Forums

Altera NIOS II/Stratix II vs Xilinx Products

Started by Unknown December 29, 2004
I have been trying to get through to somebody at Altera to answer a
question before ordering an Altera NIOS II/Stratix II development kit
but they seem to give priority to existing customers vs. new customers.


My Question Is: Some of the information I have downloaded from the
Altera web site describes the kit as having EP2S30 and the technical
documentation describes it as having an EP2S60. This is a deciding
factor for me to order it. If I were to order one today (I need to
order before the first of the year) which device would come on it? I
also would like to know if the channel I go through to order the NIOS
II Development Kit can I also order the Lancelot VGA board?

I have read some criticisms about Xilinx's ISE compared to Altera's
Quartus II. I'm not as familar with Xilinx's software tools but do they
have similar products Altera's SOPC Builder?

If I'm considering buying the Altera NIOS Devlopment kit is there a
similar Xilinx product with about the same price tag I should be
considering?

Thanks,
DerekSimmons at FrontierNet dot net

Hi Derek,

Our first Nios II/Stratix II development kits, including the one I'm
working with now on my desk (coincident to your inquiry about Lancelot,
I'm doing some video-related-work), feature the Stratix II 2S60ES
(engineering sample) devices. As the 2S30 (non-ES) becomes available we
will revise the development boards to ship with this smaller device.
Our long-term plan is for the $995USD Nios II/Stratix II kits will have
the 2S30, and this is why the literature you're seeing says that;
however if you'd like to use the ES devices (limitations/errata
available through the Altera website) we provide the larger device at
the same price to compensate.

As far as schedules are concerned, the 2S60ES kits are what are
currently shipping; the 2S30's are scheduled to roll-out later in 2005
(we have to revise the Nios II kit software to include example designs
for the 2S30 boards as well).

Regarding the Lancelot cards: According to www.fpga.nl they can be
ordered from AleaRep (http://www.alearep.com/)

I am probably less familiar with the Xilinx tools compared to you
(haven't used ISE in several years). However, it is no secret that
FPGA-based processors and the tools to build such systems are a new
technology; our tools have been around longer than our competitor
(read: have had the usability kinks  worked out) and I believe this is
a substantial strength for us. We put substantial effort into making it
easy to run through a complete design the first time as well as provide
many examples (HW & SW) that start with a few mouse-clicks to get the
user up to speed, but please don't take it from me (the
biased-Altera-guy); there are plenty of people who post to this site
who have experience with both sets of tools.
Jesse Kempa
Altera Corp.
jkempa at altera dot com

Hi Derek,

Our first Nios II/Stratix II development kits, including the one I'm
working with now on my desk (coincident to your inquiry about Lancelot,
I'm doing some video-related-work), feature the Stratix II 2S60ES
(engineering sample) devices. As the 2S30 (non-ES) becomes available we
will revise the development boards to ship with this smaller device.
Our long-term plan is for the $995USD Nios II/Stratix II kits will have
the 2S30, and this is why the literature you're seeing says that;
however if you'd like to use the ES devices (limitations/errata
available through the Altera website) we provide the larger device at
the same price to compensate.

As far as schedules are concerned, the 2S60ES kits are what are
currently shipping; the 2S30's are scheduled to roll-out later in 2005
(we have to revise the Nios II kit software to include example designs
for the 2S30 boards as well).

Regarding the Lancelot cards: According to www.fpga.nl they can be
ordered from AleaRep (http://www.alearep.com/)

I am probably less familiar with the Xilinx tools compared to you
(haven't used ISE in several years). However, it is no secret that
FPGA-based processors and the tools to build such systems are a new
technology; our tools have been around longer than our competitor
(read: have had the usability kinks  worked out) and I believe this is
a substantial strength for us. We put substantial effort into making it
easy to run through a complete design the first time as well as provide
many examples (HW & SW) that start with a few mouse-clicks to get the
user up to speed, but please don't take it from me (the
biased-Altera-guy); there are plenty of people who post to this site
who have experience with both sets of tools.
Jesse Kempa
Altera Corp.
jkempa at altera dot com

Thank you for the quick reply. Based on the information you gave me I
did order a NIOS II Development Kit with the EP2S60 ES (you can tell
your boss you made a sale while surfing the web). Right now the
additional resources are important to me.

I do like the Altera tools better than the Xilinx's but the maybe
because I original cut my teeth on with MAX+Plus II. Quartus seems more
polished. The only thing that worries me is the use of third party
libraries and frameworks. A company I use to work for use to provide
support for Coral's Office sweet (made heavy use of third party
software) when a customer installed another application that used the
same software but a different version or revision then the headaches
began.

But I have been using your Wed Edition and Evaluation software without
any of those bumps or bruises.

