Author Topic: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?  (Read 30149 times)

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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« on: April 06, 2013, 02:00:03 pm »
Looking at possible parts for a new FPGA project. Hardware & speeds are pretty simple,and the Lattice Ice40 parts seem worth a look as pretty cheap and appear to be fairly available, although only some parts in non-BGA package.
Anyone used them?
Any comments on the IceCube software ? 

I've used Lattice ISPLever and Xilinx ISE before for low-end FPGA stuff - they do the job but rather slow & clunky. Downloading IceCube now to take a look.
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2013, 05:02:56 pm »
Software looks like it might be nice once you figure out how to do even simple things, but NOT A SINGLE complete example project is supplied, and only 2 sets of simple tutorial files.
Can't even figure out create new projects from scratch - won't let you launch the editor til you have files in the project. 

At least with Xilinx ISE I can create a new pin file, throw some VHDL together and get a useable device file. Just takes forever to compile anything useful.

I wonder if FPGA software is ever going to be properly integrated instead of being a bunch of random tools held together with sticky tape?
 
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Offline marshallh

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2013, 07:20:12 pm »
The ice40 design software is relabeled siliconblue stuff as I recall.

I use Altera parts because Quartus is IMO the best thing around and so long as you avoid the .0 versions it doesnt give me much grief.
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2013, 08:19:06 pm »
The ice40 design software is relabeled siliconblue stuff as I recall.
I use Altera parts because Quartus is IMO the best thing around and so long as you avoid the .0 versions it doesnt give me much grief.
Whenever I've looked at Altera, they've been lacking in anything competitive with Xilinx or Lattice at the lowest end, and this is compounded by not being able to use cheap SPI flash devices for configuration.
Just did a quick search on Digikey & didn't see anything new in either respect.

My FPGA jobs tend to 'only just ' need an FPGA, usually with a small amount of RAM.

Compared to Xilinx  XC3S50A, which appears to be their cheapest part, The ICE40 looks good, but the QFP100 has no PLL, which is probably a killer for this project - I only need maybe 40 pins, and want to keep it small, but not use  BGA as it needs to be a 2 layer PCB.

I used Lattice EC3 a while ago as it appeared cheaper than Xilinx, but after getting some 'real' price quotes the difference wasn't that much. Lattice had poorer availability. I found ISPLever subjectively quicker than ISE, but having to renew the free license every 6 months was annoying.

I rarely bother with simulation so quick recompile time is a very major factor, and something with a fast compile would be a significant decider. The Icecube stuff looked fairly quick for the fairly trivial example code - about 25 seconds.

IceCube doesn't seem to be properly integrated either - "Run all Tools" does NOT run the synthesiser, and there seem to be 2 editors - one within the synth and one in the IceCube GUI - bizarre!
 As far as I can see there isn't a single key that will do everything from a VHDL file change to generating a bitstream.



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Offline marshallh

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2013, 09:17:19 pm »

Whenever I've looked at Altera, they've been lacking in anything competitive with Xilinx or Lattice at the lowest end, and this is compounded by not being able to use cheap SPI flash devices for configuration.
Just did a quick search on Digikey & didn't see anything new in either respect.

Yes you have a good point there. Altera's cheapest fpgas are the Cyclone 2/3 series right now, EP2C5 runs about $12 in singles and $8 in volume. You can use certain commodity spi flash. EPCS4 = M25P40. Not M25VP40 (learned the hard way..)

I will probably grab a ice40 eval board, you got me interested now.  :scared:
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2013, 09:32:40 pm »

Whenever I've looked at Altera, they've been lacking in anything competitive with Xilinx or Lattice at the lowest end, and this is compounded by not being able to use cheap SPI flash devices for configuration.
Just did a quick search on Digikey & didn't see anything new in either respect.

Yes you have a good point there. Altera's cheapest fpgas are the Cyclone 2/3 series right now, EP2C5 runs about $12 in singles and $8 in volume. You can use certain commodity spi flash. EPCS4 = M25P40. Not M25VP40 (learned the hard way..)

I will probably grab a ice40 eval board, you got me interested now.  :scared:
The smaller ones look very interesting - there are some under GBP1 at 100x. Unfortunately most of the small cheap ones are bga only, and some 0.4mm BGA to rub salt in the wound....
From reading the data, they appear to have basically stripped out a lot of the more complex typical FPGA features like multiple IO types, down to just fabric, memory and in some cases a PLL or two.

I just had a quick play to remind myself what ISE was like  - creating new designs from nothing is really easy (unlike IceCube2) and compile time is comparable - I think my bad memories of ISE were due to the previous job that had some severe timing constraints and quite a few IP blocks. This is ISE13 - not tried 14.

Lattice X02 also looks interesting - will have a go with Lattice Diamond to see how it compares
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2013, 10:57:20 pm »
Lattice Diamond appears to be very similar to ISPLever, which also bore a very close resemblence to ISE.
Compile time for the same simple VHDL is very close to that for ISE.

The thing I hate about ISE is the download includes absolutely everything, most of which is stuff you can't even use on the free webpack version like IP and big devices. Some stuff like EDK can be stripped out after install but a lot of the bloat is device files that it checks on startup.

At least Diamond lets you select which device families to install.
Not tried ISE 14.x yet.

 


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Offline MacAttak

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2013, 04:17:43 am »
Don't get your hopes up on the bloat in ISE 14.

I have 14.4 WebPack installed and it's sitting at 15+ gigabytes on disk. The download was 6+ GB.
 

