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Visitor
Visitor
18,754 Views
Registered: ‎09-08-2011

Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

Hi,

 

I'm looking for an easy to get started FPGA development board with ADC capability.


My initial requirements are:

- 1 channel ADC input, 10MSPS

- 1 channel digital (or ideally analogue) output

- Simple real-time decision making capability

 

Based on these requirements you may suggest that I try a microprocessor instead, but I'm quite interested in getting into FPGAs.


I've seen that TI and Analog Devices offer high-speed ADC boards with FFC connectors. Is this what you would recommend in addition to a standard Xilinx dev-board? If not, I'd be grateful for any advice you have.

 

I also noticed that the Analog Devices and TI modules have very high sampling rates in general (> 80MSPS). I'm guessing this isn't a problem as I must be sample at a lower frequency.

 

Finally, what software do you use to program the FPGAs? I don't know VHDL or Verilog yet, but I understand you can get graphical compilers (like Labview). Are these expensive and is there a free trial with the dev boards?

Thanks a lot!

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12 Replies
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Instructor
Instructor
18,748 Views
Registered: ‎07-21-2009

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

Why don't you browse through the various development boards showcased on the Xilinx website.  Many of them include both ADC and DAC, and a license for programming software.  Some are quite inexpensive.

 

Once you have narrowed down your selection to (perhaps) a few boards, you might have a few more specific questions, and you should have no problem getting quick answers for these.

 

-- Bob Elkind

SIGNATURE:
README for newbies is here: http://forums.xilinx.com/t5/New-Users-Forum/README-first-Help-for-new-users/td-p/219369

Summary:
1. Read the manual or user guide. Have you read the manual? Can you find the manual?
2. Search the forums (and search the web) for similar topics.
3. Do not post the same question on multiple forums.
4. Do not post a new topic or question on someone else's thread, start a new thread!
5. Students: Copying code is not the same as learning to design.
6 "It does not work" is not a question which can be answered. Provide useful details (with webpage, datasheet links, please).
7. You are not charged extra fees for comments in your code.
8. I am not paid for forum posts. If I write a good post, then I have been good for nothing.
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Explorer
Explorer
18,746 Views
Registered: ‎11-19-2010

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

My advice is also to browse among the available development boards, use google and you will discover some other manufacturers in addition to those in xilinx website. I guess you can get such a board for under 100 USD.

 

ADCs sampling at 80 Msps can also sample at 10 Msps, only you are paying for what you are not using, but who knows, maybe you want someday to try such a 'high' speed application.

 

To develop with Xilinx, I recommend you the Xilinx ISE. Webpack edition it's for free. VHDL and Verilog are not difficult to learn. It's comparable (in learning curve) to a programming language like C. If you want to get introduced to FPGAs, you shouldn't avoid learning VHDL, come on!!!

 

Matlab has a toolbox (I think Xilinx ISE installs it, it doesn't come witth Matlab) and you can develop your FPGA systems in Simulink, the graphical way, then you 'compile' it to VHDL files. Maybe you are thinking you could just use those generated VHDL files and ignore VHDL, but in practice, you need to revise those files, so again, my advice is not to avoid the language.

 

Good luck!!

 

 

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Visitor
Visitor
18,730 Views
Registered: ‎09-08-2011

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

Thanks for your replies.


Bob, it's possible I'm searching with the wrong keywords, but the only vaguely low cost board that contains an A/D is the Spartan 3A Starter Kit, and that's $199 (which is great). Unfortunately the LTC chip on board has a maximum speed of 3 MSPS. Above that, I've seen a couple of $2000+ boards that have A/Ds.

I've also looked at FMC cards that plug into development boards - the ones which have a price on them are pretty steep (again $2000+).

The only thing I've found that might be useful (but not well documented) is on the Analog Devices website where they have a board called HSC-ADC-EVALCZ which can be used with any of their ADC evaluation boards - this sounds like it might work. Would I still be able to use the Xilinx ISE Webpack edition with this?

I must be doing something wrong on the Xilinx website though - I can't find a board that lies in between $199 / 3MSPS and $2000+ / 100MSPS configurations. Can you point me in the right direction?

 

jcabel, thanks for the advice on the compiler. This is a stupidly subjective question, but how quickly do you run into limitations on the Xilinx ISE Webpack edition? I'm interested in getting up and running quickly and if the saving in time is considerable then it may be worth getting a license for the full version. Any opinions would be welcome!

