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The miniSpartan6+ low-cost FPGA dev board arrives. Cowabunga!

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
0 3 163K

The weekend mail brought a padded envelope containing two 3rd-generation miniSpartan6+ development boards from Scarab Hardware. Visually, the boards are very nearly identical. They differ only in the Spartan-6 FPGA mounted on the board. One of the two boards I received has a Spartan-6 LX9 FPGA and the other has a Spartan-6 LX25 FPGA. Here’s a comparison table:


Spartan-6 LX9 versus LX25.jpg 


As you can see from the above table, the Spartan-6 LX25 device has more than double the on-chip logic resources, nearly three times the number of flip-flops (that’s a lot of additional state), nearly double the on-chip distributed RAM and BRAM, and more than twice as many DSP48A1 slices—substantially more resources across the board.


The LX9 version of the Scarab Hardware miniSpartan6+ board now costs $75 (only $6 more than the discounted Kickstarter funding price of $69) and the LX25 version is $105, only $30 additional. For me, it was a no-brainer; I ordered the board with the larger FPGA. This is possible because of the pin compatibility between the Spartan-6 LX9 and LX25 FPGAs in the FTG256 fine-pitch BGA package. (For more Xcell Daily discussions of FPGA pin compatibility and product design, see “How to overcome product obsolescence and inject a mid-life kicker using pin-compatible FPGAs—A quick, real-world case study” and “New UltraScale FPGA pinout guide shows you how you can design one pcb that takes six different devices.”)


What Scarab Hardware means when it calls this miniSpartan6+ board a 3rd-generation design is that the company made some substantial improvements to the original Kickstarter project proposal. Even so, the resulting board design is still significantly smaller than a plastic credit card, but it sports a long list of product features. In addition to the Xilinx FPGA, the miniSpartan6+ gives you:


  • 64 digital I/O pins brought out to headers
  • On-board USB JTAG Programmer
  • On-board 480Mbps USB 2.0 interface to power the board and allow communication with a PC
  • Two on-board HDMI ports, each configurable as an input or output
  • 8-channel, 1Msamples/sec, 8-bit 12-bit ADC
  • 32Mbytes of 166MHz SDRAM
  • 64Mbits of SPI Flash
  • MicroSD card interface
  • Stereo audio output jack using 1-bit sigma-delta DAC
  • 8 LEDs
  • 4 DIP switches
  • 32MHz and 50MHz on-board oscillators


That’s a lot of resources to play with. You really ought to be able to do something interesting with this board.


Given the old saying that a picture is worth 1K words, here’s an annotated photo I shot this morning of my LX25 miniSpartan6+:



Scarab Hardware miniSpartan6+ Dev Board v4.jpg




As you can see, this is a very capable design for learning about FPGAs. However, the board is not just a learning tool in my opinion. It can certainly form the basis of a production product given the substantial amount of I/O available on the headers and the standoff holes located in the board’s corners that would add mechanical strength to a product assembly.


In addition to the downloadable Xilinx ISE Design Suite tools for the Spartan-6 family, Scarab Hardware is developing a Mojo-based development IDE for the miniSpartan6+ board. You’ll find the latest version of the Scarab IDE here.


For earlier Xcell Daily blogs about the Scarab Hardware miniSpartan6+ board that I wrote when the board was a Kickstarter project, see:


Credit-card sized miniSpartan6+ FPGA development board on Kickstarter sold out, unless…


MiniSpartan6+ FPGA board on Kickstarter: 4.5x over funding goal with 25 days left


Here’s your chance to upgrade the miniSpartan6+ Kickstarter project. You have only six more days to pledge


Scarab Hardware adds 40 I/O pins to miniSpartan6+ FPGA dev board Kickstarter project with BGA256 package—3 days left



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