One of the most important product development decisions facing SOC designers today is choosing an intellectual property (IP) core. It can impact product performance and quality, as well as time-to-market and profitability. But SOC designers face many challenges when choosing a core. Determining which core is most appropriate for a given SOC requires careful consideration. Decisions must be made about the type of core (soft vs. hard), the quality of the deliverables, and the reliability and commitment of the IP provider. This paper discusses each of these areas and offers guidance on how best to evaluate the features of competing IP cores.