Lattice Semi FPGA Projects

Versa Board

Lattice Semi EPC3 board

Lattice Semiconductor’s ECP3-based Versa board

We ordered a Lattice Semi ECP3 based Versa board in September, 2011, on a promotion for $99, including a year license for Lattice Diamond Software (version of Synopsys Synplify Pro).

We wanted to trace the Mico32 core via the embedded logic analyzer. Unfortunately, the Mico32 was not ported to the ECP3 Versa board. Other items of interest were the logic analyzer block, the SERDES, the PCIe core and later, on another board, the SRIO core. The board was placed in a new quad core AMD PC and run through the initial demo tests. The Diamond software ran without any problems, but we were unable to beat Windows-7 from taking over the FTDI USB drivers and attaching serial ports to these. Other FTDI based JTAG boards (Texas Instruments Luminary Micro) did not have these problems. A different Lattice download cable cost more than the Versa board, and had to be ordered from a local agent (not online like the other items from Lattice). We already had a bucket of JTAG dongles.

Optional IP blocks to actually test the board (Ethernet and DDR3 Memory), each for a low $99 annual price had to be purchased from a distributer, not online. These were the same as the Versa special, so effectively doubling the price — much like the low-cost air travel add-ons.

On the Lattice Semi forums, New user experience with the EPC3 Versa Development board written by Peter Van Epp in May, 2012, pretty much points out the problems with the readiness of the kit some nine months after ours was purchased, and we waited a while after it was launched. A webpage (Feb 2013) mentioned version 1.2 of the software, as well as the special, however, the software is well past 1.2, and not much seems to have happened there. We never came back to the Lattice ECP3 board.

Lattice Semi MachX02 board

MachX02 Pico Dev Kit

We ordered two “special” MachX02 Pico kits at $29 each in August, 2012, only to be hit with US$144 for the freight from the US to Oz. We did not know the freight price before checking out the shopping basket, or given a cheaper freight option. The credit card size boards apparently came to 3 lbs!

The MachX02 Pico Evaluation board had several useful features for testing other boards, unrelated to any code changes on this board. The touch buttons, GPIO, SPI Flash, I2C temperature sensor and other features would be cheaper than knocking up a board to test with other evaluation boards.

In our low-volume prototyping business, it has become cheaper to use one of the many ARM microcontrollers than a CPLD. One less tool to maintain and learn!

Future Lattice Work

There was no easy way to migrate the Mico32 core to newer devices (ECP3) without being a super hero. We would like to have seen this migration done by Lattice when originally shipping the Versa board. Looking ahead in 2013, we do not see demand from our customers for Lattice FPGA work.