Forums

Opinions on Lattice ECP3

Started by David Brown December 3, 2010
Hi,

I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few 
projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II.  We are 
looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a high 
speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal).

The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear 
alternative suggestions).


I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looking 
mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tell 
you that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. 
And a website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the 
small print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden.


I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was for 
CPLD design.  My guess is that things have changed a little since then.

Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me 
reconsider before getting in too deep?  I'd like to avoid doing the 
design and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 
quantities, or that the tools are useless without buying many 
kilodollars of third-party software.


For the development software, I can only name a few features of Quartus 
and ask if Lattice software is similar.  I like the integration of 
Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool.  Is that also the 
case with modern Lattice software?  The tools I used long ago felt more 
like a collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate 
synthesis engines that couldn't agree on anything.

I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a 
DDR2 memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a 
convenient way to set put this together.  Does Lattice have something 
similar?  Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather than 
the Nios, but that's fine by me.


How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools?  I'm okay with 
paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having 
free versions that will do a good job.  Amongst other things, it makes 
it more convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home 
office).


Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP.  The main parts I'd be 
interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, and 
possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver.  I gather the micro32 is ready to use, 
free (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a 
simple choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative).  It may be that 
I'll have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would 
be nice to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive.  But the DDR2 
interface is definitely something we should get ready-made.


Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions.

mvh.,

David




"David Brown" <david@westcontrol.removethisbit.com> wrote in message 
news:uMOdncQg25wsMGXRnZ2dnUVZ8r6dnZ2d@lyse.net...
> Hi, > > I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few > projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II. We are > looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a high > speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal). > > The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear > alternative suggestions). > > > I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looking > mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tell you > that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. And a > website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the small > print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden. > > > I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was for > CPLD design. My guess is that things have changed a little since then. > > Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me > reconsider before getting in too deep? I'd like to avoid doing the design > and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 quantities, or that > the tools are useless without buying many kilodollars of third-party > software. > > > For the development software, I can only name a few features of Quartus > and ask if Lattice software is similar. I like the integration of > Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool. Is that also the case > with modern Lattice software? The tools I used long ago felt more like a > collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate synthesis > engines that couldn't agree on anything. > > I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a DDR2 > memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a > convenient way to set put this together. Does Lattice have something > similar? Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather than the > Nios, but that's fine by me. > > > How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools? I'm okay with > paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having free > versions that will do a good job. Amongst other things, it makes it more > convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home office). > > > Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP. The main parts I'd be > interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, and > possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver. I gather the micro32 is ready to use, free > (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a simple > choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative). It may be that I'll > have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would be nice > to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive. But the DDR2 interface is > definitely something we should get ready-made. > > > Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions. > > mvh., > > David > > > >
I can't answer all of your questions because my work with Lattice parts has not used the Mico32 or a DDR2 interface. In general I have found Lattice much easier to get on with than X (no experience with A). I use the paid for tool with my own license for Aldec HDL. I only use small quantitites of parts and buy them through distributors with no trouble. Lattice have always given me a license file for any machine I wanted without the slightest quibble. I haven't had any issues with software bugs in the Lattice tools (can't believe I just wrote that but it's true !). I think your projects sound a bit bigger than mine so your experience may be different. Michael Kellett
On 03/12/2010 11:45, Michael Kellett wrote:
> "David Brown"<david@westcontrol.removethisbit.com> wrote in message > news:uMOdncQg25wsMGXRnZ2dnUVZ8r6dnZ2d@lyse.net... >> Hi, >> >> I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few >> projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II. We are >> looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a high >> speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal). >> >> The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear >> alternative suggestions). >> >> >> I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looking >> mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tell you >> that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. And a >> website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the small >> print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden. >> >> >> I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was for >> CPLD design. My guess is that things have changed a little since then. >> >> Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me >> reconsider before getting in too deep? I'd like to avoid doing the design >> and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 quantities, or that >> the tools are useless without buying many kilodollars of third-party >> software. >> >> >> For the development software, I can only name a few features of Quartus >> and ask if Lattice software is similar. I like the integration of >> Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool. Is that also the case >> with modern Lattice software? The tools I used long ago felt more like a >> collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate synthesis >> engines that couldn't agree on anything. >> >> I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a DDR2 >> memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a >> convenient way to set put this together. Does Lattice have something >> similar? Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather than the >> Nios, but that's fine by me. >> >> >> How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools? I'm okay with >> paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having free >> versions that will do a good job. Amongst other things, it makes it more >> convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home office). >> >> >> Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP. The main parts I'd be >> interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, and >> possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver. I gather the micro32 is ready to use, free >> (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a simple >> choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative). It may be that I'll >> have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would be nice >> to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive. But the DDR2 interface is >> definitely something we should get ready-made. >> >> >> Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions. >> >> mvh., >> >> David >> >> >> >> > > I can't answer all of your questions because my work with Lattice parts has > not used the Mico32 or a DDR2 interface. > > In general I have found Lattice much easier to get on with than X (no > experience with A). I use the paid for tool with my own license for Aldec > HDL. I only use small quantitites of parts and buy them through distributors > with no trouble. >
I have almost no experience with X tools either, but from what I have heard in this group (amongst other sources), being easier to use than X tools is not hard... The distributors we use here in Norway are all very good, so if /they/ have no trouble getting Lattice chips, then /we/ will have no trouble.
> Lattice have always given me a license file for any machine I wanted without > the slightest quibble. > > I haven't had any issues with software bugs in the Lattice tools (can't > believe I just wrote that but it's true !). >
This is all excellent news for me. Thanks.
> I think your projects sound a bit bigger than mine so your experience may be > different. >
All projects are different, so your comments are as valuable as any others (especially as it's the first reply!). Thanks, David
Concerning some questions i may give you useful experiences.
The ISPlever tool seems quite reliable and workable, although far not
as nicely integrated, "consistent" and polished like Quartus. But a
experienced user doesn't need Quartus because of that. Thank God they
kept the ISPlever simple and rather efficient. I dont use the new
Diamond tool and can't tell much about it but they say only the GUI
has changed.
The newly supplied third party tool Synpllify replacing Mentor
Precision gives me more trouble. Hints: Inefficient carry chain
synthesis and system-verilog support / crashes.

