FPGA Development

Digilent Spartan-3 Starter Board

With the prices for FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chips coming down all the time, FPGA development has become affordable for the electronics hobbyist. I was looking around at starter boards and saw several recommendations for the Digilent Spartan-3 Starter Board. At $99, it is one of the cheapest boards available, yet it has some pretty impressive features. Take a look at what you get for your $99:

  • Xilinx Spartan-3 FPGA with twelve 18-bit multipliers, 216Kbits of block RAM, and up to 500MHz internal clock speeds
  • On-board 2Mbit Platform Flash
  • 8 slide switches
  • 4 pushbuttons
  • 9 LEDs
  • 4-digit seven-segment display
  • Serial port
  • VGA port
  • PS/2 mouse/keyboard port
  • Three 40-pin expansion connectors
  • Three high-current voltage regulators (3.3V, 2.5V, and 1.2V)
  • 1Mbyte on-board 10ns SRAM (256Kb x 32)

It even comes with power supply and programming cable, neither of which is included with many boards. It is designed to work with Xilinx’s free WebPack, a good set of FPGA programming and simulation tools. You will need to learn VHDL or Verilog, but there are many good books and tutorials available. I would recommend Circuit Design with VHDL as a good choice for learning VHDL.

If you have any interest in experimenting with FPGAs, then this looks like a good board to investigate.

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