Go Board - The Best FPGA Development Board For Beginners
If you have never used an FPGA board before, this is absolutely the first board that you should purchase. Click here to Order One Now for just $65 and free US shipping (+$12 for international). Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $10,000, the Go Board is now available to purchase! The Go Board is different. It has many on-board peripherals that allow beginners to learn VHDL or Verilog by creating many projects. The following features are available:
- Lattice ICE40 HX1K FPGA
- EASY USB Connection for power, communication, and programming
- Four User Settable LEDs
- Four Push-Buttons
- Dual 7-Segment LED Display
- VGA Connector
- External Connector (PMOD)
- 25 MHz on-board clock
- 1 Mb Flash for booting up your FPGA
Here's a video where I demonstrate what's possible with the Go Board and give a brief introduction to the capabilities of FPGAs:
Lattice ICE40 FPGA
The Lattice ICE40 FPGA series is an excellent choice for beginners. It provides you with a powerful FPGA that strikes a balance between capability and ease-of-use. The 1K in its name refers to the 1280 Logic Cells inside the part. These can be used as Look-Up Tables (LUTs) in your code. This many Logic Cells will be enough to do all sorts of projects. Another great benefit is that the open source project IceStorm has been created around this FPGA. This means if you want to write Verilog and synthesize your code using all open source build tools you can! This is the first time an FPGA has had an open source toolchain available for it. Note that you will need either Windows or Linux to build your FPGA projects.
One major reason why this board is so great for beginners is how easy it is to use. The USB Connector allows you to Power, Program, and Communicate with the board, all via one simple connection! When you plug the Go Board into your computer the USB powers it, no external power brick is required! Additionally, the computer will automatically detect that a board has been connected and you can program your FPGA. Finally, for projects involving a UART this same connector can be used to communicate with the FPGA via a your computer keyboard. I will show you how this is done.
LEDs, Switches, 7-Segments
There are four Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) on the Go Board, which allow you a quick check to see some diagnostic information about the board. The first project will show how to make these blink by connecting each of the four switches to each LED. The switches and LEDs can be re-purposed by your code. That's what makes FPGAs so great: you can reprogram them to do anything you want. 7-Segment Displays are very useful for displaying information to a user, so I put two 7-Segment displays on the Go Board. These are used everywhere in electronics and they're fun.
I'm very excited about having a VGA connector on this board. VGA is a very simple interface compared to DVI or HDMI, but simple is good! With the Go Board you'll be able to create all sorts of VGA projects, even Pong! These projects are fun and complicated, so you'll be using what you learned with the simpler projects to do the VGA projects. There are only a few other FPGA boards on the market that offer this connector built right in, and the majority of these boards are more expensive. I realized that the best way to learn how to use FPGAs is to enable you to have many types of projects available to you, without having to solder stuff or use a breadboard. VGA is fun!
PMOD and Other Features
The PMOD connector is a connector interface created by Digilent Inc. I chose to use this connector on the Go Board because Digilent offers a huge number of PMOD Peripheral Modules. These can add a ton of functionality to the Go Board. If you want to try out creating your own I2C or SPI interfaces you can do that! Or if you want to interface to an LCD screen, or whatever you want! For example, I created an I2C Interface for the Kickstarter Video to interface to a temperature sensor board on that list. It's a great way to add any functionality that you want for not too much money. The other features on the Go Board are a 25 MHz on-board oscillator. This will be used as the main clock in your FPGA designs. Additionally, there's a 1 Mb Flash for booting your FPGA. Don't worry if you don't know what this means yet, we will get there!
Tutorials, Videos, Projects
Finally, what makes the Go Board stand apart from the competition is this page, www.nandland.com! Nandland.com is an enormous collection of FPGA information, all created by one person, me. I created this page because I was frustrated with the lack of clear and simple information on the internet for FPGAs. FPGAs are fun, but only when you understand them. Nandland is the place where you can come and learn about FPGAs and have fun doing it! This site is constantly being updated with YouTube Videos which you can always see on my YouTube Channel. Additionally, more and more projects will be created as the site matures, so you'll always have more to do! No other FPGA development board offers the level of support and hands-on teaching that the Go Board does, so you'll never be lost! This adds a large amount of value to the Go Board. I hope you find the experience fun and fulfilling.
Let's Get Started
If you don't yet have a Go Board, you can Order One Now. If you already do have a board, then let's get started. First things first, you need to download ICEcube2 from Lattice so you can build and program your FPGAs. Let's get started!
ALL GO BOARD TUTORIALS ARE THIS WAY!