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Altera Cyclone IV FPGA Development Board

Working with electronics, back in the day, was about being an engineer. A few years ago, this changed drastically when Arduino, Xilinx, and Altera started making cheap FPGA boards that are easy to use. Not only are these boards cheap, but they also work with the prototyping board called breadboard that is not expensive at all. FPGAs are great because you can do anything you want with them. What does this mean? If your code is fast enough, it means that you can match or exceed the performance of a CPU board. I have had the good fortune of reviewing many FPGA boards, and they are awesome. The two best are Intel’s Altera Cyclone IV and Xilinx‘s Virtex III-7, which we will be looking at in this article.

Cyclone IV FPGA Boards overview

The Cyclone IV FPGA are boards developed based on the Intel Cyclone IV family of field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). They are all part of the Intel SoC Products Group. The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are available in six different models. We will discuss these models in more detail at the end of the article. The boards all have different features that better fit the needs of different users. Depending on the model, most board models have a large, 18 x 18 inch, double-sided, copper FPGA with 1.5 trillion to 4 trillion logic elements (LEs).

The rest of the models use smaller FPGAs. The models with the larger FPGA sizes target high-end users who need more gates and IO pins to complete their projects. However, the smaller the FPGA, the lower the cost of the board and development kit. You can purchase the Cyclone IV FPGA boards as development kits. The development kits include access to the Quartus II design software, VHDL files, and hardware files. They are necessary to create a Cyclone IV FPGA board design. This makes it quick and easy for users with little or no design experience to get started with their projects.

Specifications

altera cyclone iv Board

The key features for the Cyclone IV FPGA boards are:

1. Power

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have a power budget of 2.4W per FPGA logic block for the 256M logic configuration and 3.3W for the 512M configuration. These Cyclone IV I/O locations consume a power budget of 1.2W per I/O unit. But one can lower them to as little as about one-sixteenth of a watt using jumpers and decoupling capacitors on those locations.

2. I/O Locations

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have 40 differential LVDS blocks that can handle 12 bits of data per channel, allowing 48 single-ended LVDS pairs. In addition, there is one differential USB-OTG serial transceiver with receiving and transmitting capability and two programmable peripheral interfaces (PPIs) that one can configure as four PCIe lanes or six SPI channels each.

3. Embedded multipliers

The Cyclone IV FPGAs have embedded multiply and divide units that can multiply and divide the register width up to four times. Thus, one can enable the full multiplier and divider capabilities through a multi-bit multiplier and divider. Additionally, you can enable two multipliers and two dividers. The embedded multiplier and divide capabilities are essential when designing with the smallest FPGAs (1.5T, 2T) in signal processing, audio processing, and mixed-signal designs.

4. Memory blocks

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have multi-gigabit transceivers and programmable memory blocks. It creates a high-speed serial link between the FPGA and AMD Opteron, Intel Xeon, or Intel Core processors. The integrated memory blocks also allow for the creation of high-speed memory within the FPGA itself.

5. Clock networks and PLLs

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have clock networks that one can configure as one to four-phase clocks. Users can also bypass the clock networks and use direct PLL outputs.

6. HPS (High-Performance Switch)

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have a high-density switch fabric. It is capable of 140 Gbit/s throughputs per device and nearly 100,000 packets per second per device. HPS is very scalable and allows for easy switch fabrics with large capacities and low latency.

7. FPGA Architecture

Cyclone IV FPGA boards depend on the Intel ISSI ISE (Integrated Silicon Solution Initiative) technology. The ISSI ISE technology is a platform for trading off between flexibility, memory resources, and performance. This allows for the easy implementation of high-performance and high-flexibility designs.

8. Configuration and remote system upgrades

Users can configure the Cyclone IV FPGA boards remotely over a serial link. This means that minimal hardware can be helpful when configuring the board for the first time. There are also configuration files in Verilog and VHDL that are necessary when getting started with your project. The configuration files are available for many different chipsets. It allows users to get started easily without worrying about licensing costs or royalties when using others’ codes.

9. SEU mitigation

Cyclone IV FPGA boards have an SEU (Self-Evolving Units) mitigation feature. The feature attempts to differentiate between ports used for sending and receiving data. This feature will detect interrupt requests where the address fields are equal but the data fields are not equal. VHTEs will not match because these ports are essential for different sending and receiving data.

10. Transceivers

The Cyclone IV FPGAs have a very high-speed serial interface that can support 600-MHz data rates. We can use the programmable transceivers. It means different combinations of components to get higher performance. In addition, there are also 1.2-GHz transceivers that we can use for 10GBASE-T network connectivity. The Cyclone IV FPGAs also support eight PCIe lanes (two per FPGA) and two PCIe peripheral interfaces (PPI).

