I bought Avnet's $49 Spartan 3A development board but it was discontinued not long afterward - right about the time when I decided I needed a few dozen more. I've since done some extensive research (thanks, Google!) to find a comparable thrifty thrill.
When choosing a development board, consider what you get with it and what you want to use it for. FPGAs are ideal for use with high speed peripherals, and in general it is much easier to buy a board that contains the part you want, rather than trying to add one on later (and inevitably giving up and upgrading to a more capable board). Examples of things you might want, and are quite difficult to add yourself:
- Gigabit Ethernet
- PCI/PCI Express
- External non-serial memory (DDR/Flash etc.)
Things that are relatively easy to add, and are not so much of a big deal to wire up yourself.
- MMC/SD cards
- Character (e.g. 16x2) LCDs
- Anything I2C/SPI and relatively low speed
- VGA (with low colour depth)
I like having a board with many (at least 8) SPST switches and LEDs, and momentary buttons. Unlike a microcontroller where it's relatively easy to spit debug information out of a serial port or to an LCD with a single C function call, debugging FPGA designs is a bit harder. LEDs provide a zero fuss way to break out internal signals for visualisation - if you're tracking the progress of a complex state machine, you can light up an LED when it gets to a certain point without adding any extra logic. While these are easy enough to add yourself, I find that it's better to get a board that has them so that you don't waste valuable user IOs or waste time investigating failures caused by your terrible soldering skills.
If you would like to connect high speed devices (above 10-20 MHz) to your FPGA, make sure your board has an interface connector that supports the speeds you'll be using. Look for ground wires interspersed regularly between signal wires, high speed connectors (not just 0.1" headers), PCB trace length equalisation, and impedance control. Few of the cheap boards bother with any of these.
FPGAs can be a bit daunting, so check that the manufacturer provides:
- Schematic diagram
- A reference manual, describing all of the on-board peripherals
- A guide to getting started, if you've never used an FPGA before
- A reference design that exercises all on-board peripherals.
Reference designs can either be HDL or microcontroller-based, but in recent boards, most manufacturers seem to be moving to the latter. Bear this in mind if you don't have a license for the microcontroller and environment (e.g. Xilinx EDK/SDK is not free), as the code will be difficult to port to HDL.
If you're a beginner, you may benefit from buying a board that has a companion textbook which has been written specifically for the board in mind, and describes each of the peripherals and how to interface with them. Some popular boards have attracted a larger community of users, though this isn't necessarily helpful because most of the other users are beginners. The most popular Xilinx boards are those made by Xilinx (none of them cheap enough to be listed here), Digilent and Avnet. Terasic seem to make the most popular Altera boards.
Xilinx's Zynq parts are supported by their Vivado high level synthesis design suite and include a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9, USB 2.0, and Gigabit Ethernet.
|DIPFORTy1 "Soft Propeller"||EUR 59||Zynq 7010||A DIP-40 sized board that is designed to be pin-compatible with the Parallax Propeller chip. It has 16MB of flash, 46 I/Os, one RGB LED, one user LED, micro SD socket, and a proximity/light sensor.|
|snickerdoodle||$72/147||Zynq 7010/7020||A crowd-supply campaign that has begun shipping a Zynq board with with 154-179 I/Os, 512MB-1GB DDR, 16MB flash, micro SD, 802.11n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0. A range of base-boards and add-on boards are also available, providing Arduino shield compatibility, gigabit Ethernet, 0.1" I/Os, and more.|
|MiniZed||$89||Zynq 7Z007S||Includes a single ARM A9, 512MB DDR3L, 128Mb flash and 8GB eMMC, USB host, USB-JTAG, and USB-UART, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and BLE, Arduino shield connector and two PMODs (38 total I/Os), accelerometer, temperature, and MEMS microphone sensors, one button, one switch, and two bi-color LEDs|
|MYIR Z-turn Board||$99/$119||Zynq 7010/ 7020||1GB DDR, 16MB flash, TF socket, gigabit Ethernet, CAN, USB2.0 OTG, USB-UART, HDMI output, 90 or 106 user I/Os (with 39 LVDS pairs), accelerometer and temperature sensor, JTGA, two buttons, 4 switches, four LEDs, and a buzzer. An "IO Cape" breakout board ($35) provides three Pmod connectors, camera and LCD connectors, and 0.1" header I/O pins.|
|Parallella-16 Micro-Server||$119||Zynq 7010||Includes a dual ARM A9. Also available on the board are the Epiphany 16-core CPU Accelerator, 1GB RAM, 126 Mb flash, micro SD, and gigabit Ethernet.|
|Parallella-16 Desktop||$149||Zynq 7010||Expands on the Micro-Server and adds high speed expansion ports with 24 GPIOs (and other Epiphany signals), HDMI, and USB 2.0 host.|
|Digilent ZYBO||$189, $125 academic||Zynq 7010||512MB, HDMI source/sink, VGA, gigabit Ethernet, USB, audio, 6 buttons, 4 switches, 5 LEDs, and 40 I/Os (5 PMODs), including analogue inputs.|
|MicroZed||$199||Zynq 7010||1GB, 128 Mb flash, SD card, gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, 100 I/Os (48 LVDS pairs) and 2 PMODs, 1 LED and 1 switch|
Artix parts are becoming increasingly common in inexpensive development boards, taking the position previously occupied by the Spartan-6 in Xilinx's lineup, though they are only supplied in BGA packages.
