The development of technological devices and other electronic devices is always filled with technical aspects. At the core of it, there may be a need to make some changes to the devices so that the devices can function optimally.
There is only one effective way to reconfigure the computing functions of semiconductor devices. It is via the use of Field Programmable Gate Arrays, also called FPGA.
In this article, you will learn about what FPGA is all about, as well as the different FPGA development boards you can use in 2021.
What is FPGA?
What does FPGA do? Why are many manufacturing sectors using FPGA to reprogram a semiconductor device to implement or add additional logic functions to make the device function better?
First, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are semiconductor devices that are based on Configurable Logic Blocks (CLBs). These devices are only connected to the CLBs via programmable interconnects.
The interesting feature of FPGA is that it has a flexible reconfigurable computing function that makes it flexible to reprogram or change certain features in semiconductor devices.
Besides, these changes are mostly made to include additional functions and features to the semiconductor devices after the devices must have been manufactured.
Which is the Best FPGA to Use?
There are tens of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) out there. So, you are not sure of the one to use or prefer over the others.
You can be confident to find the right FPGA because we have taken the time to analyze the top 20 FPGA development boards that you are free to use for any reprogramming task in 2021.
Are you ready to implement additional functions to your semiconductor devices? Do you want a reliable FPGA that will guarantee the success of the reprogramming?
If so, here are some of the best FPGA you can use in 2021:
1. Xilinx Spartan-7
Xilinx Spartan-7 is one of the FPGAs under the Xilinx product category. One of the amazing features of the Spartan-7 is that it is a cheap FPGA, and this is because it is classified under the Cost-Optimized Portfolio.
No matter the type of device you want to reconfigure or reprogram; you can rest assured that the Xilinx Spartan-7 can offer what you want. For example, the FPGA features Q-grade integrated ADC and dedicated security features, which are the hallmark for commercial device reprogramming.
On the other hand, there are assurances of increased system performance. With that in place, you are confident that the device you want to reconfigure will perform better than it used. The improved performance of the Xilinx Spartan-7 is bolstered by the following features:
- 25.6Gb/s peak DDR3-800 memory bandwidth with a soft and flexible memory controller.
- Up to 30% speed than obtainable in 45nm generation devices
- It has up to 1.25Gb g/s LVDS
The reprogramming functions are also accentuated by some of the additional design specifications, such as IP reuse, Vivado HLx Design Suite WebPack enablement, and the use of Vivado IP Integrator to construct the block-level design.
2. Digilent Basys 3
Are you looking for an entry-level FPGA that helps you to master some of the reprogramming and reconfiguration concepts? Then, the Digilent Basys 3 is what you need to get your hands on.
Digilent Basys 3 is an entry-level Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) board that is exclusively designed for use with the Vivado Design Suite.
Besides, the board features the Artix 7-FPGA architecture, which is a good choice if you are working on a budget.
In terms of the specification, the board has important components that will help you to reconfigure devices in real-time.
First, the board has a few displays and switches that will help you get started in the shortest time possible. Ideally, the displays and switches can be used out-of-the-box without debugging or wiring. That way, you will use the online starter labs, control displays, switches, and buttons to start reconfiguring or reprogramming the device.
Another feature we like the most on the Digilent Basys 3 is the PMOD, which a standard interface for adding peripherals to the board. That way, it will be easier to include many other functions, such as Sensors, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
3. Mojo FPGA
For some reason, you still find it hard to reconfigure or reprogram devices, even when you have the best FPGA board.
We understand that it can be difficult, especially when you are just starting. That is why we always recommend the Mojo FPGA for beginners. This FPGA board is not only easy to use but was also designed with beginners in mind. So, no matter your experience with reprogramming devices with FPGA boards, you can be confident that the Mojo FPGA is what you need to excel at the job.
We would like to mention that the Mojo FPGA was originally designed to help you start the reprogramming process from scratch. This is in addition to the fact that this FPGA development board features 1 LED, which was integrated into the board to help you know when the FPGA was properly configured. That way, you wouldn’t be wondering if you have a programming problem or an issue with the interface.
The second feature of the Mojo FPGA is that it has an Arduino-compatible bootloader that makes it simpler to program the microcontroller if need be.
Although the Mojo FPGA may not be in much circulation as it used to be, you may still be able to get the V3. This updated version includes important functions, such as extra memory for adding your code, a more robust Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, and an upgraded microcontroller.
Moreover, the standard Mojo FPGA development also includes onboard flash memory where you can store the FPGA configuration files that you will use later.
4. Altera DE2
Altera DE2 is a Development and Education FPGA board that was built with the networking, multimedia, and storage prototypes in mind. The idea is to empower programmers to use the Altera DE2 to restructure the aesthetics of the networking, multimedia, and storage prototypes.
As a design engineer, you tend to value an FPGA development board that makes the work easier for you. That is what the Altera DE2 does for you via the implementable laboratory exercises that guide you every step of the way. There are multiple illustrative demonstrations aimed at helping you to leverage the board to reprogram any type of device.
Moreover, you will be pleased with the integration of state-of-the-art technology into the CAD and hardware tools so that designers will be able to amass knowledge in different fields of design.
