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Offline avocado

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FPGA Board suggestion
« on: August 16, 2017, 04:11:07 AM »
Hi..,

I am planning to buy an FPGA board for personal usage.
The budget is below 80EUR. well, the lower the better.  ;)
I am waiting for the confirmation for the university pricing program.
If I am granted, I planning to purchase one of these:

1. Basys3-Artix-7-FPGA-Board
2. DE10-Nano Kit
3. DE0-Nano Development and Education Board

Is there any other suggestion besides those boards?
I am open to any other suggestion including boards from Aliexpress just in case I am not granted the university pricing program or need to wait sometimes until my instructor's approval.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 05:16:42 AM by avocado »
 

Offline Scrts

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2017, 04:51:52 AM »
I think DE10 is significantly better option than the other two. The 110kLE FPGA is really big, plus the HPS system and all that memory - that's a good deal.
 

Online rstofer

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 07:46:13 AM »
The Basys 3 board IS a Digilent board.
The student price is a heck of a lot less than I paid!
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 08:07:00 AM »
stay away, all shit there, high probability to have money wasted.
What's wrong with those boards? The Cylcone board I got from Ebay does what it should do.
 

Online nctnico

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2017, 08:16:18 AM »
I'd look at a board which has some buttons and LEDs on board so you can at least do some testing without needing to hook-up extra hardware. A button debouncer will be the first design challenge though.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2017, 08:31:40 AM »
I would say with an ARM hard core processor system it will pack more fun for the buck. Maybe consider DE0-nano-SoC or DE10-nano? If you are a Xilinx guy, consider Trenz Zynq Arduino or Trenz Zynq RPi.
The Terasic DE0-nano-SoC is $99 ($90 for academic), and the DE10-nano is $130 ($99 for academic), while the Trenz boards are available in different RAM configurations, from 69 euro to 99 euro.
I don't have any experience with Zynq, so I can't comment on them. My experience with Vivado is that it's not that beginner friendly compared with Quartus Prime, but I may be biased since I use Quartus since I first touch FPGA.
Talking about Qsys (SoC tool for Quartus), I find it easy to use. I learned how to interface my IP core to ARM Linux shared memory in less than a night from YouTube.
SIGSEGV is inevitable if you try to talk more than you know. If I say gibberish, keep in mind that my license plate is SIGSEGV.
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2017, 08:32:44 AM »
I'd look at a board which has some buttons and LEDs on board so you can at least do some testing without needing to hook-up extra hardware. A button debouncer will be the first design challenge though.
Indeed. I cheaped out and got a basic board because, well, it was cheap. Even though hooking up other hardware is not complicated, I quickly started regretting not spending a little bit more. There is just a lot more to go wrong and it'll bite you when you least expect it.
 
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Online rstofer

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2017, 12:18:39 PM »
That Basys3 Artux 7 board is Digilent's lower end student board. $149
The Nexys4_DDR is the higher end student board.$320
The ARTY is the budget starter board. $99

Both the Nexys and ARTY can do the Ethernet Echo Server example - look for the Resource link on the product page..  All use the Artix 7 chip but the Nexys 4 uses a larger chip.

The ARTY has IO headers that will interoperate with Arduino Shields (I wouldn't count on all the Shields being useful).

Get enough computer horsepower and Vivado isn't too bad!  The same computer makes ISE fly!

iI have the ARTY and the NEXYS4 DDR along with the Basys 2 and a bunch of Spartan 3 and 3E boards

Digilent provides a component for the NEXYS4 DDR that drives the DDR memory and provides an SRAM style interface.  That takes away most of the complication of using DDR.

 

Offline brucehoult

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2017, 06:35:21 PM »
That Basys3 Artux 7 board is Digilent's lower end student board. $149
The Nexys4_DDR is the higher end student board.$320
The ARTY is the budget starter board. $99

I was recently faced with the same choice.

I also don't know what I might or might not want to do with a board yet. lol. I nearly got the Arty but upsold myself to the newer Arty Z7-20, which is twice the price but has 2.5x more LUTs and also an ARM processor embedded in the FPGA.
 

Offline Aodhan145

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2017, 07:26:52 PM »
I have never used an FPGA board before but I am planning to soon.
https://www.scarabhardware.com/product/minispartan6-with-spartan-6-lx-25/
I thought this board was interesting, it has some nice features
  • An 8-channel analog to digital converter running at 1 MSPS with 12 bit resolution
  • Memory: 32MB of SDRAM, 64Mbit of SPI Flash and a microSD card interface
  • Two on-board HDMI ports
  • Full Speed USB 480Mbps

I haven't seen many boards at that price point coming close to that, ofcourse I can imagine HDMI is not an easy thing to do but even if you leave that for a while until you are confident the board still has loads of potential at $105.00.