|Digilent Cmod A7||$75/89||Artix 15T/45T||A breadboardable module with 512KB SRAM, 4MB SPI flash, USB-JTAG and USB-Serial, 3 LEDs, 2 buttons, 52 digital I/Os, and 2 analog inputs.|
|Arty A7||$99||Artix 35T||An inexpensive way to get into the Artix parts. It provides 256 MB DDR, 16MB flash, 10/100 Ethernet, USB-UART/JTAG, four PMODs, an Arduino shield connector (a total of 62 I/Os?), 4 switches, 4 buttons, 8 LEDs (4 of them RGB), and a one year licence for Vivado Design Edition.|
|Digilent Basys 3||$149||Artix 35T||USB-UART, 12-bit VGA output, USB HID host, 16 switches, 16 LEDs, 5 buttons, a 4-digit 7-segment display, 4 PMODs with XADC inputs on one of them. A device-locked Vivado Design Edition is available for $10.|
|Nexys-4 DDR||$320, $159 academic||Artix 100T||Pushing the limits of 'cheap' unless you qualify for academic pricing, but attractive if you need the larger FPGA. Includes 5 PMOD connectors (40 low speed I/Os), 128MB DDR RAM, 16MB flash, 10/100 Ethernet, USB HID host, SD card, VGA, accelerometer, microphone, audio out, 16 switches, 16 LEDs, 8 7-segment displays, 5 buttons. The Artix's internal ADC is available on one of the ports.|
|ZTEX USB-FPGA Module 2.16||159 EUR||Artix 35T||USB 2.0 interface via a Cypress FX2LP, 100 I/Os, 256 MB DDR3 SDRAM (16-bit), and 128 Mb flash. An inexpensive prototyping board (17 EUR) gives you 30 LEDs, 4 switches, and a soldering area.|
|Numato Neso||$249, academic available||Artix 100T||256MB DDR3, 128 Mb SPI flash, USB 2.0 interface for flash programming and 8 digital I/Os, JTAG, and 140 FPGA I/Os.|
|PicoEVB||$249||Artix 50T||4 analog/digital/LVDS I/Os, one high speed MGT and clock reference input with U.FL connectors, MGT loopback, 3 LEDs, 1x PCIe lane, and onboard JTAG programmer in a NGFF/M.2 form factor which can be installed inside a laptop computer for PCIe development|
|Arty S7||$99/$119||XC7S25/50||256 MB DDR, 16MB flash, USB-UART/JTAG, four PMODs, an Arduino shield connector (a total of 62 I/Os?), 4 switches, 4 buttons, 6 LEDs (2 of them RGB).|
|XC6SLX9 Starter Board||$34 delivered||LX9||A 'no name' board apparently available only on eBay. It has a Spartan-6 LX9, 4-digit 7 segment display, RS232 interface, 12-bit VGA, PS2, 8 LEDs, 3 buttons, 8-bit DIP switch, two PMOD interfaces, 26 digital I/Os, JTAG and SPI flash.|
|SIOI||$47/57||LX4/LX9||An Australian design that contains contain 32MB of RAM, one LED, and 38 I/Os using a PCIE 4x connector that ensures high speed signal integrity|
|Numato Mimas||$50||LX9||16 Mb flash, 100 MHz oscillator, USB programming interface, 8 LEDs, four switches, and 70 I/Os.|
|Digilent Cmod S6||$69||LX4||A breadboardable module with 16MB SPI flash, USB programming and comms (compatible with Digilent Adept), 4 LEDs, 2 buttons, and 46 digital I/Os.|
|The Mojo||$75||LX9||84 digital I/O pins, 8 analog inputs (via an ATmega16U4), 8 LEDs, configuration flash, and USB programming (via the ATmega). The design is CC licensed.|
|miniSpartan6+||$75/105||LX9/LX25||Two HDMI ports that can each act as either input or output, USB 2.0 programming and communications, 8-channel 8-bit 1 MSPS ADC, 32 MB SDRAM, 64 Mbit SPI flash, microSD slot, stereo audio out, 64 digital I/Os, 8 LEDs and 4 DIP switches.|
