Electronic Design
Single Board Computer Blends FPGA and Freescale i.MX515

Single Board Computer Blends FPGA and Freescale i.MX515

Developing an application using FPGAs can be a challenge but kits like the DK-FPGA1651 from Micro/Sys can simplify the job. The DK-FPGA1651 includes the SBC1651 (Fig. 1). The SBC1651 contains a Spartan 6 FPGA from Xilinx as well as Freescale i.MX515 that has an Arm Cortex-A8 core (Fig. 2).

The SBC1651 differs from FPGA modules like those from Opal Kelly's FPGA (see FPGA Module Sports Virtex-5) and evaluation boards like those from Avnet (see Get Up To Speed On Xilinx FPGAs). Modules require carrier boards that can provide custom interfaces while eval boards are simply a starting point for working with an FPGA.

The SBC1651 is suitable for deployment as well as development. The inclusion of Freescale i.MX515 microprocessor allows application support without having to resort to a soft core processor on the FPGA. The board provides the FPGA with 64 GPIO pins, four RS232/RS485 transceivers plus five differential LVDS signals. It also has a pair of 10/100 Ethernet ports.

The 800 MHz Freescale i.MX515 has four USB ports that are accessible via the Stackable USB expansion bus. It also has HD 720p video display capability as well as audio I/O. The board supports external keyboards and touchpad inputs. On the memory side, there is 512 Mbytes of DRAM, a 4 Mbyte serial boot flash and a 4 Gbytes flash drive plus a pair of SD card slots.

The Freescale chip is capable of running operating systems such as Microsoft's Window CE and Linux. The Spartan 6 FPGA is capable of supporting a range of soft core processors like Xilinx's MicroBlaze. The FPGA is supported by Xilinx's ISE and EDK design software that is included with the kit along with documentation and numerous application notes. The EDK is a 32-day evaluation version and targets the MicroBlaze soft core processor. The ISE software suite has no time limit.

The DK-FPGA1651 kit also includes a case, cabling and power supply. Stackable USB boards are optional.

The DK-FPGA1651 kit is a nice package for designers looking to quickly move from development to deployment. The PC/104 form factor is compact and the Stackable USB makes a wide range of interfaces available that are suitable for deployment.

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