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If you are not needing a lot of power to start your FPGA adventure, or are looking for a more economical option, the Alchitry Cu FPGA Development Board might be the perfect option for you! The Alchitry Cu is a "lighter" FPGA version than the Alchitry Au but still offers something completely unique. FPGAs, or Field-Programmable Gate Arrays, are an advanced development board type for engineers and hobbyists alike to experience the next step in programming with electronics. The Cu truly exemplifies the trend of more affordable and increasingly powerful FPGA boards arriving each year. This board is a fantastic starting point into the world of FPGAs and the heart of your next project. Finally, now that this board is built by SparkFun, we added a Qwiic connector for easy I2C integration!
The Alchitry Cu uses the Lattice iCE40 HX FPGA with 7680 logic cells and is supported by the open source tool chain Project IceStorm. The Cu possesses 79 IO pins with eight general purpose LEDs; a 100MHz on-board clock that can be manipulated internally by the FPGA; a USB-C connector to configure and power the board; and a USB to serial interface for data transfer.
By adding stackable expansion boards similar to shields or HATs called "Elements," the Alchitry Cu is able to expand its own hardware capabilities by adding prototyping spaces, buttons, LEDs, and more!
The SparkFun Qwiic Connect System is an ecosystem of I2C sensors, actuators, shields and cables that make prototyping faster and less prone to error. All Qwiic-enabled boards use a common 1mm pitch, 4-pin JST connector. This reduces the amount of required PCB space, and polarized connections mean you can’t hook it up wrong.
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Expert - You should be extremely comfortable programming on various hardware in several languages.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Rookie - You may be required to know a bit more about the component, such as orientation, or how to hook it up, in addition to power requirements. You will need to understand polarized components.
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Based on 3 ratings:
100mhz clock on a hx8k processor with open source tools... sweet! Alchitry boards now produced by SparkFun but Alchitry still has all the documentation and examples... SparkFun added qwiic to the board and now needs to publish an example or two... at least the connector is now in their schematic! All in all, great price, works with Lattice/Alchitry IDE and the Icestorm tools. Solid board, couple of nice expansion boards available, (also work with Au board) and a great price. Great FPGA entry level board.
I got the AU and CU board and I use them both to learn more about FPGAs and I just have to say the CU version is the best to get started learning how to program FPGAs.
Software: The CU requires you to install iCECube2, it might be a pain to install at first but once you get it working it works pretty well with Alchitry labs. You can also use tools from project icestorm, and use open source tools to start your learning. I find using yosys + nextpnr + iceprog is perfect for learning the basics.
Price: The board is priced really well for the capability, you can find boards with similar capability on crowdsupply that is more or about the same price as this. Its not the cheapest board out there but I think its priced really well for beginners.
Expansions: Sparkfun only offer the IO shield and and buttom + LED board, i really like them but I really want another shield for the HDMI port or displayport.
I don't have anything bad to say other than Lattice's iCECube2 software is ancient and the Alchitry Labs is kinda not as capable or customizable but you can always DIY with open source tools.
This is the best FPGA learning device I have found. The Tutorials from Alchitry easily get you started programing the FPGA. With Spark fun supporting Alchitry by manufacturing the boards and the Tutorials from Alchitry this very powerful combination will guarantee new FPGA novices success.