Tutorial - What is a Testbench

How Testbenches are used to simulate your Verilog and VHDL designs

Testbenches are pieces of code that are used during FPGA or ASIC simulation. Simulation is a critical step when designing your code! Simulation allows you the ability to look at your FPGA or ASIC design and ensure that it does what you expect it to. A testbench provides the stimulus that drives the simulation.

Some digital designers might feel that a testbench is not required, but I disagree. You should always (especially as a beginner!) be simulating your designs to make sure they work correctly before you synthesize them and program your FPGA. And if you're building an ASIC, you most likely have a team of verification engineers that are hard at work writing many many testbenches. The reason for this is that it is much easier to find your bugs in simulation than it is on the real hardware.

A simple testbench will instantiate the Unit Under Test (UUT) and drive the inputs. You should attempt to create all possible input conditions to check every corner case of your project. A good testbench should be self-checking. A self-checking testbench is one that can generate inputs and automatically compare actual outputs to expected outputs. Most of the examples on this website just have simple testbenches to show how the design works.

A Testbench and a Unit Under Test

The above below shows a block diagram of a simple testbench. The testbench wraps up the UUT, provides it inputs, and checks its outputs.

Writing good testbenches is fundamentally important to designing good FPGA code. When planning your project, don't forget to plan to create your testbench simulations!