Offline mrflibble

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2013, 03:36:52 pm »
Those ice40hx's in TQFP package look quite interesting. Couldn't find detailed numbers for all the delays I was looking for, but what I could find doesn't look too bad at all.

The PLL + VCO specs however... From the "iCE40™ LP/HX Family Data Sheet"

Output Clock Frequency (PLLOUT) : 16 - 275 MHz
PLL VCO Frequency: unspecified

And then from another datasheet we have: "Up to 533 MHz PLL Output". So which one is it. 533 or 275? It may just be that 275 MHz + "does DDR" + "marketing" == Up To 533 MHz! Mmmh, although the "Up to 533 MHz PLL Output" datasheet does have it listed as PLL output frequency 16 - 533 MHz, so no DDR implied there. Curious.

And also ...
I will probably grab a ice40 eval board, you got me interested now.  :scared:
 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2013, 04:17:50 pm »
this is compounded by not being able to use cheap SPI flash devices for configuration.

Yes, you can - they just don't advertise the fact because an EPCS4 is much, much, much more expensive than a generic device of the same capacity, and they'd like to sell more of them.

There are compatibility issues, I'm told, to do with the field upgrade mechanism built into the FPGA, but if you just want to program a target board using a download cable and have the FPGA configured from the Flash at power-up, then there's no issue.

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2013, 10:08:40 am »
The ice40 design software is relabeled siliconblue stuff as I recall.
As is the silicon, apparently...
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Offline mrflibble

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2013, 01:21:45 pm »
Any chance to play with the tools yet? If so ... good? bad? okay-ish?
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2013, 02:41:02 pm »
Any chance to play with the tools yet? If so ... good? bad? okay-ish?
Only compiled one of the 2 sample designs. Can't really tell much from that. Creating new projects seems a little non-obvious.
These devices not useable for my immediate requirement due to lack of PLL (Unless we go to BGA), so will probably use Xilinx this time. but will play at some point as pricing is very interesting.
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Offline lgbeno

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Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2013, 03:21:05 pm »
The altera has loosened up on the spi config stuff.  The FAE that I work with says its all good and I know of at least one product in production that is using it :)

http://www.spansion.com/Support/Application%20Notes/Configuring_Altera_FPGAs_via_SPI_Flash_AN.pdf
 

Offline lgbeno

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Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2013, 03:22:01 pm »
Lattice parts look really cool for low end fpga stuff by the way.  Kits are affordable too.
 

Offline mrflibble

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2013, 03:41:25 pm »
Yeah, it's a bummer that the HX1K in VQFP package doesn't have a pll. :( Otherwise it would have been real neat. On the even lower on of the scale that LP384 in QFN-32 package looks quite interesting. Plonk it on a board with say an stm32 to provide a 100 MHz clock. Not super fast, but enough for a lot of things. Besides, you can always use the negedge as well for some critical bits and get frowned upon. :P
 

Online Marco

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2013, 03:25:40 am »
What's wrong with 144 pin TQFP? The ICE40HX4K comes with 2 PLLs in that package.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2013, 08:07:39 am »
What's wrong with 144 pin TQFP? The ICE40HX4K comes with 2 PLLs in that package.
For this project I only need about 30 I/Os, and don't want to take up more board space than necessary & want to keep to 2 layers. More expensive than a 100 pin Xilinx or other Lattice parts in 100 pin.
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Offline marshallh

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2013, 02:22:50 am »
I blame Mike

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Offline joelby

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2013, 05:23:24 am »
Cool, the LatticeECP3 kit is very good value for money when it's on special ($99).

Would you mind telling us what the deal is with licensing for the software tools? I couldn't figure out if it was perpetual and locked to the board/device, or if it was only for a limited time, after which you had to buy them? Does the license include all of the IP cores (e.g. PCIe)?
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2013, 08:28:03 am »
Looks like licenses are 1 year, node locked to the PC's MAC. Not looked at IP but the fancier ones tend not to be free IME. No obvious restriction on requesting multiple licenses for different PCs
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Offline chickenHeadKnob

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2013, 02:16:23 am »


Hi all, Brutal thread resurrection BUMP  sorry

So what is the verdict now? I found this thread because I was researching the HK4K 144pin, probably for the same reasons as you guys, I want a small scale FPGA which can haz PLL and fast clock delay line  taps.

Best regards
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2013, 08:05:56 am »


Hi all, Brutal thread resurrection BUMP  sorry

So what is the verdict now? I found this thread because I was researching the HK4K 144pin, probably for the same reasons as you guys, I want a small scale FPGA which can haz PLL and fast clock delay line  taps.

Best regards
ICE40, though cheap seems a little too stripped down, so savings may be eaten by additional external parts. Could be useful step up from CPLDs. The OTP memory is a bummer. I think it has some good features for low power, but I've not had the need to look at that.
I really like the Lattice XO2 devices - onboard regulator, flash and oscillator (though not very accurate), and a wide range of sizes through the range. It could REALLY do with a few more lower-end package options in the 48 to 64 pin range though.
I'm currently looking at something using the QFN32, but it will be a squeeze - a 640 in a QFN/QFP48 would have been ideal.   
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Online Marco

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2013, 04:24:05 pm »
 

Offline lorth

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Re: Anyone used Lattice ICE40 FPGAs ?
« Reply #24 on: September 02, 2013, 06:12:37 am »
Have you check Microsemi's/Actel FPGAs ? I don't remember now the proASIC3 if they have non BGA, which I think they do, but the igloo do...

No need for external programing, low standby power... 
 


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