Does anybody with real FPGA experience have any opinions on this board? I was also thinking of buying it my self.
 

Offline hamster_nz

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2017, 08:26:20 PM »
Does anybody with real FPGA experience have any opinions on this board? I was also thinking of buying it my self.
I helped them out with their Kickstarter, and have a 720p pass-through project http://hamsterworks.co.nz/mediawiki/index.php/MiniSpartan6%2B_DVID_Logo
- Nice tiny size.
- Header layout are annoying - you can't breadboard with them.
- USB interface is nice - can run at 60MB/s in FIFO mode, 400x the bandwidth of serial at 115200.
- ADC more useful than XADC on 7-series (or at least I think it is).
- HDMI In/Out is nice, but the LX9 FPGA is too small much video processing
- HDMI Can't handle pixel clocks needed for 1080p/50 or 1080p/60 (limitation of FPGA)
- DIP switches are almost usable.
- Audio is quite a nice feature to have
- Uses older ISE tool set - but still perfectly functional though.

When I was actively using it, programming required a command-line tool -  see http://hamsterworks.co.nz/mediawiki/index.php/MiniSpartan6%2B_bringup

All in all, a great board if you are happy building your own custom add-ons for any additional I/O (e.g. buttons and switches)

PS. DVI-D / HDMI isn't that hard to get started with. I've done some of the leg-work for you at http://hamsterworks.co.nz/mediawiki/index.php/Minimal_DVI-D
 

Online rstofer

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2017, 11:54:37 PM »
Mentioned just above - programming...

On the more modern boards there will be some kind of USB interface for programming.  This may be an FTDI chip or one of the Cypress FX2 devices.  What is nice to avoid is a board that only has a JTAG header and requires an external programmer.

It's even better if there is integration between the programmer and the IDE.  In some cases, back in the ISE days, I would have to use Digilent's Adept tool to do the actual programming because ISE simply couldn't connect to the programming gadget.  There is now a driver but I haven't tried it.

When you get to using the Xilinx SDK, it's helpful if the USB gadget can work as the programmer/debugger.  I haven't tried much in the way of debugging (single stepping and such) and I'm not sure how that works but apparently I can do breakpoints.  I tend to use a lot of printf()'s and this works well.  Both the Arty and the Nexys4 DDR have a convenient USB interface.

The best board ever produced (and long obsolete), in my view, is the Digilent Spartan 3 Starter Board.  It had 3 50-pin headers, switches, LEDs, VGA, PS/2, 4 digit 7-segment display and it was pretty cheap.  The 3E board is also pretty nice and it has the USB programming interface.  These boards were inexpensive and had a lot of IO capability and one variant had a rather large FPGA.  Time moves on and the Artix chips are where most of the newer entry level boards are going.

Cost permitting, I think I would take the Nexys4 DDR over the Arty because it uses a larger FPGA.  The Echo Server demo uses 56% of the Arty LUTs and only 19% of the Nexys4.
 

Online legacy

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2017, 11:58:30 PM »
Quote
board that only has a JTAG header and requires an external programmer

I prefer to have an external professional Xilinx cable.
FX-Chips are a completely different matter, since it's an high speed link (up to 20Mbyte/sec).

Board with SRAm and FX-Chips are priced 150 euro, anyway.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2017, 01:26:39 AM by legacy »
 

Online rstofer

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2017, 02:00:05 AM »
Quote
board that only has a JTAG header and requires an external programmer

I prefer to have an external professional Xilinx cable.
FX-Chips are a completely different matter, since it's an high speed link (up to 20Mbyte/sec).

Board with SRAm and FX-Chips are priced 150 euro, anyway.

I have several JTAG cables/dongles but I don't think they will work with the Xilinx SDK for debugging Microblaze code or provide any kind of serial IO.  They certainly work well but they just don't interface as easily as a serial port.  The older ones that used the DB25 connector are clearly useless.  Even a straight serial cable is nearly useless with any modern PC.

There's something nice about being able to power the board, program the device and interoperate with the debugger all over a single USB cable.  I expect JTAG to see continued use in manufacuring where no serial port or debug port is required.
 

Offline brucehoult

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2017, 02:22:42 AM »
Cost permitting, I think I would take the Nexys4 DDR over the Arty because it uses a larger FPGA.  The Echo Server demo uses 56% of the Arty LUTs and only 19% of the Nexys4.

Arty Z7-20 is $200 vs $320 for the Nexys4 DDR.

The Nexys4 DDR has more LUTs and flip-flops but only about 20% more -- I suspect the difference is the space for the dual ARM A9 cores on the Arty. The block RAM is just about identical. The Arty has twice as much DDR RAM and gigE vs 10/100. The Nexys has a lot more switches, LEDs, and the 7 segment displays and accelerometer.
 

Online legacy

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2017, 03:42:03 AM »
for debugging Microblaze code or provide any kind of serial IO

ah ok, for that reason.

