Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: DE0-Nano-SoC, Elbert V2 – Spartan 3A, Arty S7
What were the biggest problems encountered?: I couldn't implement soft processor.
For a long time, I was thinking to dive into FPGA world but didn't have a chance. When I see the roadtest for DE0-nano, I thought it is time to start. I applied for two alternative projects. One was encryption on the FPGA and the other one is different multiplication implementations on FPGA. I implemented different multiplication methods on FPGA and later will implement other projects. The one thing I have noticed during roadtest is when you buy an FPGA board, you should also consider the EDA tools for that. Altera has quite nice tools for programming their devices like Quartus II for synthesising your design or Modelsim for simulating your design.
Let's start with what is inside the DE0-Nano box.
The box includes DE0-NANO FPGA board, an extendable mini USB cable, and some brochures. It says it contains CDs for DE0-Nano System and Altera Design Suite but they are not inside the box. I think they don't send anymore and they are only available through the website.
The photo above depicts the board size and appearance. I can say the board is very handy, looks great, has acrylic protection. However, I don't think push buttons and dip switches are located well. When I want to press push buttons, it is so hard to push them without touching the GPIOs. It may be a problem if you shortcut the pins. You also need something thin to switch the dip switches. The board has USB Mini-B connection for programming and powering, I prefer to use micro USB hence it is common for phones so easy to find.
The best thing about this board is it has built-in programmer circuit. Some FPGA boards don't have a built-in programmer and you require a programmer like Altera USB Blaster but this board has USB Blaster on it so it is ready to use.
If you plug the board into the PC and LEDs are dancing like in the video, your board is working properly.
There is nice demo software called DE-0 Nano Control Panel. You can control your FPGA board via this program and the only thing you need to do is plug the board and run the software. Here is how the program works.
I have implemented multiplication designs on FPGA. There are many types of it but I have implemented three types; multiplication by Altera Megafunction, Array Multiplier, and Sequential multiplier. I can say that this project is more like using the software. You can find more detail about this project here: Multiplication on FPGA . The board can locate 32 x 32-bit multiplier so easily. It only uses less than 1 percent of the logic elements and less than 6 percent of the embedded multipliers. The FPGA on the board (EP4CE22F17C6) has 132 embedded multiplier which is nice because they can be used commonly in many applications like digital filters or fourier transforms.
The RTL viewer of multiplication using Altera Functions
I also want to implement a soft processor on the board however it failed. The board is designed by Terasic and DE0-Nano User Manual is so outdated. I think Terasic should update it. I found another document provided by Altera but I still couldn't implement the soft processor. The error message on Altera Monitor program says it couldn't connect the board and there is a patch on the website but the link is broken and diverts you to main DE0 page. The problem may be caused by my wrong implementation of the Nios II processor but I am not sure hence the document is not updated for this board.
The error during the programming Nios II on Altera Monitor
I think DE0-Nano is good small sized FPGA. It has everything to go design your hardware. The EDA software to use the board are really good. If you need an FPGA board with little peripherals, this board is perfect. However, If you also need a processor for your project, I prefer to pay 10 dollars more and buy DE0-Nano SOC which is almost the same as this board except it has ARM cortex hard processor which may be useful for the future projects.
I haven't had a chance to ask. I asked the question here but I think it is better to write on Altera forum. However, I don't think the problem is related to the patch because I use the latest version. There are many threads related to errors while uploading the codes, I tried them but it didn't solve. Let me ask and see if anyone can help me.
did you contact Altera for the broken link?