|Numato Saturn||$80-$140||LX9-LX45||A range of boards with 16 Mb flash, 100 MHz oscillator, 512 Mb LPDDR RAM, USB programming interface and GPIOs (via the FT2232H), and 118-150 I/Os.|
|Papilio Pro||$84.99||LX9||An Open Source (CC) board that retains compatibility with expansion wings made for the original Papilio. It features 48 I/Os, USB 2.0 for JTAG programming and serial comms, 64 Mbit SDRAM, and 64 MBit SPI flash.|
|Papilio Duo||$88||LX9||An Open Sources design that incorporates an Arduino Leonardo, 512 or 2048 KB SRAM, 54 (or more?) I/Os, including six wing and one PMOD connectors, USB, and schematic design software.|
|Avnet Spartan-6 Microboard||$89||LX9||Similar to the Arrow BeMicro detailed below. It's designed for embedded processor development and comes with device locked SDK and ChipScope Pro license, which is pretty good as these are quite expensive to buy separately. ChipScope alone is invaluable. I/O capability is pretty rudimentary with only two 8-bit PMOD connectors, but there is a 10/100 Ethernet PHY, four LEDs, two SPST buttons, a 4-way DIP switch, 64 MB SDRAM and 128 Mb flash. The licenses are actually device locked to the XC6SLX9 (of any package), so it might be handy just for those if you were developing your own board with this series.|
|Mesa Electronics||$89-258||LX9/LX16||A slightly baffling array of FPGA boards. Two that caught my eye were the 5I25, which is a PCI card with a Spartan-6 LX9 for $89 and the 6I25 (PCI Express) for $109.|
|ZTEX||74-119 EUR||LX16||A range of modules with 96-100 I/Os, some with USB programming, and the top of the range one with 64MB DDR RAM. A very generous discount/rebate program is provided for open source projects that use their modules.|
|Pepino||$100-155||LX9-LX25||A board designed to run the Oberon RISC system but also suitable for general development. Provides 1-2 MB SRAM, USB serial/JTAG, 8-bit VGA OUTPUT, two PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse, stereo audio output, micro-SD, 8 DIP switches, 1 push button, 9 LEDs, 22 I/Os, and SPI flash.|
|XuLA2-LX25||$119||LX25||A small breadboardable PCB with built-in USB programmer, 32 MB RAM, 8 Mb flash, 33 I/Os, and SD card socket. The design is completely open source.|
|Pipistrello||$149||LX45||Contains 128 Mbit SPI flash, 64MB DDR, USB serial/FIFO and JTAG, HDMI output, audio output, USB host, micro SD, two LEDs, a PMOD header, and support for Papilio wings with 48 I/Os.|
|EDGE Spartan 6||₹ 8,500 ($132)||LX9||A development board with 8MB SPI flash, USB JTAG programmer, USB UART, WiFi, Bluetooth, VGA, 8-channel 12-bit ADC, 12-bit DAC, temperature sensor, LDR, 2x16 LCD, 4*7 segment display, buzzer, 16 SPST switches, 16 LEDs, 5 buttons, and external CMOS camera and TFT display modules.|
|Digilent Nexys 3||$270, $189 academic||LX16||Has a bunch of I/Os, a high-speed VHDCI connector (with matched pairs, but unfortunately it doesn't look like all traces are length matched), 10/100 Ethernet, USB host and USB-RS232, VGA, cellular RAM that sounds suspiciously like it won't work with the MIG, and 16MB of phase-change non-volatile memory.|
|Numato Galatea||$300||LX45T||A PCI Express card with an x1 PCIe interface. Also provided are 256MB DDR3, 2x GTP interfaces (SATA connector), micro SD, 112 I/Os with differential pairs and high speed connectors, and two SMA connectors for clock or digital inputs. 100baseT Ethernet is available with an expansion board.|
