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How to Understand Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA Better

FPGA boards are relatively new hot items in the electronics circuit market. With FPGA boards, the hardware design engineer can field-test their designs quickly and cheaply. You can do this by running them on experimental hardware. Rather than waiting weeks or months for prototypes to arrive overseas, they can now do that on FPGA boards. They are incredibly versatile pieces of hardware that can do anything from buffering data to communicating with other nodes. All this does not need additional software development. They are cheap and small, making them perfect for the hobbyist scene.

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGAs come in several variations, including the LX9, LX10, and LX110 devices. One can equip the LX9 devices with larger memories than the LX100 and LX110 devices. They also have a different processor architecture than the other two devices.

History

FPGA boards have been around for a while, but they have only recently hit the mainstream. The FPGA prototyping board came to the market in the early 90s and became commercially available in 1995. Xilinx Inc. made the first commercial product. It is still one of the leading companies in the FPGA industry today. This product had an onboard memory base of 8MB SRAM, 10MB of flash memory for data logging. It also has two serial ports for communications with computers. It could communicate using SPI, JTAG, and dual-port RAM. The data rate varied from 55Mbit/s to 875Mbit/s. The board was also capable of operating at temperatures between 0 and 70 degrees Celsius.

The price of these boards varied widely depending on the features included. At the time, the Xilinx board cost about CAD 25,000 in 2001 dollars. Other companies produced cheaper alternatives at around CAD 5000 for a 4MB memory board with no flash memory or communications ports. The cost of the boards has decreased dramatically since then, with the cheapest boards costing less than CAD 60 today. The FPGA prototyping board is now a standard in electronic design testing and prototyping.

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards, a new line of FPGA boards from Xilinx, was officially launched in 2007. Their design is compatible with Xilinx’s latest Spartan-6 FPGAs, which are low power and smaller than the Spartan-3 series. With these new FPGAs, lower power requirements and smaller size came at the cost of decreased processing speed and complexity. The Spartan-6 FPGA boards include all the ports necessary to communicate with other computers or devices through USB or RS232.

Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Board features

Xilinx-Spartan-6-FPGA

1. Memory

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards have no onboard memory, but they have a small RAM and flash memory for data logging. We can access this data through the four serial ports and the two USB ports. It uses an SPI Flash memory device, which the boards can operate at speeds of up to 400MHz. The Flash memory device can store about 8MB of data, written four times a second. This allows the boards to have a maximum data throughput of 400Mbit/sec. The board does not have any RAM for the temporary storage of information. However, it has a few kilobytes of Flash memory to store data that you need to save long term.
2. I/O Ports

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA boards include all the necessary ports for interfacing with computers or other devices. The board has two USB ports, two RS232 serial ports, and four GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins for handling signals. We can use these to connect it directly to other devices utilizing this interface. The serial ports are capable of speeds of up to 6Mbps. The I/O ports can communicate with other devices, log data, or even send messages to the other computers connected via USB.

3. Resources

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards provide several useful resources for software engineers and hardware designers. The board’s design offers a minimum of 4MB of Co-Processor Cache memory. We can optimize the cache for data-intensive applications by directly connecting with the onboard SPI Flash memory. The net effect is a significantly increased efficiency when dealing with large amounts of data. The boards also include several dedicated I/O pins. It can communicate with other devices without the need for additional software development.

4. Design Resources

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards contain all the essential design resources that are available with other boards. They include a 3x1mm socket for the Spartan-6 FPGA, an SPI Flash memory device, and at least 2MB RAM. The board is therefore capable of performing any development. Their design makes them easy to use by both hardware designers and software engineers.

5. Cost

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards are extremely cost-effective. They cost less than USD 60 in 2008 and less than USD 45 today. This enormous savings over other boards can reach upwards of CAD 20,000 for the cheapest boards. The low price of the Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards greatly increases their value. It makes them ideal for either hobbyists or production users.

6. Datasheets

The Spartan-6 FPGA Boards structure follows the various datasheets created by Xilinx. These datasheets detail the board’s specifications. They include the exact size of the FPGA and its various peripherals. The manufacturer publishes the specifications in pdf format on the manufacturer’s website and complete information on how to get started with development.

7. Community

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The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards have a vibrant support community. They often post questions and discussions to the Xilinx forum and answer new users’ questions with detail and patience. They also run Q&A sessions where users can ask complicated questions and receive an instant reply. Because of their newness, the board has a lot of room for growth in this area.