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Explorer
Explorer
18,723 Views
Registered: ‎08-12-2011

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

Hi Neil,

 

AD's HSC-ADC-EVALCZ uses a Virtex 4 FX20 which is too big an FPGA for WebPack.

 

When you're considering an FPGA board you should check here:

 

http://www.xilinx.com/publications/matrix/Software_matrix.pdf

 

That chart shows you which FPGAs are supported by Webpack (ie the cheaper ones).

If you're board has an FPGA that's too good for Webpack you'll need the full version of ISE.

 

>I must be doing something wrong on the Xilinx website though - I can't find a board that lies in between $199 / 3MSPS

>and $2000+ / 100MSPS configurations. Can you point me in the right direction?

 

There are many good boards that aren't listed on the Xilinx website.  There's a more extensive listing here:

 

http://www.fpga-faq.com/FPGA_Boards.shtml

 

and some reviews here:

 

http://tristesse.org/CheapFPGADevelopmentBoards

 

You might even find a reference to my latest product:  ;-)

 

http://www.sioi.com.au/shop/index.php/cPath/30_24

 

My FS60x product has a 32MB capture buffer with 800MB/s peak bandwidth and a high speed expansion connector for plugging in fast ADCs.  

I haven't rolled out my ADC cards yet, so you may be better off going with a product that already has ADC support.

 

>jcabel, thanks for the advice on the compiler. This is a stupidly subjective question, but how quickly do you run into

>limitations on the Xilinx ISE Webpack edition? I'm interested in getting up and running quickly and if the saving in time is

>considerable then it may be worth getting a license for the full version. Any opinions would be welcome!

 

Webpack has all of the goodness of full ISE *except* that it only supports the smaller, cheaper FPGAs.

For your application I estimate that even the smallest of Xilinx's current FPGA range (the Spartan 6 LX4) would be more than you need.

 

Regards,

Stephen Ecob

 

Silicon On Inspiration
Sydney Australia
www.sioi.com.au

 

$39 Spartan 6 board with 32MB DDR DRAM ?

 

http://www.sioi.com.au/shop/product_info.php/products_id/47

 

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Instructor
Instructor
18,719 Views
Registered: ‎07-21-2009

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

The sad truth is that 10MS/sec ADC and DAC puts you in the high-performance ($$, i.e. ka-ching!) end of the product spectrum.  The bad news is that these boads tend to cost more than $1K, and tend to use parts (Virtex families) which are not supported by the no-cost ISE Webpack.  The good news is that these boards come bundled with a limited (device-locked) license for the ISE toolset which supports the FPGA on the board (check the 'Tools & IP' list for details).

 

There's another option:  roll your own.  This option perhaps is interesting to you If you are either very clever, over-ambitious, or incredibly foolhardy  -- I'll leave that up to you to choose.  The roll your own option works like this:

 

 

Just a suggestion, no warranty or guarantee of success expressed or implied.

 

-- Bob Elkind

SIGNATURE:
README for newbies is here: http://forums.xilinx.com/t5/New-Users-Forum/README-first-Help-for-new-users/td-p/219369

Summary:
1. Read the manual or user guide. Have you read the manual? Can you find the manual?
2. Search the forums (and search the web) for similar topics.
3. Do not post the same question on multiple forums.
4. Do not post a new topic or question on someone else's thread, start a new thread!
5. Students: Copying code is not the same as learning to design.
6 "It does not work" is not a question which can be answered. Provide useful details (with webpage, datasheet links, please).
7. You are not charged extra fees for comments in your code.
8. I am not paid for forum posts. If I write a good post, then I have been good for nothing.
Highlighted
Visitor
Visitor
18,710 Views
Registered: ‎09-08-2011

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

Thanks again for the quick replies!

 

Bit disappointing the Analog Devices option won't work without the full ISE Design Suite. I guess I'd also end up developing with an FPGA that's too expensive for the future.

 

I did find the Texas Instruments ADC evaluation boards (http://www.ti.com/tool/fmc-adc-adapter), which plug in to the FMC connector. Does that mean I can just buy a SP601 board as you say, buy the eval board and TI adapter, and then use the Webpack Edition of ISE?

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Highlighted
Instructor
Instructor
18,702 Views
Registered: ‎07-21-2009

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

I did find the Texas Instruments ADC evaluation boards (http://www.ti.com/tool/fmc-adc-adapter), which plug in to the FMC connector. Does that mean I can just buy a SP601 board as you say, buy the eval board and TI adapter, and then use the Webpack Edition of ISE?

