CPU vs DSP vs FPGA: Main differences between them

What is CPU?

The CPU, or central processor, is made up of two primary components: the controller and the operator. It also comprises cache memory and the way the link between them is implemented, as well as data and bus control. The central processing unit (CPU), internal memory, and input/output devices are the three main parts of a computer. The primary functions of the central processing unit are data processing, time control, operation execution, and instruction processing.

What is a Digital Signal Processor (DSP)?

Digital signal processor, or DSP for short, is also known as digital signal processing.The theory and practice of signal processing by numerical calculation is known as DSP. DSP also stands for Digital Signal Processor, a coin-sized semiconductor that incorporates a small, dedicated computer.

What is FPGA?

FPGA boards, are used in programmable devices such as CPLDs, GALs, PALs, and others based on the need to further develop the product. In the realm of semi-custom circuits, it is known as a special-purpose integrated circuit (ASIC) and was introduced to address the drawbacks of both custom circuits and the original programmable device gate number limitation.

Designed around a matrix of programmable logic blocks (CLBs) connected by programmable interconnects, FPGA devices are electronic devices. FPGA devices have memory and logic that may be configured. Any number of applications can be configured and supported by a generic FPGA as needed. Because FPGA designs are modular, the end-user can create a wide range of hardware designs to make sure the FPGA is compatible with specific systems. The end-user or programmer can utilize hardware description languages such as SystemC, VHDL, and Verilog HDL to implement the hardware design.

CPU vs DSP vs FPGA Features

CPU Features

  • Data that has been retrieved from main memory is transferred to the CPU via the small cache of the processor.
  • Many cores are present in modern CPU designs. These cores consist of cache memory and are independent of one another.
  • The speed of the CPU is frequently stated in GHz or MHz. A higher frequency processor can accomplish a task more quickly.
  • There are two logical cores in the physical unit that run in parallel. The entire process speeds up as the number of cores increases.
  • The bandwidth of multi-core CPUs is greater than that of single-core CPUs.

DSP Features

  • Digital signal processors are primarily designed to make repetitive and computationally intensive activities easier.
  • Most digital signal processors are capable of swiftly transferring enormous amounts of data to memory and have robust data routes.
  • In order to increase hardware effectiveness, these processors provide unique instruction sets.
  • Two essential features of digital signal processors are fast multiply-accumulate units and a data pipeline with multiple-access memory architectures.
  • Using pipelines usually improves the performance of the processor. when a result, pipelining is currently utilized by most processors; yet, pipelining will significantly increase programming difficulty when performance is increased.

FPGA Features

  • Really intricate.
  • Cheap as hell.
  • Increased incorporation
  • Do not deal with ASICs.
  • It’s a real-time, online test.
  • There is a RAM block on several FPGAs.
  • dependable and densely packed
  • The FPGA’s modest physical size and PLD can work together.
  • Programming is also extremely flexible.

Pros and cons of CPU, DSP and FPGA

Pros and cons of CPU

Pros of CPU

  • The central processing unit (CPU) is a computer’s brain and heart.
  • It slides neatly into the motherboard’s slot and is small.
  • It handles mathematical and business data faster.

Cons of CPU

  • Inadequate parallel processing that makes it impossible to do large workloads requiring millions of similar activities.
  • CPU technology is also progressing slowly.
  • It is incompatible with certain systems and software; for instance, software made for an x86 Intel processor cannot be run on an ARM CPU.

Pros andcons of DSP

Pros of DSP

  • It is possible to cascade digital systems with DSP without running into loading problems.
  • Digital circuits may be swiftly and affordably duplicated in large quantities in this fashion.
  • Component value tolerances are less of a problem for digital circuits.
  • Digital signals can be transferred conveniently since they can be processed offline.
  • The activities involved in digital signal processing can be changed by updating the software of a digital programmable system.
  • With digital systems, accuracy control is simpler than with analog systems.
  • Complex signal processing algorithms can be constructed with DSP technology.
  • Digital signals can be stored on magnetic medium, like magnetic tape, with ease and without compromising the signal’s reproduction quality.