8. Production Capabilities

One can produce the Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards in volume. They manufacture the board by applying the standard FPGA manufacturing process. It involves several carefully controlled steps that ensure a quality result. One can also produce the board using a configuration that doesn’t require the board to support USB or RS232 interfaces. It is useful in applications where those features aren’t necessary. This would make it much less expensive and smaller as well.

9. Reliability

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards have a low failure rate for individual units. There have been less than five failures of all the boards sold in just the last two years. Their reliability is excellent. The design is sound, and the manufacturing process includes several components that reduce damage due to physical damage or interference.

10. Networking Capabilities

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards are capable of operating in both standalone modes and through an Ethernet network. They include several network interfaces chips. It allows them to communicate directly with other computers and devices. This is useful for development and debugging purposes.

Benefits of the Spartan 6 FPGA Boards

1. Cost-effective

The Spartan-6 FPGA Boards are extremely cost-effective. While they are still more expensive than many other FPGA boards, the Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards can offer significant savings over boards. They can reach upwards of CAD 20,000 for the cheapest boards. The low price of the Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards greatly increases their value. It makes them ideal for either hobbyists or production users.

2. Spartan 6 FPGA ICs

The Spartan-6 FPGA is a very high-quality piece of hardware with many advanced features. The FPGAs are high speed, allowing them to operate at speeds of up to 400MHz. They have a large memory capacity, making them ideal for use in large-scale designs. In addition to their internal memory, they directly access external memory through components. A good example is the SPI Flash memory chip. The Spartan-6 FPGA ICs have a high density of logic cells, providing a high processing power. The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA boards can operate as standalone devices or as part of a network.

3. Configuration

The Spartan-6 FPGA ICs are very easy to configure using the Xilinx WebPACK software V4.0 and higher. Its configuration is entirely automated, taking only seconds to complete from beginning to end. We can configure the Spartan-6 FPGAs through a simple web interface. This allows both hardware designers and software engineers to make changes easily and quickly.

4. Resources

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards include several useful resources for software engineers and hardware designers. The board can provide a minimum of 4MB of Co-Processor Cache memory. The cache is perfect for data-intensive applications by using a direct connection with the onboard SPI Flash memory.

5. Design Ease

The design of the Spartan-6 FPGA boards is efficient and flexible. The board has several convenient features, like the JTAG header, which allows it to debug. It also includes an accurate temperature sensor. It makes better decisions about what voltage to use when powering the device. The Spartan-6 FPGA Boards have a high density of user I/O pins, allowing them to interface with various devices and peripherals.

6. Datasheets

Manufacturers make the Spartan-6 FPGA boards following the various datasheets created by Xilinx. These datasheets detail the board’s specifications. They include the exact size of the FPGA and its multiple peripherals. It enables designers such as RayMing PCB and Assembly to use advanced data structures. For instance, dynamic arrays and hash tables, to increase performance, improve task throughput and compression.

7. Availability

The Spartan-6 FPGA Boards are readily available from the manufacturer. A company offers the board as a pre-assembled design, ready for immediate production use. Each unit includes a full documentation package and all the components needed to develop. An example is a Spartan-6 LX150 FPGA and associated peripherals.

8. Community

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards have a vibrant support community. They posts questions and discussions to the Xilinx forum and answer new users’ questions with detail and patience. They also run Q&A sessions where users can ask complicated questions and receive an instant reply. Because of their newness, the board has a lot of room for growth in this area.

9. Reliability

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards have a low failure rate for individual units. There have been less than five failures of all the boards sold in just the last two years. Their reliability is excellent. The design is sound, and the manufacturing process includes several components that reduce damage due to physical damage or interference.

10. Networking Capabilities

The Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Boards are capable of operating in both standalone modes and through an Ethernet network. They include several network interfaces chips. It allows them to communicate directly with other computers and devices. This is useful for development and debugging purposes.

The Spartan-6 FPGA is a very high-quality piece of hardware with many advanced features.

Limitations of Spartan 6 FPGA Board

xilinx spartan 6 fpga tutorial

1. Documentation

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards are not very well documented in terms of resources, datasheets, or information on using the Xilinx WebPACK software. The manufacturer does provide a small amount of documentation with the board. However, it is usually enough to get someone started with development. It will leave users without prior knowledge of the hardware is a bit of a lurch when they are trying to make basic changes or updates to their project’s configuration using WebPACK.

