27
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I'm looking for something that I can play around with but not spend too much on. I'm not eligible for an academic discount so take that into account when making suggestions.

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  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ This question has a number of boards in the answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Oct 7 '10 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is your budget? "Most affordable" would the be the cheapest in existence. You may want a one that is somewhat more expensive but has a bigger FPGA (in terms of LUTs) or has more features. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Carlton Jul 15 '11 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ vote to close this Q? \$\endgroup\$ – sybreon Oct 1 '11 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ related: "Cheap FPGA dev board" \$\endgroup\$ – davidcary May 24 '13 at 3:06

17 Answers 17

10
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One of the Digilent kits would be ideal; I've got one of their Spartan-3 kits. It's an older chip but the board probably has most things on it that you are likely to need, and lots of pins are brought out to connectors for other stuff that you might want to interface to it. They start at $109. Mine has one of the 400k gate chips on it, they don't seem to sell that option any more.

I formed this support group for users. Xilinx has their own forums, as well.

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8
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Papilio One is fairly cheap, but it doesn't have any I/O devices on it, such as switches, LEDs, displays and whatnot. On the plus side, they have some thorough examples - including a usable Arduino and a logic analyzer. Digilent's Basys2 costs considerably more but has lots of switches, lights, connectors and direct Xilinx WebPack support.

Lattice has a smaller Lattice XP2 Brevia development kit for $49. That's with no-cost software, switches, LEDs and expansion ports. The downsides are (as far as I know): no simulation, and requires a real parallel port to program - or the USB cable which costs over twice as much. I have programmed these using a generic FTDI based programmer too.

Terasic offer a bunch of Altera based development boards, with prices ranging from $79 (academic) or $119. Not quite as low budget, but look like good deals, with plenty of easily accessible I/O as well as useful ports, switches and LEDs.

Also, while not one of the cheaper boards at €139+VAT, our Cyclone IV based ORDB2A development board does feature a USB on-the-go capable connector (it can function as a host, albeit only 12Mbps) and micro-SD slot, two features I haven't noticed on other boards mentioned here. It lacks user peripherals like LEDs and switches, which might make it less suited as a beginner board.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ They have pacman too - blog.gadgetfactory.net/2010/09/papilio-arcade-kit.html \$\endgroup\$ – Toby Jaffey Oct 15 '10 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe the XP2 has simulation support with the free version of Aldec distributed by Lattice. I could be mistaken. \$\endgroup\$ – Dr. Watson May 3 '11 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I overlooked it because it isn't available on my platform. It is Windows Only: latticesemi.com/products/designsoftware/diamond/index.cfm \$\endgroup\$ – Yann Vernier May 3 '11 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have a Papilio One and I'll testify that it's awesome. Yea, there is no I/O but it is by far the cheapest and easiest way to get started. I bought mine for $65. No separate(expensive) JTAG programmer required. WebPack is cross-platform to Linux, and the Papilio Loader programmer application is open source and easy to compile for Linux. And it's easy to solder some pins on and hook it to a breadboard. The only thing I wish it had some some onboard RAM... their next version of the Papilio is planned to have onboard RAM though as well as a Spartan 6 \$\endgroup\$ – Earlz May 18 '12 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ My Papilio One (model 500) has RAM. The Mojo FPGA board mentioned elsewhere does not. \$\endgroup\$ – MarkHu Aug 31 '13 at 8:54
6
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The DE0-Nano is a great cheap board to start out with. It has the latest Cyclone IV FPGA from Altera and it supports a lot of features. Altera also provides great labs for it.

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5
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Not the easiest to access I/O but a cool form factor: The BeMicro Altera Cyclone 3. I am partial to Altera over Xilinx. I know Xilinx has a free web tool kit but Altera is free-er for longer (into the development cycle) if I remember it correctly. Plus I like their SOPC system builder, it's pretty simple to compile an on-board soft-core processor.

Bonus: labs included on the site to get you started.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It would appear Altera have rectified the problems I had with their tools earlier (web edition should no longer require a license file). I still didn't get them running, but now it looks doable. Thanks for the tip! \$\endgroup\$ – Yann Vernier Oct 19 '10 at 11:44
4
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Avnet Xilinx® Spartan®-6 FPGA LX9 MicroBoard $89. Sell sheet here.

Features:

  • Spartan-6 XC6SLX9-2CSG324C FPGA
  • 64 MB LPDDR SDRAM
  • 128 Mb Multi-I/O SPI Flash
  • 10/100 Ethernet PHY
  • USB-to-UART port
  • On-board USB JTAG circuitry
  • Two 2x6 PMOD expansion port
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3
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This page is probably worth a look even if you won't end up rolling your own :)

http://www.eix.co.uk/Articles/FPGA/Welcome.htm

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3
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Papilio One + LogicStart MegaWing would be better and cheaper than the Basys2.

