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Advantages of Fixed-Point Numbers on Hardware

Last Modified: April 16, 2015

Fixed-point numbers help control resource expense on hardware by eliminating the logic requirements for dynamic range shifts inherent in floating-point operations.

Many FPGAs either do not support floating-point arithmetic or cannot process floating-point operations efficiently. Without a dedicated Floating-Point Unit (FPU), floating-point arithmetic requires significant logic resources on hardware, increases the number of clock-cycles required per operation, and reduces the processing efficiency of the device.

Fixed-point numbers provide the following advantages:

  • No need for logic to support dynamic shifts—Floating-point operations require a dynamic shift, or float, of the exponent used to scale the significand, or base number, at run time. With fixed-point numbers, the exponent value is defined by the fixed-point data type, and is not computed at run time. Although fixed-point numbers have a more limited range than floating-point numbers with an equivalent number of bits, fixed-point numbers eliminate the need for the hardware logic to calculate and perform dynamic shifts.
  • Greater control of FPGA resource costs—The fixed-point data type allows you to exercise greater control of FPGA resources by specifying non-standard bit sizes and coercion options that can conserve memory and logic resources. By specifying the word lengths and coercion behaviors for all terminals and operators in code designed to run on hardware, you optimize the performance of your device or system.

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