|Waveshare||$22-30||250E/500E||Two modules that include a large number of digital I/Os (80 - 116), config memory, and four LEDs. An external JTAG programmer is required.|
|miniSpartan3||$25/35||50A/200A||A module with an HDMI port, 41 digital I/Os, a 4-channel, 8-bit 200 KSPS ADC, SPI flash, 32 MHz oscillator, three LEDs, two DIP switches, USB-serial and on-board USB JTAG.|
|Papilio One||$38/65||250E/500E||48 I/Os, USB programmer and serial comms. Eagle board files are freely available. It uses a custom bitstream uploader tool, but it is open source and cross platform.|
|OHO-Elektronik||39-59 EUR||250E/500E||A range of breadboardable DIL modules with with SPI flash, nine LEDs, two switches, and 5V voltage translators.|
|Elbert||$50||50A||A small board with a 1Mbit of SPI flash (half of which can be used for data storage), 8 LEDs, four SPST switches, 8 DIP switches, and 26 accessible I/Os. An on-board PIC18F provides support for programming the flash over USB using a Windows-only configuration utility. I have written a more comprehensive review.|
|Open Workbench Logic Sniffer||$50||250E||Borrows its design from the Papilio One and provides sixteen 5V tolerant buffered inputs, and compatibility with the Papilio One's 'wing' expansion boards.|
|Gameduino||$53||200A||An Arduino shield that is intended to be an audio and video coprocessor for Arduino applications, but could be repurposed as a general-purpose FPGA interface board with the Arduino form factor. VGA and audio outputs, with SPI flash.|
|XuLA-200||$55||200A||A very small PCB with USB, a PIC18F, 8 MB of SDRAM, 2 Mb of flash, and user IO headers. It could be used as a plug-in module, or since the design is open source (with Eagle files), as the basis for a custom board (as long as it is also open source, as per the license).|
|MicroNova Mercury||$70||200A||A breadboard-friendly 64-pin DIP module form factor. It provides 30 5V-tolerant I/Os, 9 other I/Os, an 8 channel, 200 Ksps ADC, 4 LEDs, a switch, 4 Mb SRAM, and programming over USB (with a Windows programming application). JTAG interface pins are also broken out.|
|Drigmorn1||60/80 GBP||100E/500E||Parallel port programming cable, RS232, three LEDs and 32 I/Os.|
|Digilent Basys 2||$89, $69 academic||100E||Four PMOD connectors, PS/2, VGA, 8 switches, 4 buttons, 8 LEDs, four 7 segment displays and on-board USB programmer.|
|Digilent Nexys 2||$99 academic||500E||Eight LEDs and eight SPDT switches, four momentary switches, and 7 segment displays. The main expansion connector is a slightly uncommon one (though it's not expensive and available from Digilent distributors) but is suitable for high speed designs.|
|Drigmorn2||120 GBP||700A||Parallel port programming cable, 40 5V tolerant I/Os, 13 LEDs, 256 Mbit SDRAM, 128 Mbit serial flash for programming and user applications, 16x2 LCD, USB serial, and 2 buttons, and a rotary switch.|
|Aessent aes220||120 EUR||200AN/400AN||A small stackable module that features a Cypress FX2LP USB controller, 128Mb SDRAM, 16 KB EEPROM, 72 GPIOs, 5 LEDs, 2 switches, and power via USB or external supply.|
- PLDkit has a number of low-cost boards for older Xilinx parts - CPLDs, Spartan 3, and Virtex 4 and 5.