2. 3.3V Only Power Supply

The power supply of the Spartan-6 FPGA boards is only designed to draw 3.3V from a computer’s USB port or a wall adapter that outputs 3.3V. This means that it cannot ship with a 5V power supply without causing damage to the computer and board itself. The 5V power supplies that it comes with are usually enough for simple demos and basic experiments. Still, they can be challenging to work with when developing larger circuits or more complicated designs.

3. Size

We cannot use the Spartan-6 FPGA boards for huge designs or systems that require many logic cells or other resources. The boards run the Spartan-6 FPGA ICs manufactured by Xilinx. Because of their size, they cannot use memory components with similar specifications.

4. Missing Resources

The Spartan-6 FPGA Boards do not have useful peripherals like clock oscillators and phase-locked loops (PLL). They have a few valuable peripherals. They include a clock oscillator and a PLL, but they could have been more conveniently implemented. For example, the only way to adjust the frequency of the clock oscillator is by using the FPGA pins. This makes it much more challenging to make changes when compared with an external circuit board.

5. Limited Input Devices

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards only come with a limited number of input devices for use with their FPGAs or I/O pins. As the FPGAs are not designed to work with external resources, they will not work with devices that require more than 1 or 2 I/O pins. The board only has 8 I/O pins that we can use in conjunction with a digital interface, and 4 of these are for use by the FPGA interface. The remaining four pins would generally operate as a clock signal, but they also need to go through a buffer to be helpful.

6. Internal Resources

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards do not have a lot of internal resources. It only has 128 KB of internal RAM, which is not enough to run many high-resolution simulations or to use for very granular timing analysis. The FPGA chips come with 96 MB of onboard memory, so it is possible to squeeze in some resources if needed, but this will take up valuable space on the board.

7. Single-Ended I/O Pins

The Spartan-6 FPGA Boards do not come equipped with any differential I/O pins. It makes interfacing with other devices or Oscilloscopes quite difficult. They work with the Xilinx FPGA chip itself, so they only have single-ended I/O pins. For this reason, users should only use the devices with other chips on the same board.

8. Cost

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards are expensive, and their prices can climb quickly when users need to buy things like cables and development kits. The base price of the boards is usually reasonable. However, custom cables and other peripherals will add a substantial amount of money to the cost.

Applications of Spartan 6 FPGA Board

1. High-Speed Data Acquisition

We can connect the Spartan-6 FPGA boards to several analog components and use them for high-speed data acquisition. one can also connect them to various sensors and transducers. They use it as a control device for applications like motion control and robotics. The Xilinx devices are also capable of running applications with real-time constraints. It is helpful for this application.

2. Motion Control

The Xilinx FPGA boards are also designed to support motion control. It allows for simple applications like the rotation of motors, adjustment of stepper motors, or movement of servo motors. We can use them in conjunction with other High-Speed Motion Control devices. They create very compact control systems that we can manipulate using just a computer mouse. The FPGAs even contain their user interface for this purpose.

3. Digital Signal Processing

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards are also beneficial for digital signal processing. We can use them to perform complex tasks in a fraction of the time it takes a computer to do the same thing. The Spartan-6 FPGA is a high-quality device with many high-speed parallelisms, perfect for running this type of application.

4. High-Speed Computing

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards are also great for solving problems using high-speed computing techniques. For example, the boards can implement large, complex neural networks and DSPs that run at speeds that we can consider high-speed. The FPGAs also have a lot of additional hardware. For instance, drivers, power amplifiers, and other helpful hardware for these types of applications.

5. FPGA Neural Networks

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards are also ideal for neural networks. We can configure the modules to run at very high speeds and execute a wide range of tasks. We can use the boards to process video, audio, and analog data streams using a variety of neural network algorithms.

6. DSP

The Spartan-6 FPGA boards are also often used to implement several different digital signal processing algorithms. They work very well for audio processing applications and multimedia applications.

7. FPGA System-on-Chip (SoC)

We can also combine the Spartan-6 FPGA boards with other devices to make an FPGA System on Chip. This type of board is excellent for incorporating a wide range of peripherals. It includes connecting an Ethernet cable and running software. This allows the board to communicate with other devices on the network.