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2
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Fusion Starter Kit is $500. That is what I have (for $300, before they increased the price). The Libero software is very well done. Highly recommend Actel in general because of superior software quality. I'd reather spend few hundred dollars more than beat my head against wall with some "well known" little bug, which I was supposed to know about, but did not.

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2
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We have a Xilinx Spartan 3A FPGA based board available in store, selling for $50 right now. Not a high end one, but great for beginners. See the board here.

http://numato.com/elbert-spartan-3a-fpga-development-board

There are good tutorials to get started as well at http://numato.com/tutorials/

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like a nice board. Have you considered publishing source and/or protocol for that PIC based programmer it has, so it could be used without Windows? \$\endgroup\$ – Yann Vernier Feb 5 '12 at 9:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ That looks nice, I may have to get one! \$\endgroup\$ – John Burton Feb 5 '12 at 12:13
2
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That Mercury looks nice. But then so do the Xula and Xula-2: http://www.xess.com/prods/prod055.php

If budget drives everything, however, do an eBay search for Xilinx FPGA (or Altera if you want). There are a few development board out of China, selling for about $30, based on the older Spartan-3 FPGA's.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice: the Xula maker (Xess) also makes an adapter board that allows plugging in PMOD and Wings. These are little expanstion boards that add input/output devices/ports to your FPGA.Pmod is a trademark of Digilent Inc., and Wings are for Papilio boards. \$\endgroup\$ – MarkHu Aug 15 '13 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ P.S. The XuLA2 uses the Spartan 6 XC6SLX25 and the original XuLA uses the Spartan 3. \$\endgroup\$ – MarkHu Aug 23 '13 at 0:55
2
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The new(*) "Mojo" FPGA dev board deserves inclusion on this list.

  • Spartan 6 XC6SLX9 FPGA
  • 84 digital IO pins

Note that the main site http://embeddedmicro.com/development-boards/mojo-v3.html examples use Verilog, but via the Xilinx ISE you can also use VHDL.

(*) early 2013 KickStarter campaign: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1106670630/mojo-digital-design-for-the-hobbyist

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1
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knjn.com has some boards, Altera and Xilinx, starting with the Pluto RS232.

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  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ knjn.com point-blank refuses to release the schematics for their development boards. I urge you to stay away from them, if you can. \$\endgroup\$ – Connor Wolf May 4 '11 at 0:43
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Yann, I have posted the source code at our google code base. The code is based on WxWidgets. Should be easy to port to Linux with minor modifications (The serial library used by in the code is not Linux compatible though).

Look for elbert_config_utility_win_src at http://code.google.com/p/numato-open-source/downloads/list

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0
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The Digilent Atlys uses a Spartan6 X45. This is a great chip for DSP work in that it has 58 DSP48 slices. Each of these does 18x18-bit multiplies and two adders at a 390MHz rate. The general logic is 6822 "slices" = 27,000 bits worth of 1-bit fast adder (or 27,000 or 54,000 general logic functions of 6 or 5 variables), and the general logic can clock somewhat faster. It also has 2Mbits of fast onboard SRAM, 320 MHz.

The board includes a lot of nice stuff such as 1Gbit of DDR SDRAM with a 1.6GBytes/sec peak bandwidth. I'm messing around with the HDMI interface right now. It's driving a DVI type monitor with a 1280x1024 pixels. I'm implementing the circuitry for a logic-analyzer so I can debug with that monitor (as a text overlay on top of the graphics background). Lot's of fun.

They sell it for $349, or $200 if you can get an academic. (And who doesn't know someone at a university?) Finally, the development system is the ISE from Xilinx which, for this size FPGA, is free.

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0
votes
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We have a great little FPGA development board on our site, comes with a lot of on-board extras like 8-channel ADC, 4-Mbit SRAM, 50 MHz clock, and 5 V tolerant I/O pins. We designed it in a 64-pin DIP package for use on a breadboard. It is USB programmable for quick loading and testing of new FPGA designs. It is selling for $69 right now. Have a look at it on our site at http://www.micro-nova.com

We also have tutorials that should help you get going if your new to FPGAs.

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0
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While technically not an FPGA (its a PLD), this little guy can be had for $42+shipping and has buttons, LCD, flash, and temp sensor: http://www.latticesemi.com/en/Products/DevelopmentBoardsAndKits/MachXO2PicoDevelopmentKit.aspx

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0
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We have a new Spartan 6 FPGA board available with 512Mbit DDR SDRAM, FT2232H USB device and up to 158 IOs. It probably is worth taking a look at on our store.

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