|TinyFPGA A1/A2||$12/18||XO2-256/1200||21 I/Os and programming over JTAG (a USB-JTAG programmer is available for $9). Breadboardable, and an open source design.|
|Gnarly Grey UPDuino v1/v2||$9.95/$15.99||ICE40JP5K||Designed to stack onto an Arduino Nano or Arduino Pro Mini. 34 I/Os and an RGB LED. The v2 board includes a USB programmer. The schematic and layout are open source, and camera and LCD display interface boards are also available.|
|Bugblat pif||$25/$35||MachXO2-1200/7000||A Raspberry Pi add-on board that provides 17 external I/Os (in addition to those used to communicate with the Raspberry Pi), two LEDs, and programming circuitry.|
|Bugblat tif||$25/$35||MachXO2-1200/4000||A coin-sized, breadboardable board with 10 I/Os, USB programming (with cross-platform open source software that doesn't require drivers) and power port, two LEDs.|
|MachXO2 Breakout Board||$26||MachXO2-7000ZE||Eight LEDs, 108 I/Os, prototype area, JTAG connector, and on-board USB programmer.|
|iolinker||�25||MachXO3-4300E||49 I/Os. Intended to be used as an I/O extender/IO matrix/PWM generator for Arduinos, but also usable as a standalone FPGA board|
|TinyFPGA B2||$38||ICE40LP8K||23 I/Os, with an in-built USB programmer. Breadboardable, and an open source design.|
|iCEblink40-HX1K Evaluation Kit||$39||iCEblink40-HX1K||USB programmer, four LEDs, four capacitive touch buttons, configuration PROM, 68 digital I/Os through 0.1" headers, and supposedly some PMOD and Arduino shield compatibility.|
|LatticeXP2 Brevia||$43||LFXP2-5E||2 Mbit flash, 1 Mbit SRAM, USB programmer, 2x20 and 2x5 expansion headers, push buttons, 4-bit DIP switch, and eight LEDs.|
|Nandland Go Board||$60||ICE40 HX1K||4 LEDs, 2 SPST buttons, two 7-segment LED displays, micro USB for programming and USB-UART, VGA, and a PMOD I/O connector. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the tutorials available at nandland.|
|FleaFPGA||$65||MachXO2-7000HE||256Mbit SDRAM, 512Kbit SRAM, USB 2 host, USB serial, VGA/composite video output, stereo audio, SD slot, PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, 18 GPIOs, 2 buttons, 4 LEDs, and built-in USB JTAG.|
|icoBOARD||90 EUR||iCE40||Currently taking pre-orders. It provides an FPGA supported by the open source Lattice synthesis toolchain and 200 I/Os (via PMOD and flat flex connectors). It is designed to be connected to a Raspberry Pi 2B / B+.|
|LatticeECP3 Versa||$262||LFE3-35EA||Very occasionally reduced to $99 on special, but still one of the cheaper PCI-Express (x1) development boards with 64-Mbit flash, 1 Gbit DDR3, four SMA connectors (one full-duplex SERDES channel), dual gigabit Ethernet, expansion connectors, 14-segment alpha-numeric display, switches and LEDs, and USB programmer. It appears that the FPGA device requires a licensed version of the design software, but this is also available for $99 for the first year. Pricing options beyond the first year are not very clear.|
|Microsemi SmartFusion2 SoC FPGA KickStart Development Kit||$59||M2S010S FPGA||Contains an integrated 166 MHz ARM Cortex-M3. This board provides a BLE 4.1 module, light, motion and temperature sensors, 4 LEDs, three PMODs, Arduino shield support, four RGB LEDs, two buttons, and serial/programming via USB.|
|SmartFusion System-On-Module||$62||A2F200||16 MB PSRAM, 16 MB flash, and Ethernet. A Starter Kit is also available.|
|SmartFusion2 System-On-Module||$71-$123||M2S005-M2S090||A module with an integrated 166 MHz 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3. On board are 64 MB RAM, 16 MB flash, and 10/100 Ethernet. Also available is a $179 Starter Kit, which includes an FPGA module as well as USB/Ethernet connectors and a prototyping area.|