11. External memory interfaces

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have four memory interfaces. They support DDR3 SDRAM, ECC-protected DDR3 SDRAM, LPDDR4 DRAM, and 16-/32-/64-bit memory configurations. These memory interfaces all use the same basic design over the entire 4×16 GB range.

How to get Intel (Altera) Cyclone IV FPGA Boards

There are three ways to get the Cyclone IV FPGA boards.

1. The first is to order them directly from Xilinx/Intel.

Intel provides kits that have all the components needed to build a complete FPGA board. The only parts not provided are capacitors for decoupling, resistors to create test points, and some specific low-power resistors. These are useful in identifying the location of all the other parts on your FPGA board.

2. You can also buy an assembled Cyclone IV FPGA board through Xilinx/Intel distributors.

These distributors will provide the required components. They can also include them in your purchased order or sell them separately. Additionally, they will provide thorough assembly instructions, test plans, schematics, board layout information, and software drivers for creating your FPGA board design.

3. The last option is to buy a bare Cyclone IV FPGA board and assemble it yourself.

The bare Cyclone IV FPGA boards contain only the logic and transceiver blocks required to start your initial designs. You can then add more optional components. Then create a complete test platform that covers all the features of the Cyclone IV FPGAs, such as PCIe connectivity, DDR3 memory, and so on.

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are essential for creating prototype boards that we use in conjunction with the Cyclone IV Ecosystem, a collection of Open Source IP (Intellectual Property) cores that run on the Cyclone IV FPGAs.

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are compatible with the following processor platforms:

We can design the Cyclone IV FPGA boards for applications that require high bandwidth and low latency. However, they are not appropriate for applications that require low-latency performance or throughput.

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are LGA package versions. They include Intel Core i5/Core i7 processors, Pentium G3258/G4400, desktop AMD Athlon II lineup, and Intel Pentium G4500.

The additional package options are the Mini-ITX package that supports the Intel Celeron processors. Also, the mobile Intel Atom C2750, Pentium N3700, and mobile Pentium N3160.

Intel has built many different FPGAs on top of the same basic architecture to create a wide range of products. This includes the Altera Cyclone IV FPGA family with high-bandwidth serial links over PCIe, DDR memory interfaces, and other features. The first generation of Cyclone IV FPGA boards had up to 16 GB of DDR3 memory on-chip, but the newer versions have up to 4 TB of DDR4 memory.

Advantages of Intel (Altera) Cyclone IV FPGA Boards

System Costs Optimization

The Cyclone IV FPGAs can optimize a system to use less power through configurable and intelligent power gating designs. However, the FPGA board still needs to use a lot of power and limit the number of other devices placed on the motherboard. Although, using the DDR4 memory interface will lower overall system costs. It is because fewer components must be present on the motherboard.

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards can save space on the motherboard, making it easier to reduce system costs based on size constraints. As a result, manufacturers design the FPGA board to be as small as possible and are smaller than most motherboards.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs provide industry-leading density and performance. It then supports higher throughputs, larger memory sizes, and improved power consumption over previous versions of the Cyclone II architecture.

Reduce Power Consumption

Cyclone IV FPGA boards can increase the performance of the system while lowering power consumption. FPGAs do not need to go through several steps to compile them or go through an entire boot cycle like other processors.

We also design the Cyclone IV FPGAs for higher clock frequencies than previous generations. It means they can get more work done in less time, which will lead to lower power consumption if run at the same frequency as previous generations.

Memory Interface

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards contain programmable memory-interface standards. Additionally, they support various industry standards to reduce the costs of designing a system. We can use the DDR3 memory interface for standalone applications or as a bridge to an FPGA with a Xilinx Virtex UltraScale+ interface. The DDR4 memory interface supports the next generation of DDR3 memory.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are essential for smaller footprints to reduce system costs. As a result, the FPGA board may have fewer components than other motherboards that are bigger. Eventually, they reduce the overall system cost.

BIOS Requirements

These BIOS requirements are not as complex or complex as previous versions of the Cyclone II architecture. In addition, this generation does not need many unique I/O pins, thanks to multiple input/output options.

Silicon and Architectural Optimizations

These boards use silicon and architectural optimizations to improve system efficiency. This means that one will process the FPGA board differently than other processors. Thus, it helps to improve the system’s performance while lowering costs.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs run at higher clock frequencies than previous generations and take less power. These characteristics lead to lower system costs. Moreover, it is because we need fewer components and design time to create a complete system, which one can use at lower speeds without slowing down.

The cost of the Cyclone IV FPGA boards is more than previous generations. Still, overall system costs can go down by using fewer components or reducing the motherboard cost. It does not need to include as many components as other processors.