For a DDR2 memory interface IP you'll have to pay a little, but you
can evaluate it. Study their website.
Concerning DVI/HDMI receiver they may also have something i saw at a
tradehow.
>On 03/12/2010 11:45, Michael Kellett wrote: >> "David Brown"<david@westcontrol.removethisbit.com> wrote in message >> news:uMOdncQg25wsMGXRnZ2dnUVZ8r6dnZ2d@lyse.net... >>> Hi, >>> >>> I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few >>> projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II. We are >>> looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a
high
>>> speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal). >>> >>> The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear >>> alternative suggestions). >>> >>> >>> I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looking >>> mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tell
you
>>> that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. And
a
>>> website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the
small
>>> print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden. >>> >>> >>> I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was
for
>>> CPLD design. My guess is that things have changed a little since
then.
>>> >>> Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me >>> reconsider before getting in too deep? I'd like to avoid doing the
design
>>> and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 quantities, or
that
>>> the tools are useless without buying many kilodollars of third-party >>> software. >>> >>> >>> For the development software, I can only name a few features of
Quartus
>>> and ask if Lattice software is similar. I like the integration of >>> Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool. Is that also the
case
>>> with modern Lattice software? The tools I used long ago felt more like
a
>>> collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate
synthesis
>>> engines that couldn't agree on anything. >>> >>> I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a
DDR2
>>> memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a >>> convenient way to set put this together. Does Lattice have something >>> similar? Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather than
the
>>> Nios, but that's fine by me. >>> >>> >>> How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools? I'm okay with >>> paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having
free
>>> versions that will do a good job. Amongst other things, it makes it
more
>>> convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home
office).
>>> >>> >>> Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP. The main parts I'd
be
>>> interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, and >>> possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver. I gather the micro32 is ready to use,
free
>>> (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a simple >>> choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative). It may be that I'll >>> have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would be
nice
>>> to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive. But the DDR2 interface
is
>>> definitely something we should get ready-made. >>> >>> >>> Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions. >>> >>> mvh., >>> >>> David >>> >>> >>> >>>
Hello, As far as my short experience with ECP3 is concerned, I noted the following: - their PLL is much less configurable than the ones from Altera. You find yourself very often with unsynthesisable frequencies, and I remember it being unable to make an output frequency less than 2 MHz whatever the input frequency. - their Reveal software (equivalent Signal Tap or Chipscope) is very slow as soon as you put too many signals or too much memory. Let's say that you put 15 signals with 1024k, you'll have to wait 15 or 20 seconds for your trigger to work and display the result. - The tools have a Xilinx "feel". I found it difficult sometimes to trace the origin of a warning because not enough information is given. The Chip and constraints Editor is not very easy to lauch (because if I am correct, it is not really integrated to ISPLever) and to use. But maybe all these cosmetic troubles will disappear with Diamond. Apart from that, the general feeling is good. I had no problem using some of their IP, no known bug or extra difficulties due to the technology. The tools may look less professionnal than Altera or Xilinx, but in the end, they have no bugs and it does not cost you a lot more in time to do the job. And the FPGA works perfectly. --------------------------------------- Posted through http://www.FPGARelated.com
On 03/12/2010 15:29, krakatoa wrote:
>> On 03/12/2010 11:45, Michael Kellett wrote: >>> "David Brown"<david@westcontrol.removethisbit.com> wrote in message >>> news:uMOdncQg25wsMGXRnZ2dnUVZ8r6dnZ2d@lyse.net... >>>> Hi, >>>> >>>> I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few >>>> projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II. We are >>>> looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a > high >>>> speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal). >>>> >>>> The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear >>>> alternative suggestions). >>>> >>>> >>>> I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looking >>>> mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tell > you >>>> that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. And > a >>>> website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the > small >>>> print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden. >>>> >>>> >>>> I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was > for >>>> CPLD design. My guess is that things have changed a little since > then. >>>> >>>> Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me >>>> reconsider before getting in too deep? I'd like to avoid doing the > design >>>> and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 quantities, or > that >>>> the tools are useless without buying many kilodollars of third-party >>>> software. >>>> >>>> >>>> For the development software, I can only name a few features of > Quartus >>>> and ask if Lattice software is similar. I like the integration of >>>> Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool. Is that also the > case >>>> with modern Lattice software? The tools I used long ago felt more like > a >>>> collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate > synthesis >>>> engines that couldn't agree on anything. >>>> >>>> I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a > DDR2 >>>> memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a >>>> convenient way to set put this together. Does Lattice have something >>>> similar? Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather than > the >>>> Nios, but that's fine by me. >>>> >>>> >>>> How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools? I'm okay with >>>> paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having > free >>>> versions that will do a good job. Amongst other things, it makes it > more >>>> convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home > office). >>>> >>>> >>>> Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP. The main parts I'd > be >>>> interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, and >>>> possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver. I gather the micro32 is ready to use, > free >>>> (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a simple >>>> choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative). It may be that I'll >>>> have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would be > nice >>>> to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive. But the DDR2 interface > is >>>> definitely something we should get ready-made. >>>> >>>> >>>> Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions. >>>> >>>> mvh., >>>> >>>> David >>>> >>>> >>>> >>>> > Hello, > > As far as my short experience with ECP3 is concerned, I noted the > following: > > - their PLL is much less configurable than the ones from Altera. You find > yourself very often with unsynthesisable frequencies, and I remember it > being unable to make an output frequency less than 2 MHz whatever the input > frequency. >
I hope the figure of 2 MHz was a typo. But that's useful information - I will need to be careful of which frequencies I need.
> - their Reveal software (equivalent Signal Tap or Chipscope) is very slow > as soon as you put too many signals or too much memory. Let's say that you > put 15 signals with 1024k, you'll have to wait 15 or 20 seconds for your > trigger to work and display the result. >
OK.
> - The tools have a Xilinx "feel". I found it difficult sometimes to trace > the origin of a warning because not enough information is given. The Chip > and constraints Editor is not very easy to lauch (because if I am correct, > it is not really integrated to ISPLever) and to use. But maybe all these > cosmetic troubles will disappear with Diamond. >
OK - it looks like "Diamond" improves on this, but I haven't tried it yet.
> Apart from that, the general feeling is good. I had no problem using some > of their IP, no known bug or extra difficulties due to the technology. The > tools may look less professionnal than Altera or Xilinx, but in the end, > they have no bugs and it does not cost you a lot more in time to do the > job. And the FPGA works perfectly. >
Nice to know. Thanks, David
> >I hope the figure of 2 MHz was a typo. But that's useful information - >I will need to be careful of which frequencies I need. >
No, not a typo. But I did not need a frequency less than 2 MHz, so I did not put much effort in understanding the problem. I hope there is an explanation for this, like improper use of the GUI or something. --------------------------------------- Posted through http://www.FPGARelated.com
On 03/12/2010 16:31, krakatoa wrote:
>> >> I hope the figure of 2 MHz was a typo. But that's useful information - >> I will need to be careful of which frequencies I need. >> > > No, not a typo. But I did not need a frequency less than 2 MHz, so I did > not put much effort in understanding the problem. I hope there is an > explanation for this, like improper use of the GUI or something. >
