Even the most sophisticated machines that we see in front of us today rely on the smallest of cogs. It can similarly be argued that all machines are more or less the sum of these cogs. Cogs that are meant to perform specific functions both effectively and efficiently.
However, there is one notable distinction that would need to be drawn. There are some cogs that affect the overall performance of the machine more than others. When it comes to FPGA Boards, they’re that important cogs.
There are a lot of high quality options that both beginners and experts of the field can opt for. The Xilinx FPGA development board is considered perhaps the best option on the market that ticks all the necessary boxes and presents its users with a plethora of options and capabilities. Additionally, they’re user-friendly and provide a good platform to beginners to learn while enough reliability for experts.
But what are the criteria for choosing the best FPGA board? Here are some factors that might make it easier for you to decide. To make it easier for all kinds of users, we’ve included factors to consider if you’re a beginner as well as if you’re a seasoned user.
It’s safe to assume that your knowledge of electronics and digital architecture will be amateur at best if you’re just starting out. VLSI/RTL design is the primary factor to consider when buying your first FPGA board.
You’ll need an FPGA board that has enough peripheries to make your transition into the field easier. These peripheries include LEDs, Push Buttons, 7 segment displays, 16×2 Character LCD as well as a DVI/HDMI output. There are also other more user-friendly options that you should consider such as SUB-UART, Ethernet and the SD card. Though it might not be that important but it’ll be useful if your first FPGA board has a fair amount of on-board RAM.
Make sure that the board has enough expansion connectors that would make connecting external expansion modules easier. These extensions make writing Verilog/VHDL for the interfacing a lot easier as well as giving the user a lot more control over the overall synchronous circuits, combinational circuit, resets as well as meta-stability and clock domain crossing.
Additionally, since a beginner will usually be using these boards to learn and grasp these complex concepts, it’s recommended that you use it to create simple designs. For this reason, you should probably consider buying an inexpensive FPGA board that would make the overall usage easier.
In simple terms, make sure that your first board has a lot of expansion IOs, USB enabled options. Once you feel that you’ve gotten proficiency over their usage, move onto more complicated boards.
However, if you’ve been using these boards for a fair bit of time, you’ll probably be aware of what your needs are. You’ll similarly be aware of all the hardware design concepts involved.
Your focus should be more towards the USB-UARTs, Ethernet, HDMI output and more importantly, the switches and push buttons that allow for prompt resets. Make sure that your board has an external RAM preferably in the SODIMM form-factor. It would be better if you opt for a board that has a non-volatile flash to store the designs and images that you create for the firmware. As for the Ethernet, make sure that it’s in the Gigabit Ethernet category. A 100M Ethernet would be a good enough alternative.