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This paper presents a high throughput and low cost architecture for motion estimation using a sub-sampled diamond search algorithm (SDS). The quality of SDS was compared with full search through software implementations and the results are presented. The designed hardware considered a search area of 100times100 samples, with blocks of 16times16 pixels. The architecture was described in VHDL and mapped to a Xilinx Virtex-4 FPGA. Synthesis results indicate that SDS is able to run at 185.7 MHz, using only 3541 LUTs. This architecture can reach real time for HDTV (1920times1080 pixels) in the worst case, and it can process 120 HDTV frames per second in the average case.