Ah, sorry - it was a mis-read rather than a typo. I thought you were saying it could not generate frequencies /greater/ than 2 MHz, which would be a different matter. For frequencies lower than 2 MHz it is usually sufficient to simply divide a faster clock in logic, unless you need to lock to an existing slower frequency.
On Dec 3, 9:55=A0am, David Brown <da...@westcontrol.removethisbit.com>
wrote:
> On 03/12/2010 15:29, krakatoa wrote: > > > > >> On 03/12/2010 11:45, Michael Kellett wrote: > >>> "David Brown"<da...@westcontrol.removethisbit.com> =A0 wrote in messa=
ge
> >>>news:uMOdncQg25wsMGXRnZ2dnUVZ8r6dnZ2d@lyse.net... > >>>> Hi, > > >>>> I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few > >>>> projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II. =A0We a=
re
> >>>> looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a > > high > >>>> speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal). > > >>>> The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear > >>>> alternative suggestions). > > >>>> I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looki=
ng
> >>>> mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tel=
l
> > you > >>>> that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. A=
nd
> > a > >>>> website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the > > small > >>>> print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden. > > >>>> I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was > > for > >>>> CPLD design. =A0My guess is that things have changed a little since > > then. > > >>>> Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me > >>>> reconsider before getting in too deep? =A0I'd like to avoid doing th=
e
> > design > >>>> and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 quantities, o=
r
> > that > >>>> the tools are useless without buying many kilodollars of third-party > >>>> software. > > >>>> For the development software, I can only name a few features of > > Quartus > >>>> and ask if Lattice software is similar. =A0I like the integration of > >>>> Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool. =A0Is that also t=
he
> > case > >>>> with modern Lattice software? =A0The tools I used long ago felt more=
like
> > a > >>>> collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate > > synthesis > >>>> engines that couldn't agree on anything. > > >>>> I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a > > DDR2 > >>>> memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a > >>>> convenient way to set put this together. =A0Does Lattice have someth=
ing
> >>>> similar? =A0Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather t=
han
> > the > >>>> Nios, but that's fine by me. > > >>>> How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools? =A0I'm okay w=
ith
> >>>> paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having > > free > >>>> versions that will do a good job. =A0Amongst other things, it makes =
it
> > more > >>>> convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home > > office). > > >>>> Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP. =A0The main parts I=
'd
> > be > >>>> interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, a=
nd
> >>>> possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver. =A0I gather the micro32 is ready to us=
e,
> > free > >>>> (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a simple > >>>> choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative). =A0It may be that =
I'll
> >>>> have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would b=
e
> > nice > >>>> to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive. =A0But the DDR2 inter=
face
> > is > >>>> definitely something we should get ready-made. > > >>>> Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions. > > >>>> mvh., > > >>>> David > > > Hello, > > > As far as my short experience with ECP3 is concerned, I noted the > > following: > > > - their PLL is much less configurable than the ones from Altera. You fi=
nd
> > yourself very often with unsynthesisable frequencies, and I remember it > > being unable to make an output frequency less than 2 MHz whatever the i=
nput
> > frequency. > > I hope the figure of 2 MHz was a typo. =A0But that's useful information - > I will need to be careful of which frequencies I need. > > > - their Reveal software (equivalent Signal Tap or Chipscope) is very sl=
ow
> > as soon as you put too many signals or too much memory. Let's say that =
you
> > put 15 signals with 1024k, you'll have to wait 15 or 20 seconds for you=
r
> > trigger to work and display the result. > > OK. > > > - The tools have a Xilinx "feel". I found it difficult sometimes to tra=
ce
> > the origin of a warning because not enough information is given. The Ch=
ip
> > and constraints Editor is not very easy to lauch (because if I am corre=
ct,
> > it is not really integrated to ISPLever) and to use. But maybe all thes=