Cons of DSP

  • Because DSP needs an anti-aliasing filter before the ADC and a reconstruction filter after the DAC, it needs ADC and DAC modules.
  • Because DSP processes signals faster and has more internal hardware resources overall, it uses more power than ASP.
  • Because DSP chips are very costly, it’s critical to select the appropriate integrated circuits for the task.
  • DSP requires additional capacity to deliver the same data as ASP.
  • It is possible to decrease the amount of data even if it is also possible to raise the bit rate past a certain threshold. Every DSP has a different set of software instructions and hardware architecture, requiring specialized understanding in DSP programming. Therefore, only highly skilled engineers are able to work on the equipment.

Pros and cons of FPGA

Pros of FPGA

  • Non Recurring Expenses (NRE): NREs are sometimes associated with ASIC designs; however, in this case, there are none. FPGA is lacking this. FPGA tools are inexpensive.
  • A simpler design process: This is because the majority of the routing, placement, and timing is handled by software. Less manual labor is required.The FPGA design process does away with the complex and time-consuming location and route, timing analysis, and floorplanning.
  • Improved predictability of the project cycle: The FPGA design flow eliminates potential re-spins, wafer capacities, etc. of the project because the design logic is already developed and verified in the FPGA device.
  • Field reprogramability: Your software can be uploaded instantly over a remote connection in a new bitstream. ASICs can be as expensive as $50,000 and require four to six weeks to perform the same alterations that an FPGA can complete in a few minutes. FPGA costs can range from a few dollars to many hundreds of dollars or more, depending on the hardware specs.
  • Reusability: The ability to reuse FPGA is one of its main advantages. Before the design is executed on an ASIC, it can be built as a prototype on an FPGA and verified for almost exact results. Should a design error arise, adjust the HDL code, generate a bit stream, program the FPGA, and conduct an additional test.It is possible to dynamically and partially reprogram modern FPGAs.

Cons of FPGA

  • The FPGA uses more electricity. You have no control over power optimization.
  • Utilizing the FPGA’s resources is required. Thus, the design size is limited by FPGA.
  • Suitable for modest production volumes. As supply increases, the cost per product increases in contrast to ASIC implementation.


Three branches were established by the CPU (Central Processing Unit): MCU (Micro Control Unit), MPU (Micro Processor Unit), and DSP (Digital Signal Processing/Processor).

MCUs are primarily designed using the von Neumann architecture, which outlines the four fundamental components required for an embedded system: an integrated circuit chip that houses the central processor core, read-only or flash program memory, random data memory, one or more timers or counters, input/output ports for peripheral device communication, and expansion resources. Early MCUs used the CISC instruction set, which was later superseded by RISC. MCUs are widely used and cover 4-bit, 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit bus bits.

DSP: Pipelining technology and the Harvard structure are both used structurally. Additionally, when used in a host environment, DSP can function as a direct memory access device. It can also support certain parallel processing by obtaining data from an analogue-to-digital converter (ADC), with a digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) converting the final output of data to an analog signal.

FPGA: FPGA uses the innovative Logic Cell Array LCA (LogicCellArray) idea. Its core components are the Output Input Module (IOB) (InputOutputBlock), the Configurable Logic Block CLB (ConfigurableLogicBlock), and the core Connection (Interconnect). three sections. To create their own logic, users can reorganize the FPGA’s logic and I/O modules. It also features dynamic system reconfiguration capabilities and static repeatable programming, allowing hardware functions to be changed by programming much like software.The primary way that FPGA differs from DSP, ARM, and MCU is in its ability to process data in parallel. Its robust parallelism allows sophisticated computation to occur much faster than with other processors.

About The Author

Ibrar Ayyub

I am an experienced technical writer holding a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan, Pakistan University. With a background spanning various industries, particularly in home automation and engineering, I have honed my skills in crafting clear and concise content. Proficient in leveraging infographics and diagrams, I strive to simplify complex concepts for readers. My strength lies in thorough research and presenting information in a structured and logical format.

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