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Electronics => Microcontrollers => Topic started by: filip_cro on November 30, 2013, 06:53:23 pm

Title: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on November 30, 2013, 06:53:23 pm
I'm looking for breakout board with FPGA or CPLD. I'm want it to have programing via USB.

Also I want to have good datasheet and support by other users.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Fsck on November 30, 2013, 06:58:39 pm
The DE0 Nano is probably the cheapest common board I can think of.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: NANDBlog on November 30, 2013, 08:22:05 pm
I believe that the digilent basys 2 offers more for only extra 10 bucks. Besides, it is xilinx.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on November 30, 2013, 08:46:33 pm
I still need something cheaper.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Icarus on November 30, 2013, 09:04:46 pm
There are some boards in $12 to $50 range
http://dx.com/s/fpga (http://dx.com/s/fpga)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on November 30, 2013, 09:32:01 pm
"CPLD FPGA USB Blaster Rev.C" is fake one. Dose it work with Altera official software?
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: zapta on November 30, 2013, 09:39:43 pm
You don't need a board to learn vhdl, a free simulator will do, check Xilinx free web pack.

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2

Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Dago on November 30, 2013, 10:03:28 pm
I believe that the digilent basys 2 offers more for only extra 10 bucks. Besides, it is xilinx.

I guess you mean the Xilinx part to be a negative side.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Kohanbash on December 01, 2013, 12:41:57 am
You don't need a board to learn vhdl, a free simulator will do, check Xilinx free web pack.

You just need to be careful since a lot of things in VHDL work in simulation but are not synthesizable.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: nuhamind2 on December 01, 2013, 02:00:59 am
ftp://
"CPLD FPGA USB Blaster Rev.C" is fake one. Dose it work with Altera official software?
I have one for 10$, the download function work.havent tested other function
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: NANDBlog on December 01, 2013, 09:32:54 am
I believe that the digilent basys 2 offers more for only extra 10 bucks. Besides, it is xilinx.

I guess you mean the Xilinx part to be a negative side.
Xilinx is a good learning platform, kinda like AVRs nd PIC16s. For learning you dont need the best performance/price manufacturer or IC. You need a lot of examples and support. and xilinx has that.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Stonent on December 01, 2013, 09:58:12 am
Dangerous Prototypes has 3 different cpld boards for $15
http://dangerousprototypes.com/2013/02/03/vhdl-tutorial-using-xilinx-cpld/ (http://dangerousprototypes.com/2013/02/03/vhdl-tutorial-using-xilinx-cpld/)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: crispus on December 01, 2013, 07:05:24 pm
http://dx.com/p/altera-fpga-cycloneii-ep2c5t144-minimum-system-learning-development-board-module-blue-216816 (http://dx.com/p/altera-fpga-cycloneii-ep2c5t144-minimum-system-learning-development-board-module-blue-216816) for $22. I bought something similar...
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: marshallh on December 01, 2013, 07:53:32 pm
Keep in mind the Cyclone II (EP2C series) are no longer supported by the newerst version of Quartus (you must use 13.0sp1)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: mrflibble on December 02, 2013, 10:44:31 am
You don't need a board to learn vhdl, a free simulator will do, check Xilinx free web pack.

You just need to be careful since a lot of things in VHDL work in simulation but are not synthesizable.

Indeed. When trying to learn vhdl/verilog for synthesis, it helps to target an actual fpga and run it through the synthesizer. Which means installing the free tools from xilinx/altera/lattice/whatever, and doing a full P&R every now and then to see if everything is kosher.

Or alternatively, first learn it all in a synthesizer. And then later find out some of the construct you liked so much will not work for synthesis. Pick whatever learning method you like. :)

If you're still on the market for a board I suggest an fpga (not a cpld), because you'll have a bit more resources to play with during learning. And I would also suggest getting an fpga that is at least somewhat recent. As in why get a spartan-3 when spartan-6 boards are affordable as well and give you more capabilities. Same for Cyclone II vs Cyclone IV.

Anyways, the absolute cheapest way to check if it is at all your kind of thing or not is to install the free vendor tools and play around with that for synthesizable code.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Fsck on December 02, 2013, 10:47:33 am
though, technically if you want to be at the forefront of xilinx with vivado, you're forced to use 7-series or (technically, though not released yet) above which dramatically limits your choices.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: mrflibble on December 02, 2013, 11:02:59 am
though, technically if you want to be at the forefront of xilinx with vivado, you're forced to use 7-series or (technically, though not released yet) above which dramatically limits your choices.

Which is why for the xilinx flavor I suggested spartan-6, as opposed to anything from the 7-series. Those are still disproportionately expensive IMO. And for Altera I am not all that well informed, but a quick check suggested Cyclone IV to be the sweet spot (DE0-Nano for example). Cyclone V looks cool and all, but probably a bit too expensive as well. Although ... a Cyclone V GX Starter Kit doesn't look too bad at $179. And it even has an arduino header, I always wanted one of those! ;)


Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on December 02, 2013, 03:03:23 pm
I see that best thing for now will be using simulator to learn basics. How hard is to get DE-0 Nano (http://www.terasic.com.tw/cgi-bin/page/archive.pl?Language=English&CategoryNo=139&No=593 (http://www.terasic.com.tw/cgi-bin/page/archive.pl?Language=English&CategoryNo=139&No=593))
for academic price? (high school, Croatia, in EU for 5 months)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: hans on December 03, 2013, 09:05:57 am
It may also be worth checking out Papilio:
http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=0&keyword=papilio&x=0&y=0 (http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=0&keyword=papilio&x=0&y=0)
You can compile with the free Xilinx tools and use the small Papilio loader utility to upload it to the board via USB. The USB connection are just 2 COM ports, where one is configured as JTAG for programming the FPGA, and the other is connected as a serial port for your own debugging.