e
> > cosmetic troubles will disappear with Diamond. > > OK - it looks like "Diamond" improves on this, but I haven't tried it yet=
.
> > > Apart from that, the general feeling is good. I had no problem using so=
me
> > of their IP, no known bug or extra difficulties due to the technology. =
The
> > tools may look less professionnal than Altera or Xilinx, but in the end=
,
> > they have no bugs and it does not cost you a lot more in time to do the > > job. And the FPGA works perfectly. > > Nice to know. > > Thanks, > > David
I don't know if someone already covered this point, but the free tools do not cover the ECP3 devices. You'll need to buy the full license. Also as Raymund pointed out, the DDR memory controller is additional money. I've developed a few products with Lattice ECP and ECP2 parts. It's worth taking a good look at the clock routing to make sure you don't get in trouble with high-speed I/O logic. Specifically there are only a couple of edge clock routes per side of the parts and the sources for each route are limited. So it becomes hard to make multiple unrelated high-speed interfaces on one side of the chip. Also the fabric is composed of memory-capable and non-memory-capable cells. But coming from Altera I suppose having any distributed memory capability is a plus. Finally another cost-cutting makes the four sides of the device have different subsets of the total available I/O standards or features, so again read carefully. I have not used the high-speed SERDES parts from Lattice, so I can't comment on that. If you're trying to do something standard with it like DVI/HDMI try to get a reference design to make sure it's possible. Lattice FAE's have been pretty helpful for us. Regards, Gabor
On 12/3/2010 12:45 AM, David Brown wrote:
> Hi, > > I haven't a lot of experience with FPGA design, but have done a few > projects - mostly with Altera Cyclones, some with a Nios II. We are > looking at making a new design that should be low cost, but needs a high > speed serial interface (for reading in a DVI and/or HDMI signal). > > The obvious choice then is Lattice ECP3 (but I am very happy to hear > alternative suggestions). > > > I've already had a look at quite a bit of the website, so I'll looking > mainly for information that is not there - a website will seldom tell > you that their software feels slow and awkward, or fast and intuitive. > And a website will often tell you things are free or "low cost", but the > small print and hidden costs are, well, small and hidden. > > > I haven't used any Lattice tools for nearly ten years, and that was for > CPLD design. My guess is that things have changed a little since then. > > Are there anything major problems or obstacles that should make me > reconsider before getting in too deep? I'd like to avoid doing the > design and then finding out that Lattice only sells in 10,000 > quantities, or that the tools are useless without buying many > kilodollars of third-party software. > > > For the development software, I can only name a few features of Quartus > and ask if Lattice software is similar. I like the integration of > Quartus - it feels like a single coordinated tool. Is that also the case > with modern Lattice software? The tools I used long ago felt more like a > collection of different bits and pieces, such as two separate synthesis > engines that couldn't agree on anything. > > I also like Quartus SOPC builder - we might be putting a micro and a > DDR2 memory interface in this design, and SOPC builder is definitely a > convenient way to set put this together. Does Lattice have something > similar? Obviously it will be geared towards the Micro32 rather than the > Nios, but that's fine by me. > > > How are the free tools compared to the paid-for tools? I'm okay with > paying for the tools if that's necessary, but it is very nice having > free versions that will do a good job. Amongst other things, it makes it > more convenient to work from different computers (such as at a home > office). > > > Finally, there is the question of ready-made IP. The main parts I'd be > interested in here are a DDR2 memory interface, an embedded micro, and > possibly a DVI/HDMI receiver. I gather the micro32 is ready to use, free > (and open), and has a full gcc toolchain, so that should be a simple > choice (and the micro8 is a smaller alternative). It may be that I'll > have to make all or part of the DVI/HDMI receiver, though it would be > nice to get ready-made if it's not /too/ expensive. But the DDR2 > interface is definitely something we should get ready-made. > > > Thanks for any hints, pointers or opinions. > > mvh., > > David >
No experience with the Lattice parts, and only just switching to A from X recently. But, if you're currently happy with the Altera tools, I seem to recall the Arria II chips being price competitive with ECP3. Also, have you looked at the Cyclone IV GX chips? They've got high speed serial too, although I think availability may be an issue. -- Rob Gaddi, Highland Technology Email address is currently out of order