Why use FPGA instead of CPU ?

Over the last few decades, technological advances have profoundly transformed the electronics landscape. We are witnessing an unprecedented diversification of needs, ranging from simple day-to-day calculations to mission-critical applications requiring extreme performance and efficiency. In this context, choosing the right technology for each task becomes crucial.

What is an FPGA ?

An FPGA, or Field Programmable Gate Array, is a reprogrammable integrated circuit that allows engineers to configure its logic functions to specific needs after it has been manufactured. Unlike conventional ICs, which perform predetermined tasks, FPGAs offer unique flexibility by enabling hardware to be reprogrammed to perform a wide variety of functions. This is achieved by configuring programmable logic blocks and interconnects via a hardware description language (HDL). Thanks to this programmability, FPGAs can be used in a multitude of applications, from the rapid prototyping of new circuits to the acceleration of specific tasks in the fields of telecommunications, signal processing and embedded electronics.

What is a CPU ?

A CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the main component of a computer that executes program instructions by performing arithmetic, logic, control and input/output operations. Often referred to as the “brain” of the computer, the CPU processes data and controls other system components. It is made up of several units, including the control unit, the arithmetic-logic unit (ALU) and the registers, which work together to perform calculations and tasks according to program instructions. CPUs are used in a wide range of devices, from personal computers and servers to smartphones and embedded devices, thanks to their ability to handle a variety of tasks with great efficiency and flexibility.

Comparison between FPGAs and CPUs

FPGAs and CPUs have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different applications. In terms of performance, FPGAs excel at tasks requiring massive parallel processing, enabling a significant reduction in latency and an increase in bandwidth, which is crucial for applications such as signal processing and scientific computing. CPUs, on the other hand, are designed to execute instructions sequentially and are optimized for a wide range of general-purpose tasks, offering great versatility.

When it comes to flexibility, FPGAs outperform CPUs thanks to their reprogramming capability, enabling engineers to reconfigure hardware according to the specific needs of each application. This adaptability is particularly useful in environments where requirements can change rapidly. CPUs, while more rigid in terms of structure, benefit from extensive software compatibility and ease of programming, making them more accessible to developers.

In terms of energy consumption, FPGAs can be more efficient for specific tasks, as they enable architecture customization that optimizes resource use. CPUs, despite their advances in terms of energy efficiency, are often less efficient in scenarios where advanced hardware optimization is required.

Finally, in terms of cost, FPGAs may involve a higher initial investment due to their design and programming complexity, but they can offer long-term savings by eliminating the need for multiple hardware components and enabling hardware upgrades through simple reprogramming. CPUs, with their generally lower production and deployment costs, remain a cost-effective solution for large-scale, general-purpose applications.

Advantages of FPGAs over CPUs

  • Specialized performance

  • Flexibility and scalability
  • Reduced latency

  • Energy efficiency


FPGAs offer several distinct advantages over CPUs, particularly in terms of specialized performance and flexibility. Firstly, FPGAs can be optimized to perform specific tasks with far greater efficiency, thanks to their ability to exploit hardware parallelism. This translates into a significant reduction in latency and an increase in bandwidth for mission-critical applications, such as signal processing and compute-intensive computing. Secondly, the flexibility of FPGAs means that hardware can be reconfigured to meet changing needs, offering unrivalled scalability. Thirdly, FPGAs tend to be more energy-efficient for certain specialized tasks, consuming less power than CPUs while delivering high performance. Finally, in certain scenarios, FPGAs can reduce long-term costs by avoiding the need for multiple dedicated hardware components, thanks to their ability to integrate multiple functions on a single reprogrammable chip.


At reflex ces, we offer different types of FPGA-based boards, to give you optimum performance and unrivalled flexibility.

Our boards can be based on AMD or Altera® FPGAs. Take, for example, our latest Ares module based on an altera® Agilex™ 7 F-Series SoC FPGA, our Zeus module based on an AMD Zynq® Ultrascale+™ MPSoC FPGA, or one of our PCIe boards based on a altera® Stratix® 10 GX FPGA, such as the XpressGX S10-FH800G.

Our engineers, specialized in FPGA and PCIe board design, bring in-depth expertise and extensive experience to the development of innovative hardware solutions. Each member of our technical team has in-depth knowledge of the latest FPGA technologies and best practices in embedded system design. Their technical competence ensures that our products are not only state-of-the-art, but also optimized for maximum performance and outstanding reliability.
What’s more, our team is dedicated to providing first-rate customer support, accompanying you at every stage of your project, from initial design to implementation and beyond.



In conclusion, the choice between using an FPGA and a CPU depends closely on the specific needs of each project. While CPUs offer versatility for a wide range of applications, FPGAs stand out for their ability to deliver specialized performance, flexibility and energy efficiency in targeted areas. It is essential for engineering professionals to understand the fundamental differences between these two technologies, and to carefully assess their project requirements before making a decision. We therefore urge readers to consider the specifics of their projects, explore the advantages and disadvantages of each technology, and consider collaborating with experts like our team to make the most of FPGA or CPU solutions for their unique needs. By investing thoughtfully in the right technology, you can ensure the long-term success and efficiency of your projects.

Newsletter - Keep me informed

If you want to know more about reflex ces, sign up for our newsletter to be updated on our initiatives, sectorial news and upcoming events.