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Registered: ‎10-04-2011

academic fpga devkits



I'm considering to buy a FPGA academic kit. I think one of those would be reasonable:


* Altsys (Sparc 6, hdmi i/o, ...)

* Genesys (Virtex 5,  hdmi o, ...)

* OpenSPARC evaluation kit.


May goals would be:


* video capture (prefered digital) and processing  (processing, detection, enc/dec, ... ),

* encryption, decryption

* general purpose embedded processing

* DSP stuff

* Softcores


I saw that the Virtex 5 core just has about 3000 LE more than the Spartan 6, but is the Virtex 5 better performing, since 300 $ more for just 3000 LEs is much? Are all tools to use the Virtex 5 free?


Is it possible to extend the boards with additional nterfaces (hdmi, csi, can, ...)  (e.g. daughter cards)? If so, where are such extensions available?


Is it possible to use OpenSPARC on the smaller platforms altsys and/or genesys too?





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3 Replies
Registered: ‎10-05-2010

Have a look at the Xilinx Software Matrix to see if the devices are supported in ISE WebPACK. The Genesys' Virtex-5 LX50T is supported, while the OpenSPARC Evaluation Platform's Virtex-5 LX110T is not. The Atlys' Spartan-6 is supported by WebPACK.


Only the Atlys has HDMI input ports (two). HDMI shouldn't be too difficult to add to the Genesys with an expansion board if you're careful with your PCB design - have a look at the schematic diagram for the Atlys for inspiration. The OpenSPARC board doesn't seem to have a high speed connector, just a 0.1" header, so things might be a bit iffy at higher resolutions.


Digilent sell a range of PMOD and VMOD expansion modules that work with the Atlys and Genesys, though there don't seem to be any for CAN, CSI, or HDMI. Again, you could probably knock something up with the appropriate transceiver chip. Some of the Xilinx development boards have a different sort of interface connector called FMC, which give you a different range of interface options (typically for high bandwidth applications).


I'm not sure how big the OpenSPARC processor is, but a quick Google didn't reveal anyone using it with the Spartan-6, though this could reflect limited interest in the processor in general. There are plenty of other soft cores that will work on small FPGAs and have considerable community interest - Xilinx's PicoBlaze and MicroBlaze, OpenRISC, Lattice's Mico8 and Mico32, and so on.


Whether or not the Virtex-5 fits your needs will depend on exactly what sort of designs you're planning to do. You could start coding the design and see what size device it fits into and decide from there. The Atlys is pretty cheap if you can get the academic discount, especially if you can convince your university to pay for it, so you could always start off with that and upgrade later.


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Registered: ‎02-27-2008


The XUPV5 (university) board requires the licensed version of the software tools, as it has a xcv5lx110t device on it. The ML505 pcb, is identical, but has the smaller xc5vlx50t device which uses the webpack (free) version.

If you are a student, ask your professor for the board, and the license. If you are not a student at a participating Xilinx University program school, get your school to join the program.

If you are not associated with a school, then you should choose a platform with a small enough device that you are able to use the free version of the tools.

Note that using the licensed versions will provide you with more features, more support, and that will get you done faster. If this is a hobby, then have fun (but we can't get too excited about someone who buys just one device, sorry).

Austin Lesea
Principal Engineer
Xilinx San Jose
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Registered: ‎10-04-2011

Thank you for your replies. Yes, I'm a student at the university of technology in Vienna. As I have used (Altera) FPGAs in the classes for implementing my  own softcore, video application ... . We used Cyclone I, II , IV and a Stratix II. We used Altera's Web (Free) Version of Modelsim and Quartus, except for the Stratix. If the feature set of Xilinx's Webpack is comparable to those, I would be ok with that.

So, right now I'll compare what is available for both platforms.


Thanks again.


Regards, Markus

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