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I ended up making a comparison chart of FPGA development kits, like I said this was over a year ago, so it may be a bit out of date, but the low-end of FPGA’s doesn’t move all that fast.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).
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.