Electronics > FPGA

Soft CPU tools

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I have used Quartus, ISE, Vivado, and Radiant for Cyclone, Spartan, Artix and Certus-NX targets. I started with VHDL, taught in systemVerilog and now use VHDL again. I have tended to do ultra low level projects with the FPGA mostly as glue/buffer. For work that mostly is what I would probably do going forward as well.

I'm interested however in doing more custom SoC stuff perhaps, and am interested in whom do you think offers the best tools to do SoC for free. Clearly everyone offers IP but I am looking for free. In the sort of we will give you the IP blocks and tools to sell Silicon space who seems the best? I cannot really justify 1000s for licenses.

My projects would be small anyway but rather than having a separate microcontoller it might be a BOM reduction to just have a softcore CPU in my FPGA fabric for some physical measurement system designs.

What do you think the most valuable features are?

For free and cross platform, try looking here:
Look in processors.

You can also find projects on Github.

Xilinx offers a wide range of free IPs with their Vivado package, and that includes Microblaze softcore, which is free for any configuration (including the one with MMU which can run Linux, or even 64 bit version if that's what you want/need).

I'd recommend to stay away from anything from Opencores. Most is mediocre at best. Where it comes to softcores, stick to the ones from the major FPGA vendors. I have used the LM32 core from Lattice in a couple of projects using a Xilinx FPGA. Works pretty well, is open source and portable. The portability helps to change FPGA vendors more easely.

I am well aware of open cores but don't feel it is very cohesive or documented for the most part. I am looking for good tool chains not put everything together from scratch. It might not be there for free, in which case I won't bother as an external hard-core is only 5-10 dollars more.


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