 

Yes, at a first glance.  Here are some warnings, from someone who has used none of these products:

 

  • FMC support can be either LPC or HPC.
  • While HPC and LPC are mechanically compatible, LPC is a pin-subset of HPC.
  • SP601 and SP605 support LPC only
  • Check the TI adapter and ADC cards for mapping to LPC-only or HPC.
  • Check the power supply requirements for the TI card(s).

 

-- Bob Elkind

SIGNATURE:
README for newbies is here: http://forums.xilinx.com/t5/New-Users-Forum/README-first-Help-for-new-users/td-p/219369

Summary:
1. Read the manual or user guide. Have you read the manual? Can you find the manual?
2. Search the forums (and search the web) for similar topics.
3. Do not post the same question on multiple forums.
4. Do not post a new topic or question on someone else's thread, start a new thread!
5. Students: Copying code is not the same as learning to design.
6 "It does not work" is not a question which can be answered. Provide useful details (with webpage, datasheet links, please).
7. You are not charged extra fees for comments in your code.
8. I am not paid for forum posts. If I write a good post, then I have been good for nothing.
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Highlighted
Explorer
Explorer
18,697 Views
Registered: ‎11-19-2010

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

An alternative is to wait for boards with the announced Artix-7 and Kintex-7 (Virtex-7 again would be too much) which already have ADC on-chip

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Advisor
Advisor
18,670 Views
Registered: ‎10-05-2010

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

The XADC only has a 1 MSPS ADC, though!

 

If building a board for the ADC of your choice is outside of your abilities (or you don't have a friendly electronics technician to call on), have a look around for evaluation boards from the ADC manufacturers. They're generally designed to be connected to a corresponding data acquisition/interface board, but it shouldn't be too hard to build a simple adaptor that connects one to your FPGA board. Perhaps stick to eval boards that have easy-to-solder interface headers - I've seen some Analog Devices boards that have great big 0.1" headers and parallel interfaces, which ought to be fairly straightforward to use.

 

Highlighted
Contributor
Contributor
5,977 Views
Registered: ‎06-05-2009

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

Hello Neil,

 

Both TI and ADI now have FMC adapters to their wide range of EVMs, so a combination of SP601 + Adapter + ADC EVM, while a bit of a mechanical kluge, *should* work.

 

- Raj

Highlighted
Visitor
Visitor
5,814 Views
Registered: ‎03-04-2012

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

eschabor's product sounds great. Sadly, it has no ADC and the USB port is for power only. See: http://www.sioi.com.au/shop/product_info.php/cPath/30_24/products_id/48

 

The Spartan-6 Eval kit mentioned by eteam00 starts at $295 which is getting a bit high for a hobbyist / starter. There is, however, another alternative. It isn't a proper development board, and it doesn't use a Xilinx chip, BUT-

 

1. Price is under $200,

2. Two ADC's, running at 40 MS/sec,

3. Touch LCD screen

4. 72 MHz ARM CPU (STM32F103VC)

5. FPGA: ICE65F_VQ100 from Silicon Blue (now bought out by Lattice)

 

Sounds appealing?

It's the DSO203 Quad handheld oscilloscope: http://www.seeedstudio.com/wiki/DSO_Quad

Sure it's not ideal. But I challenge you to find a development board with similar features for a comparable price.

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Visitor
Visitor
5,095 Views
Registered: ‎03-04-2012

Re: Beginner - FPGA dev board & ADC

[2013 update] Texas Instruments have some very nice ADC Evaluation boards now, at prices of around $299. My favorite is the ADS62P49EVM [2 channels, 14-bit, 250 Msample/sec]. They also offer an FMC "adapter" for about $50.  Which leaves the actual FPGA card...

 

However, before leaving the TI.com website, check out the TSW1405EVM. It plugs directly into the TI ADC cards, bypassing the need for an FMC adapter, and costs a mere $99. The only problem: it uses a non- Xilinx FPGA. Instead, it uses Lattice Semiconductor ECP3.

 

Combine with ADS62P49EVM for an ADC setup that comes in just under $400. Compare this with the FMC-adaptor variant, where you have to drop $350 before you even look at FPGA cards, and now we're talking R&D budgets and parts justification. I'm sure a better, cheaper design could be made, based on a single board and a Xilinx Spartan-6. But, for now, no such board seems available.

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