We are particularly pleased with the various use cases of the Altera DE2, which were made possible because of the inclusion of multiple tools. With that in place, you will find it easier to use the development board for the development of sophisticated digital systems, as well as for handling laboratory applications in both colleges and universities.
5. Icebreaker FPGA
The use of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) is now taught in schools. Both teachers and students are learning how to use FPGA development boards.
The learning process may be complicated at some point. That is why the Icebreaker FPGA was introduced. This is the first of its kind. It is not only one of the first open-source FPGA boards. It is also the first FPGA development board designed for students and teachers.
So, if you are considering buying an FPGA development board for colleges or universities, the Icebreaker FPGA is the one to go for.
It will interest you to know that the open-source design of the Icebreaker FPGA allows for the usage of the board across different FPGA design flows, such as SymbiFlow, Yosys, Icarus Verilog, and IceStorm.
Besides, the board was not just designed for the theoretical part only. Instead, it also features GPIO, which is mostly exposed. That way, the students and teachers can have a swell time using the board during the practical development sessions.
Equally, the Icebreaker FPGA has multiple PMOD connectors that allow for the expansion of the board. The expansion opens up more design explorations, such as designing different kinds of projects, because of the three standard PMOD connectors that allow for a wide range of design options.
6. FPGA Spartan-6
The Xilinx Spartan-6 is popular for being an FPGA development board that offers advanced power management technology. This is very impressive because the board ensures that the designers are not overly using electricity or power on the board.
Second, the Xilinx Spartan-6 is ideal for reprogramming devices that require cost reduction. To that end, the board includes tools that do not only cut down on the power but also reduces the risk and manages the performance of the applications at low costs.
The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA development board is not only built on the proven 45nm technology but also supports ISE on Windows 10.
You can rest assured that the Spartan-6 can be used in many applications, such as high-resolution graphics and video, industrial networks, and vehicle networking and connectivity.
7. Nexys A7
Nexys A7 is one of the most powerful FPGA development boards. It was previously called the Nexys 4 DDR until the latest developments that led to the rebranding.
The rebranding of the Nexys 4 DDR to Nexys A7 came with many pecks, such as increased accessibilities and more industry applications. The wide range of industrial applications is bolstered by the ready-to-use digital circuit development platform that allows for the integration of industry applications into the learning environment, especially in the ECE Curriculum, where it is used as a Trainer Board.
We must mention that the Nexys A7 has 2 variants, which are:
- Nexys A7-50T and
- Nexys A7-100T
Although Nexys A7-5OT is the lesser of the two, it doesn’t change the fact that the two have some similarities, notable among which is the support by the free WebPACK edition.
The Nexys A7 is your readied solution to faster designs and reprogramming. That is because of the multiple built-in peripherals, such as a speaker amplifier, a temperature sensor, several I/0 devices, and an accelerometer.
8. Altera Cyclone IV
Altera Cyclone IV is one of the Cyclone FPGA series manufactured by Intel. It is the ideal FPGA development board for designers who are looking to cut down on the costs of reprogramming devices.
In addition to the low system costs, the Altera Cyclone IV also offers low power consumption, integrated GX transceiver technology, and accurate power analysis and estimation.
Configuring the FPGA is simpler because of the programmer cable that allows designers to use a single Micro-B cable to program the board.
Besides, you can learn a thing or two about FPGA programming by using the Altera Cyclone IV. This is because of the inclusion of important features, such as 2 clock multipliers and 6,000 logic elements.
Open-source FPGA development is very important because it allows designers and different other users to utilize the components of the FPGA development board to become better programmers and designers.
ULX35 is one of the best open-source FPGA development boards out there. Many reasons support that, including retro-gaming and retro-computing.
It is interesting to note that the original idea behind the ULX35 FPGA development board was to help both teachers and learners to master the principles of digital circuit board design.
As much as that remains the core objective, many other additions have been made. Now, you can use the ULX35 FPGA development board to build and program several complex devices.
As a beginner, using the ULX35 FPGA development board will set you on the right path because of the powerful Arduino that the board supports. Through that, you can learn and master how to program the ULX35 via the Arduino IDE.
De0 is a development board that is designed in a compact size to provide all the tools required to build portable projects.
Both beginners and professionals can utilize the essential tools provided in the board to master computer organization, digital logic, and Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) development.
No matter the type of project you have at hand, you can be confident that the De0-Nano Development Board is what you need to become a better designer. At the core of the features of this FPGA board is the suitability for mobile designs that require portable power. The board also includes EEPROM and SDRAM, which are essential tools required to enable the handling of larger data storage and frame buffering.
KC705 is an Evaluation Kit that includes all the basic components of pre-verified reference designs, hardware, and IP, which are required for real-time advanced memory interfacing and high-performance serial connectivity of FPGA development boards.
The Kintex-7 FPGA KC705 Evaluation Kit has many key features that include a wide capacitance range, faster Surface Mount Assembly (SMA) via tape and reel, and highly reliable performance.
