I dont like FPGA’s either they are messy and dont have the time to learn them inside out, let alone how they work with ethernet.
Maybe you don’t have time now, but maybe in the future you will?
Think of an FPGA as an IC that you can make into anything you want, via a collection of “unwired” logic gates and other on-board “components” (memory cells and the like), which (via a compiled language) can be “assembled” into an internal circuit (which can be nearly anything - even a CPU!). Its kinda like having a huge collection of 74xx logic, and a huge breadboard, and being able to build whatever you like, within the limits imposed by the onboard “components” of the FPGA, and the FPGA programming language.
Most electronics hobbyists, I would surmise, never have the need to deal with programming a custom FPGA. You should keep it in mind, though, as an option - just in case you run into a situation where you say to yourself “I wish I could buy this particular device” - and you look around, and you can’t find it, and no one can tell you differently (or someone says “they don’t make such a thing”); you would at least know then that “Ok - so I can’t buy it? I’ll build it!”. If you manage to create a unique and useful enough device - you might even be able to get it manufactured (as in “real silicon”).
FPGAs are how (from my understanding) modern IC designs are prototyped, one level down from real silicon. It used to be, in the “bad ole days”, you had to commit your designs to actual masks, and build real silicon - which with a mistake was a real expensive proposition. IC’s were also designed using breadboards or wire-wrapped boards, using other ICs as “functional blocks” (logic ICs, but also PAL and GAL chips) - then when it was ready, these blocks were reproduced via computer (or sometimes “paper” or transparencies) for the photo-litho process to make real silicon; once again, if something wasn’t right, it got expensive quick.
Nowadays - with FPGAs and other GEDA tools available - you have the rise of “virtual fabs” - companies that create new ICs and other devices, but they don’t have an actual fab behind them; they instead ship off the virtual designs to other companies who do have fabs to “print them a run of chips” (in fact, I think Atmel does this - if you have the device design files and a fair amount of money and a large order, they’ll run them off for you).
So - if you ever think you have a need for a custom design IC; knowing that an FPGA is a possibility is at least something handy to have in your toolbox…