Yup I agree, but I prefer to have one or two external serial lines, e.g. on FTDI2232.
One connector is for the jtag and goes to the external Xilinx-jtag-usb cable, or to the Xilinx-jtag-ethernet cable, one connector is for the serial debugger (e.g. gdb), and one connector is for the console.
Plus a super fast link made with the FX-chip, usually used to upload/download staff.

 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #16 on: August 17, 2017, 11:05:06 AM »
While looking for a board with good options I came across the shop linked below on Aliexpress. It seems to have a nice selection and variety of boards, while also having very decent prices. I have not received my board yet, but have been communicating with them for a while now about a board that was mentioned but not stocked and that left a good impression. Language is obviously a barrier, but the responses are swift and effective. The documentation of the board has been sent my way and seems to be adequate, with the various devices and pin-outs described. It seems to be enough to make good use of the board. A guide on how to test the board and various code examples are also included. If there is any interest, I will report back when I receive the board.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated.

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/620372
 
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Offline avocado

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2017, 05:46:23 AM »
hi guys,

Thanks for all your suggestions.
I installed Quartus Prime Lite today.
I think it is more resource friendly for my laptop comparing with Vivado.   ;D
It can be used with Cyclone IV fpga.
I  do not know the Cyclone IV counterpart in Altera but Vivado only works with the modern generations of fpga.

Well, I guess my options getting bigger, in the direction of cheaper fpga board like ones from aliexpress.
I am still looking around the internet though and still waiting for more discussions here before buying.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2017, 06:47:36 AM by avocado »
 

Offline hamster_nz

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2017, 06:37:48 AM »
If you get one of these:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/USB-Blaster-altera-fpga-board-altera-board-fpga-development-board-EP4CE6E22C8N-board-cyclone-IV-kit/32813061054.html
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/usb-blaster-EP4CE10E22C8N-altera-fpga-board-altera-board-fpga-development-board-cyclone-IV-board/32813736111.html

I am more than happy if you PM me for getting started help with it, as I have one here too...

(The more expensive one has a few extras. The boards themselves are both 'perfectly adequate' - i.e. not perfect, but not that useless either)
 
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Offline jefflieu

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2017, 09:08:49 AM »
Hi..,

I am planning to buy an FPGA board for personal usage.
The budget is below 80EUR. well, the lower the better.  ;)
I am waiting for the confirmation for the university pricing program.
If I am granted, I planning to purchase one of these:

1. Basys3-Artix-7-FPGA-Board
2. DE10-Nano Kit
3. DE0-Nano Development and Education Board

Is there any other suggestion besides those boards?
I am open to any other suggestion including boards from Aliexpress just in case I am not granted the university pricing program or need to wait sometimes until my instructor's approval.

If you have the budget, I'd suggest the number 2 for its price and the SOC on it.
There will always be some sort of processor running for most projects, either external or internal.
The one with SOC will serve you better in the longer run.
This is a similar board for Xilinx: ZynqBerry (I don't have one) https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/trenz-electronic-gmbh/TE0726-03-07S-1C/1686-1094-ND/7327826

About board from Aliexpress, you can buy, but choose the simple ones.
I would avoid buying things with DDR2/DDR3 stuff /BGA chips/RF.
These stuff need some investment in tools and equipments to develop and verify, I wouldn't trust small suppliers.
I have one from Aliexpress. It's super simple and it works.










i love Melbourne
 

Online legacy

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2017, 10:59:18 PM »
I wish I had more free time and more skills on PCB designing as when the best fpga-board ever is the one you design by yourself

In my case it looks to papilio/pro, but with double fpga since one needs to be dedicated as sram-controller(1) to be used as VideoRam (suitable for framebuffer applications) and System ram (suitable for softcore applications), a couple of NVRAM static ram (or FeRam?), more SRAM (I don't like ddr, and 32MB of ram is fine, I don't need more ram anyway), a Cypress EZ-USB FX2 fast link, and a XC9572XL (5V tollerant) cpld.

The sram controller needs a lot of time constraints and a clock of no less than 99Mhz, thus it needs the DCM module to triplicate the crystal clock (33Mhz on Papilo/Pro), and all of these are critical path design unless you want to use IP-parts by Xilinx. Not so complex, it can be done, but they are a black-box piece of code, thus I prefer to embed them into a dedicated fpga and model the whole chip in ModelSim as "black box chip" which offers an interface with a precise behavior!

All of these, anyway, if it's made like a "PDA-shaped board" it for sure requires a clever pcb-design, especially if small size (high density).

It's definitively a no-go for EagleCAD and I am afraid it requires something more powerful like Altium, which I am trying to learn ... but the learning curve is ... like a rocket to reach Mars!

Soon or later ... I hope I will make it.