For beginners it boasts decent FPGA and there are lots of open source projects around. Not all of them are in VHDL, but I think most of them are from their website.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: mrflibble on December 03, 2013, 10:48:11 am
Or just pick a board with a non-ancient fpga from joelby's list (http://tristesse.org/FPGA/CheapFPGADevelopmentBoards). Papilio is decent, but not the best bang for buck IMO. Anyways, the OP didn't mention any specific goals or a budget, so hopefully the list will help in finding something for his unwritten requirements. :)

Since budget may be an issue, how about the $25 icestick from Lattice (http://www.latticesemi.com/icestick)? Have one myself, and it's pretty good value for money. Tools are free too. Synplyfy pro based, pretty impressive actually for that price (free XD).

Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Fantasma25 on December 03, 2013, 04:33:54 pm
What I recommend is to first use a simulator (like the student edition of Active HDL, which is free  8) ) and try to make combinational circuits which are almost always synthesizable, then move on to a little bit more complicated sequencial circuits (using discrete Flip Flops, not processes). That way you will learn the most basic stuff about the language and you will get used to it. Then I will suggest you to buy a cheap board like the basys 2 that has a lot of fun switches and LEDs. With a board you can try to use processes and all that stuff that is more tricky to synthesize.  :-BROKE
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: owiecc on December 03, 2013, 07:40:48 pm
We use Digilent CoolRunner-II CPLD Starter Board (http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Detail.cfm?NavPath=2,400,1000&Prod=CR2-STARTER) for only $37 per board.

(http://www.digilentinc.com/Data/Products/CR2-STARTER/CR2-obl-600.jpg)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: mrflibble on December 03, 2013, 08:10:56 pm
We use Digilent CoolRunner-II CPLD Starter Board (http://www.digilentinc.com/Products/Detail.cfm?NavPath=2,400,1000&Prod=CR2-STARTER) for only $37 per board.

While that's a nice board (have one myself), I'd advice against a cpld board like that as a starter board. Why? *poof!* What was that? That was the sound of your flip-flop resources running out. With a cpld like that you'll run into resource limitations real fast, and as such you are really limiting your learning experience.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on December 04, 2013, 06:03:45 pm
Ok. I decide to try Actin HDL (student edition). I made basic code. How can I test it? I can't find good tutorial on google.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Fantasma25 on December 04, 2013, 06:45:29 pm
Ok. I decide to try Actin HDL (student edition). I made basic code. How can I test it? I can't find good tutorial on google.

Once you have written your code, you have to compile it (Design -> Compile).
If you don't have any errors, then you can simulate. First you have to initialize the simulation (Simulation -> Initialize simulation). If it is your first time you initialize that project, a windows will pop up asking you to select the code you want to simulate.
Then, all your I/O, signals, variables, constants, etc. will appear on the lower left hand side of the screen.
After that, you should click on the icon next to the save button to open the waveforms window, where you will see your signals. Then add the signals you want to see by dragging and dropping them to the waveform window.
Then you should add some stimulators to the inputs. You do that by right clicking the the signal and selecting "Add stimulators". There you can add a clock signal, a constant value and many other things depending on the circuit and on what you want to see. If its a combinational circuit, I recommend to add clock signals with frequencies that are multiples of each other.
Finally, enter the time of the simulation and click on "Run for" (F5).
Have fun! 8)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: zapta on December 04, 2013, 06:46:15 pm
Just stumbled upon this one

50$ for the 50k gate version

https://www.tindie.com/products/MicroNova/mercury-dip-fpga-board/ (https://www.tindie.com/products/MicroNova/mercury-dip-fpga-board/)
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: mrflibble on December 04, 2013, 06:49:42 pm
Ok. I decide to try Actin HDL (student edition). I made basic code. How can I test it? I can't find good tutorial on google.
You can test it by making a testbench. See this here tutorial (http://www.asic-world.com/verilog/art_testbench_writing.html).
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on December 04, 2013, 07:56:34 pm
Can you give me VHDL test bench for (I called my first project test):

library IEEE;
use IEEE.STD_LOGIC_1164.all;

entity test is
    port(
        sw0 : in STD_LOGIC;
        sw1 : in STD_LOGIC;
        LED0 : out STD_LOGIC;
        LED1 : out STD_LOGIC
        );
end test;

architecture test of test is
begin
   LED1 <= sw1;
    LED0 <= sw0;
end test;

I need some periodic signal on sw0 and sw1.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Crazy Ape on December 04, 2013, 08:04:07 pm
I need some periodic signal on sw0 and sw1.

First, you'll need a clock.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: Fantasma25 on December 04, 2013, 08:08:16 pm
Can you give me VHDL test bench for (I called my first project test):

library IEEE;
use IEEE.STD_LOGIC_1164.all;

entity test is
    port(
        sw0 : in STD_LOGIC;
        sw1 : in STD_LOGIC;
        LED0 : out STD_LOGIC;
        LED1 : out STD_LOGIC
        );
end test;

architecture test of test is
begin
   LED1 <= sw1;
    LED0 <= sw0;
end test;

I need some periodic signal on sw0 and sw1.

I hope this is what you're looking for  ;)
I inserted one clock at 5MHz and another one at 10MHz.
Title: Re: Cheapest VHDL learning platform
Post by: filip_cro on December 04, 2013, 08:37:45 pm
Thank you. Now I can test my code. For few weeks/months that will work and then I will think again about devboard.