|Actel IGLOO nano Starter Kit||$99||AGLN250||Switches and LEDs onboard, USB-serial, a USB programming adaptor, and what looks like plenty of low speed I/O.|
|Microsemi SmartFusion Evaluation Kit||$99||A2F200M3F||Integrated 100 MHz ARM Cortex-M3, 10/100 Ethernet PHY and on-chip MAC, USB-serial, on-board USB programming interface, OLED display, 8 LEDs, two user switches, and an indeterminate number of analog and digital outputs. It looks like a very interesting and inexpensive board for developing mixed FPGA/microcontroller applications.|
|Arrow BEMICRO CV||$49||5CEFA2F||Two oscillators, 1 Gbit DDR, serial EEPROM, micro SD slot, 8 LEDs, 3 DIP switches, 2 buttons, 80 GPIOs and on-board USB programmer.|
|DE0-Nano-SoC||$99, $90 academic||5CSEMA4U||Integrated dual core ARM Cortex-A9, with 1GB DDR3, micro SD, USB OTG, USB-UART, USB programmer, gigabit Ethernet, somewhere around 60-80 digital I/Os, Arduino shield compatibility, ADC, 3 buttons, 4 switches, 9 LEDs, and accelerometer.|
|Arrow BEMICRO CV A9||$149||5CEFA9F||Two oscillators, 1 Gbit DDR, serial EEPROM, micro SD slot, 8 LEDs, 4 DIP switches, 2 buttons, 80 GPIOs and on-board USB programmer.|
|Cyclone V GX Starter Kit||$179||5CGTFD9E||Packs 4 Gb DDR RAM, 4 Mb SRAM, high speed mezzanine connector with four 3.125 Gbps transceivers, 40 GPIOs, Arduino-compatible header with analog inputs, configuration flash, USB programmer, HDMI output, audio, 18 LEDs, 10 slide switches, 4 debounced buttons, CPU reset button, 4 seven segment displays, micro SD socket, and USB UART.|
|DE1-SoC||$199, $150 academic||5CSEMA5F||Contains an integrated dual core ARM Cortex-A9. The board has 64 MB SDRAM, 1GB DDR3, micro SD, dual USB 2.0 host, gigabit Ethernet, PS/2, IR emitter and receiver, around 80 digital I/Os, 8 * 12-bit 1MSPS ADC inputs, VGA, audio codec, analog TV video input, four buttons, 10 switches, 11 LEDs, 6 * 7-seg displays, accelerometer, USB-serial, and USB programmer.|
|DE0-Nano||$59 academic||EP4CE22F||16 Mbit flash, USB programmer, 3-axis accelerometer, 8-channel 12-bit ADC, 106 pins over three expansion headers, 32 MB SDRAM, 2 Kb EEPROM, 8 LEDs, 4 DIP switches, and two push button switches in a very small package.|
|Arrow BeMicro SDK||$74||EP4CE22F||A newer version of the BeMicro with microSD, 10/100 Ethernet, temperature sensor, 512 Mb mobile DDR, integrated programmer, 8 LEDs, buttons and switches, and an 80 pin edge connector. A corresponding protoboard is $30.|
|devboards DB_START_4CE10||115 EUR||EP4CE10||16Mb SDRAM, 19 I/Os, 5 input pins, 6 LEDs, 2 buttons, and built-in USB programmer.|
|Ordb2a-ep4ce22||149 EUR||EP4CE22F||A development board that was designed for the OpenRISC processor and comes with a Linux port. It contains 32 MB SDRAM, 1 MB SPI flash, SDIO connector, Fast Ethernet, USB OTG, USB serial/JTAG, and expansion connectors with 62 GPIOs. Also available is an SO-DIMM board with an ARM processor and Ethernet switch.|
|devboards DB4CGX15||153 EUR||EP4CGX15BF||A reasonably priced PCIe development board with 32Mb SDRAM, 20 I/Os, 4 input pins, 2 LEDs, high speed transceiver I/O via MMCX connectors, and a built-in USB programmer.|
|Terasic Altera DE0||$119, 81 academic||3C16||8Mbyte SDRAM, 4 Mbyte flash, SD card socket, USB programmer, 3 buttons, 10 switches, 10 LEDs, 4 seven-segment displays, 16x2 LCD interface, VGA output, RS232 and PS/2 interfaces, and 72 I/Os.|
|MAX1000||�22/32||10M08/10M16||A small board with 9 analog inputs (some pins shared), 15 I/Os, 2 buttons, 8 LEDs, 8MB SDRAM, 8MB flash, 3-axis accelerometer, and on-board USB programmer. It has been reviewed by JV::Store.|
