I started out with the Xilinx Spartan-3E starter kit.
Here’s a picture of the board:
This board is pretty nice as it has the following connections:
- 100-pin Hirose FX2 connector
- Three 6-pin Pmod connectors
- DB15HD VGA
- PS/2 keyboard
- Two DB9 RS-232 connectors
- RJ-45 Ethernet
- 16-pin header for optional LCD modules
- Xilinx XC3S500E FPGA
- Xilinx XCF04 Platform Flash for storing FPGA configurations
- 32MB Micron DDR SDRAM
- 16MB Numonyx StrataFlash
- 2MB ST Microelectronics Serial Flash
- Linear Technologies Power Supplies
- Texas Instruments TPS75003 Triple-Supply Power Management IC
- SMSC LAN83C185 Ethernet PHY
There are some limitations:
First, the memory is DDR SDRAM which is a pain in the butt to interface to. You need to have a controller to access it, and trying to use the xilinx controller is difficult. I have some more information to post about this, but take my word on this.
Next, the VGA port is 1-bit per color which means 2^3 = 8 colors total. This sucks. This is because they use a single resistor on each color —- and they get exactly one analog voltage output from each pin.
They give you two serial connectors, ethernet(with support chips), plenty of different types of memory for storing your configuration permanently on the board, etc.
It’s a nice board, and the FPGA is a reasonable size. I should list projects that I’ve gotten to work on this board below. My Amiga Floppy Project was based on this board.
You can access either the pages associated with the Amiga Floppy Project or just blog posts in the project. You can use the links on every page at the top of the screen, or the ones embedded in this paragraph.