Spartan 6 FPGA Board with EZ-USB FX2 (no SDRAM)


Spartan 6 FPGA Board with EZ-USB FX2 and DDR SDRAM

In the meanwhile I am fine with this board. It's perfect for my for my softcore project; it offers all I need (even if ... the SRAM controller as well as the PLL in the DCM module are both inside the whole vhdl design and this gives me some problem since I can't simulate them in a comfortable way and I needed to create to profiles "synthesis" and "simulation" in order to include/exclude IP-driven files). It also offers 100 GPIO on two comfortable header connectors on the back of the board, and 37 GPIO between the fpga and the FX2 chip to implement a super fast usb-link (which is marvelous if you aim for uploading/downloading stuff as fast as you can: 20Mbyte/sec reached!!!)

There are also at least three methods to bootstrap the fpga: -1- from the jtag (you need an external jtax-cable) -2- from the SPI-flash and -3- from the FX chip!

WOOOOOW

All good feedbacks from me, no doubt it's my best purchase ever  :D



Just mind the gap between this board and others: it's a largely expensive board, something like ~160 euro once VAT and postage applied  :popcorn:

Code: [Select]
1 x USB-FPGA Module 2.04b (XC6SLX16, 64 MB DDR RAM) 119.00EU

Sub-Total: 119.00EUR
Standard Shipping (1-2 weeks): 9.00EUR
Paypal Charges: 1.79EUR
plus 19% VAT: 24.66EUR
=================================
Total: 154.44EUR
« Last Edit: August 20, 2017, 12:09:13 AM by legacy »
 

Offline alin_im

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #21 on: August 20, 2017, 10:29:20 PM »
I have the Altera DE1 Board, I am pretty please with it and it served me well during my undergraduate, if you find it too expensive have a look at Altera DE0 Board. It works out of the box and you don't need to have external parts for beginning. When you are getting more advanced with them you can always add external parts using the expansion connectors.  The FPGAs on them are pretty old, but I don't think you would need better then this for hobby use.

https://www.terasic.com.tw/cgi-bin/page/archive.pl?Language=English&CategoryNo=165&No=83  Altera DE1 Board - Academic:$127 /  Price:$150

https://www.terasic.com.tw/cgi-bin/page/archive.pl?Language=English&CategoryNo=165&No=364 Altera DE0 Board - Academic:$81 / Price:$119
One man's 'magic' is another man's engineering. 'Supernatural' is a null word. - Robert A. Heinlein
 

Offline FrankBuss

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #22 on: August 20, 2017, 11:12:24 PM »
While looking for a board with good options I came across the shop linked below on Aliexpress. It seems to have a nice selection and variety of boards, while also having very decent prices. I have not received my board yet, but have been communicating with them for a while now about a board that was mentioned but not stocked and that left a good impression. Language is obviously a barrier, but the responses are swift and effective. The documentation of the board has been sent my way and seems to be adequate, with the various devices and pin-outs described. It seems to be enough to make good use of the board. A guide on how to test the board and various code examples are also included. If there is any interest, I will report back when I receive the board.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated.

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/620372

But be careful to buy a board with documentation. Recently I bought a board from eBay:

http://www.eevblog.com/forum/microcontrollers/mysterious-fpga-board-with-vga-output/

and was quite a bit of work to get all the documentation for it, but now we have even a full QSF file (for the pin mapping), I can recommend this board. VGA output is nice for learning FPGA, because it is easy to create a VGA signal, as I did once:

http://www.frank-buss.de/yagraphcon/

The DE0 nano is also very good. No need to buy a DE1 if you don't have a project in mind which needs the more powerful board. With a DE0 Nano you can implement a full C64 with SID etc.:


quadro copter flying, electronics, retro computing and other geeky things: http://www.youtube.com/user/frankbuss/
 

Offline Mr. Scram

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #23 on: August 21, 2017, 08:08:52 AM »
But be careful to buy a board with documentation. Recently I bought a board from eBay:

http://www.eevblog.com/forum/microcontrollers/mysterious-fpga-board-with-vga-output/

and was quite a bit of work to get all the documentation for it, but now we have even a full QSF file (for the pin mapping), I can recommend this board. VGA output is nice for learning FPGA, because it is easy to create a VGA signal, as I did once:

http://www.frank-buss.de/yagraphcon/

The DE0 nano is also very good. No need to buy a DE1 if you don't have a project in mind which needs the more powerful board. With a DE0 Nano you can implement a full C64 with SID etc.:


Yes, documentation is important. That seems to be available with the boards in the shop I posted. Documentation was sent to me promptly after purchase and all the various parts and components seem well indicated. A guide on how to test the board and various examples have also been included.

As far as I can tell, they develop most boards themselves and they seem pretty proud of it too.
 

Offline Scrts

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Re: FPGA Board suggestion
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2017, 12:48:22 AM »
 


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