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Altera Agilex 5 Development boards

Understanding the capabilities of a device extends beyond reading about its specifications; as engineers, the true grasp comes from hands-on experience with a development board. Development boards provide us with a range of possibilities from being able to pipe clean the tool flow to investigates in depth a specific device features which is critical for the application.


Over the years you will have noticed I am big fan of working with development kits, used effectively they reduce your technical risk. For many applications they also enable you to start developing your solution earlier, although do not do this beyond experimentation before your have a clear systems architecture and defined requirements baseline.


When it comes to the Altera Agilex 5 development boards there is going to be a range of boards which engineers are able to choose from depending upon their needs. At a high level the development boards can be grouped into two


  • Premium Development Kits – These are intended for use on the lab bench and provide developers the ability to evaluate performance and features.

  • Modular Development Kits – Based around a system of module approach in which a Module containing FPGA,  volatile and non volatile memory, coupled with clocking and power management and USB Type C, JTAG . SD card. This module is then mounted on a carrier card which provides additional interfaces required for the application. In the first instance the carrier card is in a PCIe form factor. This gives the developer the option to implement a custom carrier board if required. Module board can work standalone unless your application needs the additional interfaces.    

 The first two development kits that Altera is bringing to market will use an Agilex 5 E-Series Group B device. This device provides developers with 656K Logic elements, Quad Hardware Processing System and 17 Gbps Transceivers. The E-Series focuses on power and size making them ideal for application where size, weight, and power are constrained so the device is 32mm by 32mm in a B32A package. Of course the Agilex 5E devices and a deep dive have been examined in previous blogs (here and here).

The first of these available boards are the Agilex 5 FPGA E-Series 065B Premium Development Kit & Agilex 5 FPGA E-Series 065B Modular Development Kit.

To support applications deployed on the Agilex premium development boards, which may require high bandwidth data storage and retrieval e.g. Image processing, Machine Learning or Networking. The Agilex 5 065B premium development kit provides developers with a range of memory solutions including LPDDR4 and DDR4 (note: LPDDR5 is supported on the FPGA device, but not on this specific board; and DDR5 is supported on Agilex 5 E Group A devices and future boards). DDR4 enables the highest performance to be implemented, while LPDDR4 enables developers to focus on low power implementations and profiling. Of course as the modular development kit is intended to work with the ultra high speeds of the PCIe Gen4, high performance DDR4 is instantiated.

In addition to device capabilities and the non volatile memory architecture, one area where FPGA can add real value is in the external interfaces. The premium development kit will feature interfaces such MIPI, QSFP and FMC and SGMII/ RGMII. This enables developers to create a range of applications from image processing using the MIPI interface to high speed communication using QSFP, while the FMC enables developers to work with a range of interfaces such as ADC, DAC, Storage Solutions etc. This FMC capability provides developers with the ability to also create custom FMC cards for application specific interfaces.

While the Modular development kit will provide developers with FMC and SFP Interfaces along with HDMI, Display Port and RG45 plus of course the PCIe Gen 4x8 edge connector. The PCIe edge connector, combined with the SFP inputs enables the development board to be used for applications such as network acceleration and frame grabbing / analysis.

Of course regardless of if the developer selects a premium development kit or modular development kit there will be a range of supporting information including reference designs and documentation to enable developers to evaluate applications and features.

Both development board introduced look very interesting to me!

I must state, though so far I have not yet worked with a Agilex 5 development board, though I am looking forward to getting my hands on one and creating some detailed technical blogs on working with it and the Quartus tool chain.

Speaking of which one interesting announcement at embedded world was Agilex 5 devices will be license free in Quartus.

Embedded System Book   

Do you want to know more about designing embedded systems from scratch? Check out our book on creating embedded systems. This book will walk you through all the stages of requirements, architecture, component selection, schematics, layout, and FPGA / software design. We designed and manufactured the board at the heart of the book! The schematics and layout are available in Altium here   Learn more about the board (see previous blogs on Bring up, DDR validation, USB, Sensors) and view the schematics here.

Sponsored by Altera


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