Field-Programmable Gate Array (or FPGA in short) is a unique piece of technology that utilizes reprogrammable silicon chips to recreate any circuit design and bring it to life. FPGA boards are quickly replacing processors, integrated circuits and other old technologies that are currently being used to perform control applications and signal processing functions. Although these boards are assembled by the manufacturer, they can be configured and reprogrammed by end users as they deem fit. An FPGA chip is essentially like a mound of clay – you can mold it into anything you envision. It isn’t surprising that many electronic buffs are making the switch from the archaic breadboards and soldering irons to the more advanced FPGA Boards and electronic circuits.
Tips to Buying your First FPGA Board:
1. Choose the appropriate board for you
There are an assortment of electronic companies that currently manufacture FPGA boards. Xilinx, Lattice Semiconductor and Altera are arguably the most popular developers of FPGA circuits. If you’ve just joined the intriguing world of electronic engineering, you won’t go wrong with Xilinx and Altera FPGA boards. They are beginner-friendly, meaning you can experiment with numerous circuits using these two boards. If you’re in the intermediate level and desire to go up a notch, Actel and QuickLogic FPGA boards will suit you perfectly.
2. Consider the price
With the constantly rising demand of FPGA boards around the world, manufacturers are gradually lowering their prices to attract more customers. However, FPGA board prices vary from one supplier to another. Chinese Spartan-6 and Cyclone II FPGA developmental boards are extremely cheap – their prices don’t fetch more than $50. On the other hand, some manufacturers such as Avnet have raised their FPGA board prices a bit. This is probably because their FPGAs pack some extra functionalities compared to those from other designers. General FPGA board prices typically range from $30 to $120.
3. Assess the projects you’ll need to implement using FPGA Boards
FPGAs can be used to achieve a variety of projects. If you’re a student, you can conveniently use an FPGA board to design a digital clock, an alarm clock, a license plate recognition system – the list is endless. Professionals, on the other hand, can utilize FPGA to achieve tasks such as image processing. FPGA is an extremely versatile technology that derives numerous applications. Students can even use FPGA boards to achieve verilog divider and comparator design projects.
Clearly, buying your first FPGA Board is a decision that requires clear contemplation. One down side of FPGA technology is that it’s relatively pricier if you’re working on huge projects. However, its pros greatly outweigh its cons. And with the wide assortment of FPGA boards available to you, there’s all reason to jump ship and join the league of elite FPGA programmers. FPGA technology boasts of having exemplary performance compared to the ordinary Digital Signal Processors used in computing. In addition, FPGA doesn’t rely on any underlying Operating System to run efficiently. This fact greatly enhances its reliability and makes it the go-to chip technology around the globe.