|Wayengineer||$28-77||Cyclone II||A range of cheap boards from Shenzhen, most with RAM and a variety of I/O including LCDs, 7-segment LEDs, VGA, switches, etc. Again they're great value if you already have some experience with FPGAs, are comfortable reading schematics and don't require any vendor support.|
|EP2C20 core board||$46||EP2C20||Another Chinese board of unknown origin with little online documentation, but it looks like good value with one of the larger Cyclone II parts (18752 LEs), 256 Mb SDRAM, 2 Mb SRAM, a USB programming cable, four switches, and 30+ I/Os.|
|Amani F2||$50||EP2C5||An Arduino shield that provides 74 digital I/Os, including two PMOD interfaces, a JTAG port, a push button, and an LED. A pad is provided for an EPCS1 flash memory device. The designs are CC licensed.|
|MAXimator||EUR49||10M08||Another MAX 10 board with an Arduino form factor. It has 5V I/O, ADCs, HDMI and VGA output, four LEDs, and micro SD. There's also an expansion shield with extra 7-segment LEDs, RGB LEDs, and buttons. Comprehensively reviewed by Andy Brown|
|Arrow DECA||$65||10M50DAF484C6G||An Altera MAX 10 with 50000 LEs, 512MB DDR3 SDRAM, accelerometer, nine ADCs, two with SMA input, temperature, humidity, light, and capacitive sensors, 8 LEDs, 2 buttons, 2 slide switches, 10/100 Ethernet, micro SD, 64MB QSPI flash, HDMI output, audio I/O, MIPI CSI-2 camera input, 92 digital I/Os with BeagleBone cape pinout, and on-board USB programmer.|
|Alorium XLR8||$75||10M08||A MAX 10 board that is a drop-in replacement for an Arduino Uno, and comes with FPGA-accelerated hardware components that can be used from Arduino sketches. It features 5V I/Os, Arduino-compatible ADCs, and USB-serial.|
|FTDI Morph-IC-II||$110||Cyclone II||Contains an FT2232H USB interface chip to provide high speed data transfer. It has a total of 80 to 96 I/Os (split between the FPGA and FT2232H, and depending on who you ask) with a 0.1" spacing.|
- Waveshare supply a range of inexpensive ($20-$34) boards for Cyclone II, III and IV. They provide config flash, four LEDs, and a large amount of digital I/O (130-160 pins). An external JTAG programmer is required.
- KNJN Pluto ($29-$129) a range of small boards with various FPGAs. No on-board peripherals, so they seem more suited to dropping in to a larger project than as a standalone development tool.
- Random Altera boards on eBay. For around $20 to $50 there are plenty of Altera CPLD and Cyclone II/IV boards. They tend to require a JTAG cable (though some even come with one). Many are very bare bones, but some have RAM and extra flash. Probably only recommended if you're already familiar with the parts as documentation is pretty lacking, but good value.
Not strictly FPGAs, but a range of interesting reconfigurable mixed-signal devices.
|CY8CKIT-059||$10||PSoC 5LP||Integrated ARM Cortex-M3 on a breadboard-compatible board with a snap-away programmer/debugger.|
|CY8CKIT-043||$10||PSoC 4200M||Contains an ARM Cortex-M0. A breadboard-compatible board with a footprint for a Bluetooth Low Energy module, and a snap-away programmer/debugger.||
|PSoC 4 Pioneer||$25||PSoC 4200||Cypress' own cheap dev board offering. Integrates a Cortex-M0 and support for both Arduino shields and Digilent PMods, a CapSense slider, RGB LED, and one button.|
If you manufacture or know of any other cheap FPGA development boards, please let me know so that I can include them on this list. Review units will be cheerfully accepted! :)
There is a long and comprehensive list of boards at FPGA-FAQ that includes a couple of other cheap options - there are a number of Spartan-3 generation boards that I haven't listed.