Robots w/Lasers

May 18, 2009

Comparison of Entry-Level (aka cheap) FPGA boards

A while ago I decided I wanted to play around with a FPGA – Field-Programmable Gate Array, basically it lets you design new hardware ICs (Integrated Circuits), without needing a multi-billion dollar chip fabrication plant. So I set out to research the available pre-made development kits I could play around with. They’re quite a bit more expensive to get into than microcontrollers (where you can buy a $3 chip and build a programming cable out of some old scraps of wire), so I looked for the least expensive boards that still had a decent set of features.

I ended up making a comparison chart of FPGA development kits, like I said this was over a year ago, so it may be a bit out of date, but the low-end of FPGA’s doesn’t move all that fast. Most of the information is still valid, but you might be best to do some research yourself before you take the plunge. I only considered boards that featured FPGAs from Xilinx and Altera, since I found other vendors are not competitive in the low-cost arena (low-cost was the most important feature to me at the time, I didn’t want to spend $5000 just to play around. And yes, there are $5000 development boards).

View Chart Full-Screen

If you’re curious, I ended up getting the DE2 (with the educational discount). It costs a bit more, but it has significantly more features, such that I’ll probably never run out of stuff to play with.

The ones highlighted in green are the ones I feel provide the best value, and just coincidentally fall at the $50, $100, and $150 price points.

Filed under: FPGA,Hardware — davr @ 3:26 pm


  1. wow dude long ways away from SinCity 🙂 makin robots..

    Comment by Trusty AKA EMP — May 20, 2009 @ 6:58 pm

  2. Nice roundup. I am surprised that the price is still that high for all of them even with a student discount. I would have thought that there would have been at least one almost giving it away to gain student engineer traction.

    Comment by Alan Parekh — October 10, 2009 @ 3:22 am

  3. Well there’s the $50 one on the cheap end. But FPGA’s are really quite expensive compared to say microcontrollers (where you can get a pretty powerful chip for just a couple bucks). Just the chip alone on the $50 board would run you about $20, then you have to consider the cost of the PCB (generally they are all at least 4 layers, much more expensive than a 2 layer PCB), and all the other peripherals like USB controllers, external memory, etc etc. The chip alone on the $150 DE1 runs about $60-70, plus it’s got a ton of other things on the board.

    Comment by davr — November 5, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  4. Hi David,

    Cann you add this in your sheet. Not so bad for entry level.

    Comment by oakkar7 — August 4, 2011 @ 5:59 am

  5. The FPGA4Fun boards are good, and the documentation is superb. But they don’t provide the source for everything. However, the website is loaded with great examples see

    Comment by David Hsu — September 5, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  6. is a good entry level board we sell for $50.

    Comment by Tom — February 22, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  7. Just an update..
    Price of Elbert ( reduced to $35 and there are two new boards came out lately. Mimas Spartan 6 board for $50 ( and Saturn Spartan 6 with DDR for $79 ( Both make good economic entry level boards in my opinion.

    Comment by Tom — December 15, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

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