Spartan 6 FPGA Boards

xilinx spartan 6 fpga component for sale

[XP68-04] Xilinx PLCC68 Spartan-6 LX45 FPGA Module

XC6SLX45: 4 CMTs, 50 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 218 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 58 DSP Slices, 2,088 Total Block RAM Bits (Kbits), 401 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 43,661 Logic Cells, and 6,822 Slices

[XP68-03] Xilinx PLCC68 Spartan-6 LX45 FPGA Module

XC6SLX45: 4 CMTs, 50 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 218 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 32 DSP Slices, 2,088 Total Block RAM (Kbits), 401 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 43,661 Logic Cells, and 6,822 Slices

XCM-306] Xilinx Spartan-6 LX TQG144 FPGA board

XC6SLX9: 576 K Total Block RAM Bits, 56 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 200 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 90 K Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 9,152 Logic Cells, and 1430 Slices

XC6SLX4: 216 K Total Block RAM Bits, 56 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 132 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 75 K Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 3,849 Logic Cells, and 600 Slices

[XCM-019Y] Xilinx Spartan-6 FGG484 FPGA board (5 V Tolerant)

XC6SLX75: 132 DSP Slices, 3,096 Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 692 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 74,637 Logic Cells, and 11,662 Slices

XC6SLX45: 58 DSP Slices, 2,088 Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 401 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 43,661 Logic Cells, and 6,822 Slices

[EDX-301] Xilinx Spartan-6 USB-FPGA board

XC6SLX16-2CSG225C: 576 K Total Block RAM bits, 56 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 232 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 136 K Maximum Distributed RAM bits, 14,579 Logic Cells, and 2,278 Slices

[XCM-111] Xilinx Spartan-6 LXT FGG484 FPGA board

XC6SLX150T: 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 540 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 180 DSP Slices, 1,355 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 147,443 Logic Cells, and 23,038 Slices

XC6SLX100T: 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 498 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 180 DSP Slices, 976 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 101,261 Logic Cells, and 15,822 Slices

XC6SLX75T: 3,096 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 348 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 132 DSP Slices, 692 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 74,637 Logic Cells, and 11,662 Slices

XC6SLX45T: 2,088 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 58 DSP Slices, 401 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 43,661 Logic Cells, and 6,822 Slices

[XP68-01] Xilinx PLCC68 Spartan-6 LX16 FPGA Module

XC6SLX16: 2 CMTs, 50 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 232 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 32 DSP Slices, 576 Total Block RAM Bits, 136 Maximum Distributed RAM Bits, 14,579 Logic Cells, and 2,278 Slices

[XCM-206Z] Xilinx Spartan-6 FGG676 FPGA board

XC6SLX150: 180 DSP Slices, 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 576 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 1,355 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 147,443 Logic Cells, and 23,038 Slices

XC6SLX100: 180 DSP Slices, 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 480 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 976 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 101,261 Logic Cells, and 15,822 Slices

XC6SLX75: 132 DSP Slices, 3,096 Total Block RAM Bits, 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 408 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 692 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 74,637 Logic Cells, and 11,662 Slices

[XCM-019] Xilinx Spartan-6 FGG484 FPGA board (5 V I/O)

XC6SLX75: 132 DSP Slices, 3,096 Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 692 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 74,637 Logic Cells, and 11,662 Slices

XC6SLX45: 58 DSP Slices, 2,088 Total Block RAM Bits, 100 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 401 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 43,661 Logic Cells, and 6,822 Slices

[XCM-206] Xilinx Spartan-6 FGG676 FPGA board

XC6SLX150: 180 DSP Slices, 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 1,355 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 147,443 Logic Cells, and 23,038 Slices

XC6SLX100: 180 DSP Slices, 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 296 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 976 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 101,261 Logic Cells, and 15,822 Slices

Xilinx Spartan-6 FGG484 FPGA board (XCM-110Z, XCM-110, XCM-018, XCM-018Z)

XC6SLX150: 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 338 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 180 DSP Slices, 1,355 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 147,443 Logic Cells, and 23,038 Slices

XC6SLX100: 4,824 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 326 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 180 DSP Slices, 976 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 101,261 Logic Cells, and 15,822 Slices

XC6SLX75: 3,096 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 280 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 132 DSP Slices, 692 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 74,637 Logic Cells, and 11,662 Slices

XC6SLX45: 2,088 Total Block RAM Bits, 128 Maximum user I/O pins (Board), 316 Maximum user I/O pins (Device), 58 DSP Slices, 401 Maximum Distributed RAM (Kbits), 43,661 Logic Cells, and 6,822 Slices

Conclusion

By considering all the aspects of this board, there is no doubt that the Spartan 6 FPGA Board is the ideal and best for prototyping and rapid design. It is inexpensive, versatile, and easy to configure, so it is the best choice.