Bitwise » Forums » Recommendations for FPGA boards?
Maykeye
19 posts
#14592 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 4 weeks ago Edited by Maykeye on March 18, 2018, 1:17 p.m.

Since postal delivery of boards can take weeks, it's probably good time to start looking for FPGA like yesterday. But so far I can't find a good candidate. Boards either don't have DDR3, or they have it, but it's tied to Cortex-A9 rather than FPGA, or there is no HDMI, or the board costs thousands dollars.

So, does anyone has good recommendations? FAQ mentions price range of 100-300 USD, but has no name
debiatan
Miguel Lechón
61 posts
#14593 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 4 weeks ago

Per gave some details on reddit a week ago.
pervognsen
Per Vognsen
49 posts / 1 project
#14604 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 4 weeks ago Edited by Per Vognsen on March 18, 2018, 11:38 p.m.

I didn't want to make a big announcement on stream or on the repo so people rush out and buy a dev board they'll never use (the fate of most dev boards). That said, as long as you take full responsibility for your own purchasing decisions and don't come blaming me after buyer's remorse, I'll go over what I use personally and what I plan to recommend "officially" once we get further along.

The recommended low-end board is the Arty A7:

https://store.digilentinc.com/art...t-board-for-makers-and-hobbyists/

In order to make this usable for some of our basic projects, you'll need to buy these Pmods:

VGA: https://store.digilentinc.com/pmod-vga-video-graphics-array/
PS/2: https://store.digilentinc.com/pmod-ps2-keyboard-mouse-connector/
Audio: https://store.digilentinc.com/pmod-i2s-stereo-audio-output/

If you don't have a display that's VGA capable or a PS/2 mouse or keyboard in a closet somewhere, you'll also need to get converters for that on your own.

Note: The Arty A7's board FPGA is very small in terms of the FPGA resources itself, so this absolutely won't scale to some of our later projects. But I think it's the right option starting out for most people, and you can do a lot of cool projects on it beyond Bitwise. And if you find yourself growing out of it and into the higher-end board I'm about to describe, the relative price of the A7 is small enough that it shouldn't feel like a waste, and you can reuse the Pmods.

The high-end board is the Nexys Video:

https://store.digilentinc.com/nex...oard-for-multimedia-applications/

As you can see, it's a lot more expensive, but it has a large FPGA (the largest in the Artix class) and some higher-end peripherals. So I wouldn't recommend it until you know you're committed and you'll find some serious, long-term use for this. And even if you get the Nexys Video, you'll need the recommended Pmods (at least the VGA one, but I'd recommend getting the whole set) to follow along early since we'll do VGA support well before HDMI support, for example.
nothings
Sean Barrett
17 posts / 1 project

former pro game developer (Thief etc. @ LookingGlass)
current indie game dev (Promesst etc.)
creator of stb libraries (stb_image.h etc.)

#14610 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 4 weeks ago

pervognsen
buy a dev board they'll never use (the fate of most dev boards)


Surely this never happens. I mean, I compiled and tested the simple test project that came with ONE of my FPGA dev boards.

None
cdyk
Christopher Dyken
2 posts
#14663 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the recommendation!

Personally, I look at this as a nice opportunity to get a bit of experience with FPGAs, which I have never touched before, so regardless of whether or not I get hooked on this, at least I end up with some more knowledge :)

Even though it is a bit premature -- I wondered if you might share what kind of software and the approach you intend to use for programming it? So the eager ones among us can start toying around a bit...
Maykeye
19 posts
#14675 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 3 weeks ago Edited by Maykeye on March 24, 2018, 3:47 p.m.

cdyk

Even though it is a bit premature -- I wondered if you might share what kind of software and the approach you intend to use for programming it? So the eager ones among us can start toying around a bit...


Software is already covered in FAQ: Verilator and Vivado WebPACK. If you are looking for inspiration where and how to deviate from whatever HDL language will be written during Bitwise, check other HDL languages, for example

* Scala based Chisel.
One of interesting Chisel aspects is that it uses firrtl IR which in turn generates "amusing" verilog.
* (Scala again) SpinalHDL, which amongst other things aims to fix chisel gotchas
* MyHDL which is python based(just like bitwise HDL going be).






cdyk
Christopher Dyken
2 posts
#14678 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
3 months, 3 weeks ago

Software is already covered in FAQ: Verilator and Vivado WebPACK. If you are looking for inspiration where and how to deviate from whatever HDL language will be written during Bitwise, check other HDL languages, for example

* Scala based Chisel.
One of interesting Chisel aspects is that it uses firrtl IR which in turn generates "amusing" verilog.
* (Scala again) SpinalHDL, which amongst other things aims to fix chisel gotchas
* MyHDL which is python based(just like bitwise HDL going be).


Thank you for the links, highly appreciated!
Maykeye
19 posts
#15094 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited by Maykeye on April 28, 2018, 8:23 a.m.

pervognsen

PS/2: https://store.digilentinc.com/pmod-ps2-keyboard-mouse-connector/


I YOLO'd and took both video and arty. Lessons learned:
a) Chinese resellers don't like pmods for some reasons. There's literally 0 items on aliexpress.
b) Arty has free vivado license for a year, while nexys video doesn't, which is surprising as video is more high-end.
c) nexys video can be used as a heater: its chip easily reaches 60 degrees in 2 minutes.
d) It seems that instead of buying ps/2 mod it can be very easily hand soldered, as it's just a simple bunch of resistors. As a bonus, this way you can connect two PS/2 to a single pmod port (by using "usually unused" pins). In fact, it was done by Saanlima Electronics before, but now they are out of stock.

e) Actually reading datasheets and schematics was extremely useful - turned out, PS/2 uses 5V, which explains why digilent's pmod has external power supply -- there's a chance that 3.3V will not suffice.

f) If you put nexys video's box sideways, it makes a little house for a cat.
pervognsen
Per Vognsen
49 posts / 1 project
#15101 Recommendations for FPGA boards?
2 months, 2 weeks ago Edited by Per Vognsen on April 29, 2018, 7:51 a.m.

Awesome!

Yes, FPGAs can easily run very hot. :)

I'm assuming you already know this, but just to avoid confusing anyone else who might be reading this thread, you can use the free WebPACK version of Vivado with Nexys Video. The Arty board with a license for the non-free version, but I don't think we'll have any use for it.