I like inexpensive development platforms like Texas Instrument's eZDSP based on a 100 MHz TMS320VC5505 DSP. This 32-bit, fixed point DSP sips only 0.15 mW/MHz making it a great platform for low cost, low power applications from motor control to audio processing. It was developed by Spectrum Digital in conjunction with Texas Instruments.
The USB-based eZDSP and comes with a tiny DVD that includes everything to get started developing for the TMS320VC5505 including a copy of Code Composer Studio. The USB stick has a built-in XDS100-compatible debug interface. It also has an edge connector allowing the board to be plugged into other interfaces and to operate in a stand alone mode. A number of test points are provided around the board suitable for soldering headers if necessary. There is a pair of audio jacks as well.
The TMS320C55x is an impressive fixed point DSC (digital signal controller) with an integrated USB port and PHY. It can execute a pair of instructions at one time and has a tightly-coupled FFT hardware accelerator. It also has a pair of multipliers that handle up to 200 multiply-accumulate operations/s. It has 320 kbytes of SRAM including 65 kbytes of dual access RAM. There is a 128 kbyte ROM, an external memory interface, and a pair of MMC/SD interfaces. The eZDSP has an external serial flash for applications that are loaded into the SRAM for execution via the ROM bootloader. There are four DMA channels, four I2S, I2C, SPI and UART interfaces on-chip. On the audio side there is a 4 channel, 10-bit Successive Approximation (SAR) ADC. The board has a TLV320AIC3204 32-bit programmable low power stereo codec.
Getting started with the system is relatively easy. Pop the DVD into a Windows PC and install the Code Composer Studio 4 (CCS) IDE. Plug in the eZDSP and run through the usual device driver installation process.
The first thing to try is the LED blinking application that comes on the DVD. It is also addressed in the printed Quick Start Guide that comes with the package. No downloads are necessary unless you want the latest updates. You will need web access to register CCS or it will only run for 60 days.
The DVD has a large number of sample projects for the C550x platforms but the LED demo is on par with the rest of these projects. They each address a single section of the processor such as working with the USB or ADC. DMA versions are included in addition to interrupt driven examples. If you have a good idea what and how you want to use the chip and just need to know about the interfaces then this collection of projects is ideal. It provided me with a good background of the chip. There are not more complex applictions so don't expect to be filtering and streaming audio without a good bit of work.
Overall, the eZDSP platform provides developers with a fast, inexpensive way to check out the capabilities of the C550x family. I like the edge connector although I did not have a chance to wire up any external devices using it.