Accurate Power Estimation and Analysis

We use the Cyclone IV FPGA boards to measure the power required by the system and identify where wasted power is. This will help companies reduce power for their system to identify where we can save wasted power.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are perfect for high-performance systems. Systems that need maximum to compute resource utilization. We often use them as a bridge between other high-end FPGAs or high-performance servers, or networking applications.

Intel Quartus Prime Power Optimization

The Intel Quartus Prime software for the Cyclone IV FPGA boards is essential in specifying power consumption limits. This can lead to more efficient designs that will consume less power than other processors.

Users should use the Intel Quartus Prime software because it helps to identify wastage of power to optimize it before using it in a system.

The Cyclone IV FPGA board is excellent for high-performance applications. Applications that consume more power than other processors. This needs a lot of consideration when measuring power consumption in a system.

Disadvantages of Intel (Altera) Cyclone IV FPGA Boards

1. Large Consumption of Resources

The FPGA boards consume more power than other processors. It is because they are essential in high-performance applications. This means that the FPGA board will have a larger impact on the system than other components.

The altera FPGA board also consumes more power than previous generations. It means that the total energy consumption will increase unless other components lower it.

2. Semiconductor Costs

The Cyclone IV FPGAs cost more than other processors, especially for large-scale deployments. It means that the total system cost will increase.

3. System Size and Complexity

The FPGA boards can cause a system to be larger than other processors. This is because they include more components and more space on the motherboard. It may reduce costs for some applications. However, it can increase costs for other applications where size and complexity are significant factors.

4. Space Requirements

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are small, but they will still take up more space on the motherboard than other processors. This may cause problems for applications where space is a significant factor.

5. High Use of Resources and Complexity of Use

We can use the Cyclone IV FPGA boards to solve complicated problems and save time and money compared to other processors. However, they also require a lot of resources and more than one person to work on them at a time.

6. Complex Knowledge of Design

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are perfect for very complex designs, which means that they are not easy to use compared to other processors.

7. Disadvantages in Accelerating Other Processors

We can use the Cyclone IV FPGA boards to speed up other processors, but they can also slow down some applications compared to other processors. Moreover, the Cyclone IV FPGAs do not always accelerate each application with the same results.

8. Unstable and Flawed

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards have been unstable and flawed because of long delays in FPGA board production and poor design. This has caused problems in the past.

9. No Support From Other Companies

Other companies do not support the Cyclone IV FPGA boards. It means less hardware information is available for them than for other processors.

10. Poor Performance of Commercial Applications

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are not suitable for commercial applications. It means that they will have a large impact on systems designed for commercial applications.

Is Intel (Altera) Cyclone IV FPGA Boards a good fit for my project?

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are good for many applications. This is because they have high performance, scalability, and low power consumption.

Additionally, the Cyclone IV FPGA boards can sometimes cause a system larger than other processors, leading to problems when using the system. This is especially true if you use the system in an industrial application where space is essential.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are usually designed for high-performance applications. It leads to a larger system size and less efficient design than other processors. This means that the system will consume more power and cost more than other systems.

How can I use my Cyclone IV FPGA boards?

Companies can use the Cyclone IV FPGAs as they would any other processor to improve the performance of their computers and gain from the advantages they offer. We can also use them when speed and efficiency are essential when solving complicated problems.

FPGAs are essential in supercomputing systems to solve complex problems faster than other processors.

Companies can use the Cyclone IV FPGAs to solve very complicated problems that general-purpose processors cannot solve. They can also use them in commercial applications that need high performance, scalability, and low power consumption.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are also essential in designing specialized hardware solutions for specialized systems.

How hard is it to use the Intel (Altera) Cyclone IV FPGA Boards?

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are suitable for high-performance applications, making them very difficult to use. So, they require a lot of programming, time, and effort to use in the field. This means that companies need to assign a lot of resources when using them in their systems.

How can I optimize my Cyclone IV FPGA boards?

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards are essential for high-performance applications. So, they need optimization before using them in a system. This means that companies will need to use more resources than other processors if their systems have high performance.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs also consume more power than other processors, which means the total energy consumption will increase unless other components reduce it.

Intel (Altera) Cyclone IV FPGA Boards

Common specifications include:

  • Made In Japan
  • RoHS compliance
  • Tested all I/O
  • ESD & Surge protection element for USB I/F
  • Compact size (53 x 54 mm)
  • High quality six layers PCB (Immersion gold)
  • 5.0 V single power supply operation
  • JTAG buffer for stable download or debug
  • JTAG Connector (10 pin socket) for download cable connection
  • Power-on Reset
  • Status LED (Power, Done)
  • Seven segments LED module x1
  • User LED x4
  • User Switch (Push x1, DIP x1bit)
  • 50MHz Oscillator (50 ppm) or External inputs
  • USB control IC (FTDI, FT2232H) Free Original Configuration Tool ” BBC [EDA-301]”
  • User communication I/F
  • Configuration device access (Write/Reset/Erase)
  • FPGA Configuration
  • Power: 3.3 V single supply – 1.2 V/2.5 V on-board regulators

