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JColvin

Basys 3 or Nexys 4 DDR questions

Question

A customer on our website asked the following question:

Hello I am a Electrical Engineering student. This spring semester I took a Digital Dsign Systems with Verilog and used the Basys 3 board. I don't have much money but wanted to invest and buy a board to polish my skills and keep practicing. I haven't decided yet if I should buy the Basys 3 or the Nexys 4 DDR. Does it works with Verilog in the vivado suit just like the Basys3? or not? Because that's what I learned, I worked with Verilog in Vivado. Do I only need to change the xdc file and program like I am used to? please give me advice I am a senior Mechatronic student and studied at UT Austin this spring semester as an exchange student..

P.S. Does the PmodNIC100 network controller work with the Basys3?

Thank you in advance.

The response is below.

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Hello,

You may program both the Basys 3 or the Nexys 4 DDR in either Verilog or VHDL in the Vivado Design Suite. From a broad perspective, yes all you would essentially need to do is use the appropriate xdc file for whichever FPGA you choose. The xdc file for both boards are available in their Resource Centers for the Basys 3 and the Nexys 4 DDR

As for which board to choose, I suppose the biggest question to answer would be what sort of features are you intending to use or hope to use in the future? If you are wanting to try out DDR memory, a little bit of audio, and/or have some integrated Ethernet, as well as some "standard" I/O, I would recommend the Nexys 4 DDR. If you just need more of a barebones FPGA that just has the I/O and can get the job done in terms of processing, the Basys 3 may be better for you.

As for the PmodNIC100, in principle I suppose it is possible to use it with the Basys 3, but as indicated by this other comment on this thread (it also applies for the PmodNIC100 as well as the PmodWiFi), it has never been successfully done (at least to my knowledge).

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Thanks,
JColvin

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If I may add my two cents ... I started with the Basys3 board.  It's a wonderful board, and I love it.  I have never tried the Nexys 4 DDR board.

There is, however, one very significant limitation/drawback of the Basys3 board: memory.  The Basys3 board doesn't have much memory.  Indeed, all of the Basys3 memory is either on-chip or flash.  At one point, I thought about making a video game using it.  I was then disappointed to discover how much memory was available for a off-screen video RAM.  (I resolved this by using flash, but that limits the dynamics of what can be displayed.)  Later, I decided to try build a soft-core CPU.  While the Basys-3 has had enough memory for every soft-core CPU program I've tried running on it, I do need to be careful to stay within limits.  (You may not have enough to run Linux, for example ...)

The most recent board I've picked up is the Arty board.  This board seems to be made for, and ideal for, building softcore CPU's.  It has plenty of fabric, and plenty of offchip memory (DDR3 SDRAM, capable of one 32-bit access every 5ns ...)  The big feature that it doesn't have, though, that both the Basys3 and the Nexys boards have is a video port.  The Arty also has fewer PMods, switches, and LEDs.  It makes up for these lacks, in my personal estimation, with memory and ethernet.  I think there are even folks running Linux on the Arty ... just not me (yet).

Enough of my two cents.  Pick wisely, and enjoy whatever you choose.  All three options will help keep your skills up to date, just ... in different ways.

Yours,

Dan

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