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Virtex (FPGA)

Virtex is the flagship family of FPGA products developed by Xilinx. Other current product lines include Kintex (mid-range) and Artix (low-cost), each including configurations and models optimized for different applications.[1] The Spartan low-cost series is being retired.[2][3]

Virtex FPGAs are typically programmed in hardware description languages such as VHDL or Verilog, using the Xilinx ISE or Vivado Design Suite computer software.[4]

Xilinx FPGA products have been recognized by EE Times, EDN and others for innovation and market impact.[5][6][7]


The Virtex series of FPGAs are based on Configurable Logic Blocks (CLBs), where each CLB is equivalent to multiple ASIC gates.[8][9] Each CLB is composed of multiple slices, that differ in construction between Virtex families.[9]

Virtex FPGAs include an I/O Block for controlling input/output pins on the Virtex chip, that support a variety of signalling standards.[10] All pins default to "input" mode (high impedance). I/O pins are grouped into I/O Banks, where each Bank can support a different voltage.[10]

In addition to configurable FPGA logic, Virtex FPGAs include fixed-function hardware for multipliers, memories, microprocessor cores, FIFO and ECC logic, DSP blocks, PCI Express controllers, Ethernet MAC blocks, and high-speed serial transceivers.[11][12]

Some Virtex family members (such as the Virtex-5QX) are available in radiation-hardened packages, for outer-space applications.[13]



The Virtex-II and Virtex-II Pro families are considered legacy devices, and are not recommended for use in new designs, although they are still produced by Xilinx for existing designs.


The Virtex-4 family are considered legacy devices, and are not recommended for use in new designs, although they are still produced by Xilinx for existing designs.

Virtex-4 FPGAs have been used for the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) at the CERN European laboratory on the French-Swiss border to map and disentangle the trajectories of thousands of subatomic particles.[14]


The Virtex-5 LX and the LXT are intended for logic-intensive applications, and the Virtex-5 SXT is for DSP applications.[15] With the Virtex-5, Xilinx changed the logic fabric from four-input LUTs to six-input LUTs. With the increasing complexity of combinational logic shata functions required by SoC tunne designs, the percentage of combinational paths requiring multiple four-input LUTs had become a performance and routing bottleneck. The new six-input LUT represented a tradeoff between better handling of increasingly complex combinational functions, at the expense of a reduction in the absolute number of LUTs per device. The Virtex-5 series is a 65 nm design fabricated in 1.0 V, triple-oxide process technology.[16]


The Virtex-6 family is built on a 40 nm process for compute-intensive electronic systems, and the company claims it consumes 15 percent less power and has 15 percent improved performance over competing 40 nm FPGAs.[17]


The Virtex-7 family is based on a 28 nm design and is reported to deliver a two-fold system performance improvement at 50 percent lower power compared to previous generation Virtex-6 devices. In addition, Virtex-7 doubles the memory bandwidth compared to previous generation Virtex FPGAs with 1866 Mbit/s memory interfacing performance and over two million logic cells.[2][3]

Virtex-7 (3D)

In 2011, Xilinx began shipping sample quantities of the Virtex-7 2000T FPGA, which combines four smaller FPGAs into a single package by placing them on a special silicon interconnection pad (called an interposer) to deliver 6.8 billion transistors in a single large chip. The interposer provides 10,000 data pathways between the individual FPGAs – roughly 10 to 100 times more than would usually be available on a board – to create a single FPGA.[18][19][20] In 2012, using the same 3D technology, Xilinx introduced initial shipments of their Virtex-7 H580T FPGA, a heterogeneous device, so called because it comprises two FPGA dies and one 8-channel 28Gbit/s transceiver die in the same package.[21]

As Xilinx introduced new high capacity 3D FPGAs, including Virtex-7 2000T and Virtex-7 H580T products, these devices began to outpace the capacity of Xilinx’s design software, which led the company to completely redesign its tool set. The result was the introduction of the Vivado Design Suite, which reduces the time needed for programmable logic and I/O design, and speeds systems integration and implementation compared to the previous software.[4][22]

Virtex UltraScale

The Virtex UltraScale is a next-generation FPGA architecture built on a 20 nm process, introduced in May, 2014.[23] The UltraScale is a "3D FPGA" that contains up to 4.4M logic cells, and uses u pto 45% lower power vs. previous generations, and up to 50% lower BOM cost.[24]


The Virtex-II Pro, Virtex-4, Virtex-5, and Virtex-6 FPGA families, which include up to two embedded IBM PowerPC cores, are targeted to the needs of system-on-chip (SoC) designers.[25][26][27]


  1. ^ Xilinx FPGA Products.” April 2010. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  2. ^ a b EE Times. “Xilinx to offer three classes of FPGAs at 28-nm.” June 21, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Kevin Morris, FPGA Journal. “Veni! Vidi! Virtex! (and Kintex and Artix Too).” June 21, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Brian Bailey, EE Times. "Second generation for FPGA software." Apr 25, 2012. Retrieved Dec 21, 2012.
  5. ^ EE Times, “EE Times 2010 ACE Award for Design Innovation.” April 27, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  6. ^ EDN, “EDN Hot 100 Products of 2007: Digital, Memory and Programmable ICs.” December 14, 2007. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  7. ^ EDN, “The Hot 100 Electronic Products of 2009.” December 15, 2009. Retrieved June 15, 2010.
  8. ^ Field Programmable Logic and Applications, Springer Science & Business Media, 21-Aug-2002
  9. ^ a b Handbook of Signal Processing Systems - Volume 2, Springer Science & Business Media, 20-Jun-2013
  10. ^ a b Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems, Springer Science & Business Media, 02-Sep-2003
  11. ^ Ron Wilson, EDN. "Xilinx FPGA introductions hint at new realities." February 2, 2009 Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  12. ^ Design & Reuse. "New Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA Family Designed to Satisfy Insatiable Demand for Higher Bandwidth and Lower Power Systems." February 2, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  13. ^ Don Clark, Wall Street Journal. "Xilinx Say New Chips Adept at Surviving Space Radiation." July 19, 2010. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
  14. ^ Xcell Journal, "CERN Scientists Use Virtex-4 FPGAs for Big Bang Research." July 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  15. ^ DSP DesignLine. "Analysis: Xilinx debuts Virtex-5 FXT, expands SXT." June 13, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  16. ^ National Instruments. "Advantages of the Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA." June 17, 2009. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
  17. ^ Company Release. "New Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA Family Designed to Satisfy Insatiable Demand for Higher Bandwidth and Lower Power Systems." February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
  18. ^ Don Clark, The Wall Street Journal. "Xilinx Says Four Chips Act Like One Giant." October 25, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  19. ^ Clive Maxfield, EETimes. "Xilinx tips world’s highest capacity FPGA." October 25, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  20. ^ David Manners, Electronics Weekly. "Xilinx launches 20m ASIC gate stacked silicon FPGA." October 25, 2011. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  21. ^ Electronic Product News. "Interview with Moshe Gavrielov, president, CEO, Xilinx." May 15, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
  22. ^ EDN. "The Vivado Design Suite accelerates programmable systems integration and implementation by up to 4X." Jun 15, 2012. Retrieved Jan 3, 2013.
  23. ^ [1]
  24. ^ Virtex UltraScale, Xilinx
  25. ^ Virtex-II Pro Datasheet
  26. ^ Virtex-4 Family Overview
  27. ^ Richard Wilson,, "Xilinx repositions FPGAs with SoC move." February 2, 2009. Retrieved on February 2, 2009.

See also