Thanks again,
Derek Simmons

<DerekSimmons@FrontierNet.net> wrote in message
news:1104357918.526189.6560@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com...
> Thank you for the quick reply. Based on the information you gave me I > did order a NIOS II Development Kit with the EP2S60 ES (you can tell > your boss you made a sale while surfing the web). Right now the > additional resources are important to me. > > I do like the Altera tools better than the Xilinx's but the maybe > because I original cut my teeth on with MAX+Plus II. Quartus seems more > polished. The only thing that worries me is the use of third party > libraries and frameworks. A company I use to work for use to provide > support for Coral's Office sweet (made heavy use of third party > software) when a customer installed another application that used the > same software but a different version or revision then the headaches > began. > > But I have been using your Wed Edition and Evaluation software without > any of those bumps or bruises. > > Thanks again, > Derek Simmons >
Derek, I think you made the right decision as far as tools go. I doubt you'll find anything close in terms of getting up and going quickly. I've found that each release of Quartus+SOPC Builder+Nios IDE gets substantially better and it started out pretty good. We didn't much care for the first release of the NiosII Eclipse based IDE, but the first service pack (1.01) has made it very usable. Altera is just now releasing 1.1. Make sure you join and follow the Nios Forum (www.niosforum.com) to avoid the gotchas and get answers quickly. We wasted a lot of time and money by discovering too many details ourselves - not recommended :) Ken
DerekSimmons@FrontierNet.net wrote:
> If I'm considering buying the Altera NIOS Devlopment kit is there a > similar Xilinx product with about the same price tag I should be > considering?
I think your other questions have been fully answered, but as I was in exactly your situation let me fill in a few details. First off, you need to consider the tools support. If you're not going to pay for tools or live off time-limited evaluation version, then pay close attention to which devices are supported by the free (gratis) tools. AFAIK, the EP2S60 is not supported by the free Quartus. I'm still using the excellent Nios Development board, Cyclone edition, but wanted to move up. The two choices were: (like you) Altera's Nios Dev kit, Stratix II edition, or the Xilinx ML401: Hopefully you're using a fixed font at this point :-) Altera Xilinx X/A Price $1000 $500* 1/2 price FPGA EP2S60 Virtex4 LX25 ~ similar size&speed Free tools No No DRAM 16MiB SDR 64MiB** DDR 4x size,2x speed SRAM 1MiB async 1MiB ZBT ZBT is ~2-3 speed VGA No*** 24-bit/50MHz CF Yes Yes Ethernet 100Mbps Gigabit USB No Host&Client RS232 2 ports 1 port (*) Add ~$100 for programming cable. (**) 256MiB with a board rework. (***) Lancelot VGA,2xPS/2,audio out is ~$300 I'll let you be the judge, for me the choice was easy though I like the Quartus tools much better and would love to play with Stratix II. Tommy
Tommy Thorn wrote:

> Hopefully you're using a fixed font at this point :-)
Howdy Tommy, Unfortunately I'll bet the majority don't now-a-days, but it was still readable!
> Altera Xilinx X/A > Price $1000 $500* 1/2 price > FPGA EP2S60 Virtex4 LX25 ~ similar size&speed > Free tools No No > DRAM 16MiB SDR 64MiB** DDR 4x size,2x speed > SRAM 1MiB async 1MiB ZBT ZBT is ~2-3 speed > VGA No*** 24-bit/50MHz > CF Yes Yes > Ethernet 100Mbps Gigabit > USB No Host&Client > RS232 2 ports 1 port
I think there is a minor error in one line of your chart... If you don't use the funny math from either company, the 2S60 has ~50k four-input look-up tables, compared to ~21k LUTs on the LX25. So assuming all other things being equal (which they aren't because of all extras that each have surrounding the lookup tables), I'd consider the 2S60 to be roughly 2x larger (very roughly). Using the fudge factors from each company, it's 60k vs. 24k. I'm sure they would *both* argue about which one is faster though... the truth is that you need to target your design to each to find out for sure. Despite Altera's hyperactive chart generation department, I think there are lots of applications that the Virtex-4 would be faster than the Stratix II. Happy New Year, Marc
Marc Randolph wrote:
>> Altera Xilinx X/A >>Price $1000 $500* 1/2 price >>FPGA EP2S60 Virtex4 LX25 ~ similar size&speed
...
> I think there is a minor error in one line of your chart... If you > don't use the funny math from either company, the 2S60 has ~50k > four-input look-up tables, compared to ~21k LUTs on the LX25. So > assuming all other things being equal (which they aren't because of all > extras that each have surrounding the lookup tables), I'd consider the > 2S60 to be roughly 2x larger (very roughly). > > Using the fudge factors from each company, it's 60k vs. 24k.
Oops, you're right. I was thinking of the EP2S30 that will _normally_ be in the Altera board. The EP2S60 is ~ 2x the size. Good catch, thanks. Tommy
To anybody that has contributed to my thread, Thank You. The replies
have been very informal.

When I ordered the board they told me that they were out of stock and I
would probably would receive it until the middle of January. I planned
on using the web and evaluation versions of the software. New Years Eve
Day, Fed Ex arrived with a box. 

I'm very happy it,
Derek

DerekSimmons@FrontierNet.net wrote:
> To anybody that has contributed to my thread, Thank You. The replies > have been very informal.
<<SNIP>> Can we assume that you meant 'informative'?