What’s the Difference Between UART and FPGA Programming?

Interacting with the real world is the most important element of any digital system. And this is possible through programming with the interface. In this article, you will learn about two common programming interfaces — UART and FPGA programming.

UART Programming: An Overview

UART programming controls the interface of the computer attached to serial devices. An acronym of Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter, UART programming specifies instructions that allow communication or exchange of data between RS- RS-232C Data Terminal Equipment (DTE ) interface and devices such as modems, GPS units, and Bluetooth modules.

Register listings are used to program the hardware. The programming involves uses addresses of registers. Registers are written to the base address of the chip. The addresses are used to instruct the chip to perform certain actions.

About FPGA Programming

FPGA is an acronym for field-programming gate array (FPGA). FPGA programming involves configuration of an integrated circuit. The programming is done by the user after the circuits are manufactured hence the term field programming.

A device that can be programmed through FPGA programming is known as ‘Field Programmable’. They are based on the configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected through configurable logic blocks (CLBs).

Some of the benefits of this type of programming for embedded circuits include the following.

  • Low power consumption
  • High degree of parallelism
  • Input/output programming
  • Higher Computational throughput as compared to digital signal processing (DSP)
  • Reduced costs as FPGA can be modified according to specific demand

In FPGA programming, a large array of ‘gates’ of a circuit are configured. The gates can be connected arbitrarily by the user and configured any time. FPGA programming can be used to control high-speed communication interfaces, memory controllers, PCIe points and more.

FPGA programmable devices that have the characteristics of Programmable Array Logic (PAL) and Complex programmable logic device (CPLD). But they are generally smaller in size.

Programming FPGA devices require designing using methods such as Hardware Description Language (HDL). Schematics can also be used for the design, but it is not widely used.

The design is synthesized to create an output file that can be understood by the devices. This synthesis is generally carried out using vendor configuration tools such as Numato Lab and Vivado. A proper sequence should be designed for the design, synthesis, and programming of the FPGA programmable device. The programming is carried out using the following four key components.

  • A text editor such as Notepad
  • Xilinx Webpack
  • A quality FPGA programming solution
  • Elbert V2 or Mimas V2 Configuration Software.


From the above discussion, you should now have realized that UART and FPGA programming have completely different usages. UART programming is used to control interfaces through manipulating hardware registers. On the other hand, FPGA programming involves using a host of tools to control FPGA programmable devices. The devices programmed through FPGA programming solution are generally small in size. They are programmed by the vendor or the end user after the device is manufactured.