1. [ACM-023] Altera Cyclone IV E F484 FPGA board

EP4CE115F23C8N

  • 100 Maximum operator/user I/O (Board)
  • 528 Maximum operator/user I/O (Device)
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 4 PLLs
  • 266 Embedded Multipliers
  • 3,888 Embedded Memory (Kbits)
  • 114,480 Logic Elements

EP4CE75F23C8N

  • 100 Maximum consumer/user I/O (Board)
  • 426 Maximum consumer/user I/O (Device)
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 4 PLLs
  • 200 Embedded Multipliers
  • 2,745 Embedded Memory (Kbits)
  • 75,408 Logic Elements

EP4CE55F23C8N

  • 100 Maximum operator/user I/O (Board)
  • 374 Maximum operator/user I/O (Device)
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 4 PLLs
  • 154 Embedded Multipliers
  • 2,340 Embedded Memory (Kbits)
  • 55,856 Logic Elements

2. [ACM-107] Altera Cyclone IV E F484 FPGA board

EP4CE115F23C8N

  • 266 Embedded 18×18 Multipliers
  • 3,888 Embedded Memory (kbits)
  • 128 Maximum operator/user I/O pins (Board)
  • 528 Maximum operator/user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 PLLs
  • 114,480 Logic Elements

EP4CE75F23C8N

  • 200 Embedded 18×18 Multipliers
  • 2,745 Embedded Memory(kbits)
  • 128 Maximum operator/user I/O pins (Board)
  • 426 Maximum operator/user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 PLLs
  • 75,408 Logic Elements

EP4CE55F23C8N

  • 154 Embedded 18×18 Multipliers
  • 2,340 Embedded Memory(kbits)
  • 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 374 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 PLLs
  • 55,856 Logic Elements

3. [ACM-108] Altera Cyclone IV GX F484 FPGA board

EP4CGX150

  • 360 Embedded 18×18 Multipliers
  • 6,480 Embedded Memory(kbits)
  • 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 475 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 PLLs
  • 149,760 Logic Elements

EP4CGX110

  • 280 Embedded 18×18 Multipliers
  • 5,490 Embedded Memory(kbits)
  • 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 475 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 PLLs
  • 109,424 Logic Elements

EP4CGX50

  • 140 Embedded 18×18 Multipliers
  • 2,502 Embedded Memory(kbits)
  • 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 310 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 PLLs
  • 49,888 Logic Elements

4. [EDA-301] Altera Cyclone IV USB-FPGA board

EP4CE15F17C8N

  • 56 Maximum operator/user I/O pins (Board)
  • 165 Maximum operator/user I/O pins (Device)
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 4 PLLs
  • 56 Embedded 18 x 18 multipliers
  • 504 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 15,408 Logic Elements

5. [ACM-204] Altera Cyclone IV E F780 FPGA board

EP4CE115

  • 266 Embedded 18 × 18 multipliers
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 3,888 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 528 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 General-purpose PLLs
  • 114,480 Logic Elements

EP4CE40

  • 116 Embedded 18 × 18 multipliers
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 1,134 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 532 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 General-purpose PLLs
  • 39,600 Logic Elements

EP4CE30

  • 66 Embedded 18 × 18 multipliers
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 594 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 532 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 General-purpose PLLs
  • 28,848 Logic Elements

6. [ACM-205] Altera Cyclone IV E F780 FPGA board

EP4CE115

  • 266 Embedded 18 × 18 multipliers
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 3,888 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 528 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 General-purpose PLLs
  • 114,480 Logic Elements

EP4CE40

  • 116 Embedded 18 × 18 multipliers
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 1,134 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 532 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 General-purpose PLLs
  • 39,600 Logic Elements

EP4CE30

  • 66 Embedded 18 × 18 multipliers
  • 20 Global Clock Networks
  • 594 Embedded memory (Kbits)
  • 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board)
  • 532 Maximum user I/O pins (Device)
  • 4 General-purpose PLLs
  • 28,848 Logic Elements

Conclusion

The Cyclone IV FPGA boards from Intel (Altera) are perfect for a wide range of applications with specific computational requirements. We can use them to increase performance, scalability, and efficiency, which is why more companies are using them over general-purpose processors.

Companies like RayMing PCB and Assembly that are familiar with FPGAs can also use the Cyclone IV FPGAs like any other processor when speed and efficiency are essential when solving complicated problems.

The Cyclone IV FPGAs are perfect for high-performance applications, so they may not perform as well as other processors in commercial applications. However, they can also give a system a more complex design, impacting its overall efficiency.