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Newbie beerman58
Registered: ‎12-25-2013

FPGA Dev Board Selection: Spartan-6 vs. Artix-7

I was hoping to get a recommendation for a Xilinx dev board purchase.  I am interested in an FPGA development board that can double as a learning tool, but most importantly stay relevant as I ramp up to more involved problems very soon.  After a (hopefully) quick USB snooping/hacking beginning project, I am interested in implementing computer vision algorithms into hardware (motion detection, blob detection, pattern recognition, etc. or at least preprocessing of the source image prior to these functions in software), initially using HDMI- and VGA-based inputs and outputs.


I have narrowed it down to two offerings from Digilent (although if someone knows of a perfect fit that I missed, I am definitely interested in hearing it) which are under my budgeted $400 USD.  Initially, the Spartan-6 based Atlys board caught my eye, already having dual HDMI inputs and outputs, and being explicitly used in an HDMI white paper from Xilinx that should speed my development.  But then the 7th generation capacity and new Vivado Design Suite compatibility of the Artix-7 based Nexys 4 board is also intriguing.


Repetition of some high points of each for comparison:

Atlys Board:

                IC: Xilinx Spartan-6 LX45 FPGA

                                6,822 slices

                                2.1Mbits of fast block RAM

                                4 clock tiles, 6 phased-locked loops

                                58 DSP slices

                                500MHz+ clock speeds

                RAM: 128Mbyte x 16-bit wide DDR2

                Included Ports:

                                Two HDMI video input ports & two HDMI output ports

                                10/100/1000 Ethernet PHY

                General Use Expansion I/O’s: 48

Nexys 4 Board:

                IC: Xilinx Artix-7 XC7A100T

                                15,850 logic slices

                                4,860 Kbits of fast block RAM

                                6 clock tiles, 6 phase-locked loops

                                240 DSP slices

                                450MHz+ clock speeds

                RAM: 16Mbyte CellularRAM

                Included Ports:

                                12-bit VGA output

                                10/100 Ethernet PHY

                General Use Expansion I/O’s: 40


Which of these two do you think is the best choice for computer vision-related tasks?

From my limited knowledge, it would seem that the decision boils down to the plentiful memory of the Atlys versus the plentiful logic capacity of the Nexys 4 (and it’s added bonus of being “newer” and thus further from eventual obsolescence, assuming it’s possible to implement HDMI and/or VGA ports on the general I/O’s of the Nexys).  Which is more likely to bottleneck a video processing application, memory or capacity?


I don’t have the experience to weigh the relative needs of such an application, but if I had to choose today I suppose I’d go with the Atlys only because it has a proven video tutorial available, but I would regret not being able to begin the learning experience with the “new” Vivado toolset.  What do you think?

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Advisor joelby
Registered: ‎10-05-2010

Re: FPGA Dev Board Selection: Spartan-6 vs. Artix-7

You've probably already made your decision, but here are some comments:


It would be possible to add HDMI to the Nexys 4, but it may be a bit dodgy - I'm not sure about this board, but on others Digilent haven't made much of an effort to guarantee the closeness of differential pairs. If you're serious about video stuff, Atlys is probably a better choice. VGA output would be easy to add to an Atlys though.


Neither will do VGA input - you will need an external ADC. I like the fact that the Atlys has a big high speed edge connector, which makes it relatively easy to interface interesting stuff with it.


I haven't used Vivado or HLS but it's possible that these tools might be more suited to vision algorithms. Or maybe not! At least with the 7 series parts you have the flexibility of choosing either the HLS or HDL approach.

If you have the budget, definitely get both! :D


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