Electronics > Microcontrollers

Can someone recommend me a FPGA (CPLD?) to play with for my needs?

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So I started working with Atmel parts about 4-5 years ago, and in the last couple of years I have upgraded to Cypress PSoC, which I really like.  Most of the stuff I do is in LED lighting/color mixing, measuring signals and driving displays (stepper motor gauge, LCD, LED, etc).  But I am getting into some higher end stuff like robotics and motion control.

I had one project where I used a PSoC3 to generate 27 independently controllable PWM signals to drive a bank of LED's to do various things, and I've used the PSoC for some measurement projects where I measure several signals and communicate with an LCD with I2C or with another device maybe with a UART, etc. 

I know what FPGA's (and CPLD's) are from a technical standpoint, but it wasn't until someone suggested my 27-PWM project could have also been done with an CPLD that I thought I should play around with these types of chips and get to learn them a bit.

I've never used any before... can someone recommend a good starting point?  I am pretty well familiar with the PSoC functionality from Cypress, so I understand about "creating hardware in the chip" and such.  Since my uses are wide open, it seems maybe FPGA's are more powerful and configurable and would offer better variety of uses.  I've gotten marketing brochures and stuff from Xilinx and Altera and stuff, but I really don't know anything about the market and which companies and families are the most popular and/or easiest to use.  I'm also hoping to keep my investment under a few hundred $$ to begin with including software and whatever programmers/dev boards would be required. 

Any suggestions?


I should add that I mostly work with 2 layer boards, so I don't want to deal with BGA's.  Also, the budget for a processor/main chip for most of our products is under $10 in 1000 unit quantities... so I am looking for the best bang for the buck, and ease of use, in that range.   

Coolrunner-II cpld's spring to mind for this.

For example this board: http://digilentinc.com/Products/Detail.cfm?NavPath=2,400,1000&Prod=CR2-STARTER

It depends a bit on how many FFs you're going to need for your 27 channels of PWM. If you require lots of FFs for whatever PWM scheme you are intending then an fpga may be a better fit.

+1 for CoolRunners.
CPLDs have the advantage of persistent configuration storage so you don't need an EPROM or MCU to load the program into RAM like you do with FPGAs. Having said that, i am at the moment messing around with a Spartan 6 FPGA which seems to be a nice chip as well. Not Xilinx top of the line by any means but it has plenty more oomph than any CPLD, is reasonably priced and comes in QFP packs if you don't want BGAs. I am preparing to try home cooked 2 sided PCBs with the 256 ball BGA. No guarantee of success but there are those who say it is no big deal. We'll see.

MachXO or MAchXO2 from latticesemi.com are cheap (under 5usd/1k pcs), they are in principle smal FPGAs
(this is why they listed as CPLD and FPGA).

If you wish to combine ┬ÁC and FPGA in one part, maybe Microsemi FPGAs are good option, e.g. M1A3P25 with Cortex M1 core.

I've used the XC9500 CPLD series from Xilinx in a few projects. The single supply voltage (3.3V), 5V input tolerance and PLCC & QFP packages make it easy to use. A Xilinx USB programmer clone is dirt cheap from Ebay.


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