Altera vs Xilinx.

I guess I am probably pushing the limits of this forum, but I like getting the straight dope from you guys. FPGAs seem like a very interesting subject. I see there are some very cheap kits out there for anyone who wants to experiment with FPGA programming:


$300 if you email them a 7 year old student ID you used to attend a course at a community college. A current one at MIT probably works just as well. A nice kit.

It seems like for the hobbiest and student market Altera is the leader But I know that Xilinx is the overall leader and the inventor of the FPGA. What differentiates the product offerings of these two companies? Why is Xilinx so huge and Altera second fiddle? At first glance, Altera's product line looks every bit as good as Xilinx, maybe just not at the top top end, but those FPGAs cost more than a new car so how many of them are being sold?


If you're just starting out, go for the cheaper option. It'll be quite some time until you out-grow it and by then you'll be able to justify the cost of the big daddy kits.

I know it's not quite the same thing (although I think the same rules apply!), when I wanted to get started with microcontrollers, I nearly went straight ahead and bought the STK500 and all the crap to go with it. But that was quite a lot of cash. So I thought "hang on... there's a good chance I might suck so bad at this I'll get bored and pissed off and never use it again"... so I got a £20 arduino board instead ;)

You'll be learning the same principles on the cheaper kit anyway!

The DE2 has a lot of interface connectors on it. That’s the one we use in our advanced logic course (sr level computer engineering).

A buddy got a basic board from Digilent. I think they provide educational discounts, too.

Whatever you get, make sure you can get tools to take advantage of it. Frequently the free version of the tools will only synthesize smaller designs, so even though your device is pretty large (lots of gates) you can’t take full advantage of it without paying for software.