The kit also features HDMI out for the faster implementation of video display applications, advanced memory interface, and highly resistant termination metal.
Besides, the kit is fully optimized for fast prototyping high-performance serial transceiver applications. This is done by using Kintex-7 FPGA boards.
12. Zybo Z7
Are you looking for ready-to-use embedded software? If so, the Zybo Z7 FPGA is what you need. It is ready-to-use embedded software and digital circuit development board that is built around the Xilinx Zynq-7000 product line.
It is simpler to integrate the Xilinx 7-series of the Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) logic with the Zybo Z7 because of the basis on the All Programmable System-on-Chip (AP SoC) architecture from Xilinx.
It is worth mentioning that the Zybo Z7 was introduced on time to serve as a replacement for the about-to-be-phased-out Zybo Development Board. The introduction of Zybo Z7 as a replacement for the Zybo Development Board introduced additional performance improvements and features to make reprogramming easier for the designers.
If you are looking to integrate or add more hardware; it is easy too. This is possible because of the several PMOD connectors provided by the Zybo Z7. With those connectors, designers can now add more hardware and other components from the over 70 PMOD peripheral boards that include displays, motor controllers, and sensors. These additional components can be sourced from Digilent’s catalogs.
Do you want to embed a smaller FPGA you’re your project? The best way to do that is by getting the EP2C5T144, which is an Altera Cyclone II FPGA development board for smaller FPGA embedding.
The design or structure as a minimal development board makes it easier to embed the EP2C5T144 into any practical application or project you may be working on.
Some of the applications are:
- Mathematical calculations
- Simple logic control
- Signal processing and
- Data acquisition
TinyFPGA may not be the bulkiest of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), but it is one of the best you can find out there.
The TinyFPGA is a small-field programmable FPGA that packs all the relevant circuitry and components required to make the FPGA development board function as it should. The only difference is that it was made compact.
TinyFPGA is also a low-cost, open-source FPGA development board that allows you to design and implement different digital logic circuits no matter the forms or sizes.
15. Alinx AX7010: Zynq-7000 SoC XC7Z010 FPGA Development Board
The Alinx AX7010: Zynq-7000 SoC XC7Z010 FPGA is an entry-level development board that includes the necessary peripheral interfaces and all the basic components of hardware required to simplify the board development process.
The integration of the Zynq SoC Technology is to provide Integrated System that offers high physical security, as well as a Single-Chip integrated processor and programmable logic to reduce the hassles that come with designing the board.
16. Taidacent HEX Zynq 7020 FPGA Development Board
The Taidacent HEX development is designed for the Xilinx Zynq series of the FPGA XC7Z020.
The board is ideal for both learners and professionals because of the simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-expand development board.
With the integration of important components, such as ASSP, CPU, and DSP, this development board goes a long way to bolster hardware acceleration.
17. Virtex-7 FPGA VC707 Evaluation Kit
The Virtex-7 FPGA VC707 Evaluation Kit (also called VC707), is an FPGA evaluation kit that features a high-speed and highly flexible serial base platform that is based on the Virtex-7 XC7VX485T-2FFG1761C.
The kit also includes industry-standard FPGA Mezzanine Connectors (FMC) and pre-verified reference designs that designers can instantly use to customize the board via the daughter cards.
With this evaluation kit, it is also possible to develop networking applications with the 10-100-1000 Mbps Ethernet.
18. Elbert V2
Elbert V2 is also called Elbert V2 Spartan 3A FPGA because it is a development board that features the Xilinx Spartan 3A FPGA.
This development board is ideal for both beginners/learners, as well as advanced designers who want to take their FPGA designing skills to the next level.
The features of the Elbert V2 FPGA development board include:
- On-board flash programming via the USB 2.0 interface
- RoHS compliant
- Easy configuration via USB and JTAG
- Features 16 Mb SPI flash memory (M25P16)
The Elbert V2 FPGA development board can be used for several applications, such as:
- An educational tool for universities and high schools
- Development of Product prototype
- Signal processing
- Wireless and wired communications
- Home networking
19. Z-Turn Board
Z-Turn Board is one of the most affordable Linux-ready Single Board Computers. It is built around the Xilinx Zynq-7010 or the Zynq-7020 System-on-Chip, with a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.
One of the amazing features of the Z-Turn Board is that it is one of the best development platforms for developing and designing prototypes with the Zynq-7000 System-on-Chip (SoC).
Some of the typical applications for the Z-Turn Board are:
- Industrial automation
- Test & measurement
- Intelligent video surveillance
20. Digilent NetFPGA-SUME Virtex-7
Digilent NetFPGA-SUME Virtex-7 is an FPGA development board that is designed for use in high-performance and high-density applications.
The board is based on the Xilinx Virtex-7 690T, which means that it one of the best FPGA boards for the development of cutting-edge Research and Development (R&D) systems.
Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) are important additions to the design and development of devices and computer programs because the arrays help to organize the structure and performance of the components in those devices.
The guide we just created will not only help you find the cheap FPGA but will also help you select the best from the many options out there.
Have you worked with any of the FPGA development boards on the list? What was the experience like? Let us know in the comments below.