOO FPGA, the Cortex-M1 core features very low operating current and static power, consuming only 24 µA in static mode and 3 µA in sleep mode. The innovative IGLOO Flash*Freeze mode, which enables easy entry and exit from ultra-low power modes while retaining SRAM and register data, reduces quiescent current to 20 µA. The Flash*Freeze feature also allows instant on/off cycling of the Cortex-M1 core for maximum performance and minimum power consumption.

“With tight power budgets, short product lifecycles and evolving standards, designers of portable, battery-operated applications require semiconductor solutions with low power operation and optimization modes, as well as a small footprint, low cost and flexibility. As the leading 32-bit processor supplier to the portable market, ARM is the ideal processor to utilize with our low-power IGLOO FPGA devices for this market,” said Rich Brossart, vice president of product marketing at Actel. “The M1-enabled IGLOO solution delivers an unprecedented combination of low power, small size and flexibility to significantly extend battery life in sophisticated, feature-rich portable devices.”

Until now, a majority of portable designers have implemented their devices using a microcontroller in conjunction with a programmable logic device. They have used the microcontroller to implement the necessary processing, and have programmed the FPGA with additional application-specific features and functions not supported by the microcontroller. The combination of the ARM Cortex-M1 processor with IGLOO provides a single-chip solution that reduces cost, power, board space and design complexity. Furthermore, because Actel FPGAs are virtually immune to tampering, designers have the peace-of-mind that their valuable IP will not be compromised or copied.

“By porting the ARM Cortex-M1 processor to the lower power IGLOO family, ARM and Actel are pitching FPGAs as practical solutions for battery-powered mobile systems,” said Tom R. Halfhill, senior analyst for In-Stat’s Microprocessor Report. “A big advantage of ARM’s partnership with Actel is that customers needn’t license the Cortex-M1 from ARM, pay upfront licensing fees, or pay chip royalties. Instead, customers get a black-box implementation of the Cortex-M1, ready for deployment, which can easily slash 18 to 24 months off a project schedule and save hundreds of thousands of dollars, compared with developing an ASIC.”

Actel’s M1-enabled IGLOO FPGAs
The Cortex-M1 processor is initially available for use in Actel’s 600,000-gate IGLOO device, the M1AGL600. Featuring 32-bit performance and consuming just 33 percent of available chip real estate on the device, the processor provides a good balance between size and speed, while also offering ample space for customization.

With 5 µW static power, IGLOO FPGAs are the lowest power FPGAs on the market. These solutions consume upwards of 200x less static power than competitive FPGA offerings and deliver more than 10x the battery life of the current leading PLDs in portable applications. Offering both 1.2- and 1.5V operation, IGLOO FPGAs enable dynamic power to be reduced by 35 percent in 1.2V operation.

Comprehensive Tool Support
The Cortex-M1 processor is supported by the comprehensive tools and knowledge that exists for the ARM architecture, far surpassing the level of support offered for proprietary processors. Actel supports the Cortex-M1 processor with its CoreConsole IP Deployment Platform, its SoftConsole program development environment, and Actel Libero Integrated Design Environment—all available for free download from Actel’s Web site. Third-party vendors, such as Aldec, CriticalBlue, CodeSourcery, IAR, ImpulseC, Keil and Micrium, also support the processor with a host of tools—from compilers and debuggers to RTOS support.

Pricing and Availability
The M1AGL600 is available now with additional family members slated for 2008. Pricing starts at $3.70 for an M1 IGLOO device in volume.

About Actel
Attacking power consumption from both the chip and the system levels, Actel Corporation’s innovative FPGAs and programmable system chip solutions enable power-efficient design. The company is traded on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol ACTL and is headquartered at 2061 Stierlin Court, Mountain View, Calif., 94043-4655.

The Actel, Actel Fusion and Actel IGLOO names and logos are trademarks of Actel Corporation. ARM is a registered trademark of ARM Limited. “ARM” is used to represent ARM Holdings plc; its operating company ARM Limited; and the regional subsidiaries ARM INC.; ARM KK; ARM Korea Ltd.; ARM Taiwan; ARM France SAS; ARM Consulting (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.; ARM Belgium N.V.; AXYS Design Automation Inc.; AXYS GmbH; ARM Embedded Technologies Pvt. Ltd.; and ARM Physical IP, Inc.