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MicroZed Chronicles: Numato Mimas and Narvi Boards

A couple of weeks ago I received the Mimas and Narvi development boards from Numato Labs, both containing Xilinx 7 series devices. The Mimas board includes an Artix-7 XC7A50T -1FGG484C while the Narvi includes a Spartan-7 XC7S50 in a CSGA324 package.

Both of these boards are interesting for prototyping, especially because they provide developers with some unique interfaces.

The Artix-based Mimas board appears to be developed for image processing and video applications. Along with the Artix-7 XC7A50T FPGA, the development board also provides HDMI inputs and output connected to the High Range (HR) IO banks, while also providing DisplayPort input and output using the GTP serial transceivers. There is also 2 GB of DDR3 to further support image processing and embedded processing applications. While the configuration can be stored within the 128 Mb of QSPI, a Micro SD card is also provided for non-volatile memory expansion however it cannot be used for configuration. When it comes to connectivity, the developer is provided with a Gigabit Ethernet interface, USB / UART along with 80 differential IO broken out to headers. As you would expect with a development board, there are also a range of switches, LEDS, and seven segment displays provided.

The Narvi board, on the other hand, is intended for more cost-optimized solutions. Along with the Spartan-7 XC7S50, the developer is provided 2 GB of DDR3 and 128 Mb of QSPI memory. Connectivity wise, most of the FPGA’s 130 IO pins are broken out to headers. In order to connect these IO to more standard interfaces such as Pmod etc., the Saturn break-out board plugs directly into the board to provide that interface. There is also a range of Pmods available from Numato which provide capabilities such as VGA, LEDs, Gigabit Ethernet, and Seven Segment Displays.

Both boards provide the ability to create embedded MicroBlaze systems that will run embedded Linux applications. Getting started with the board is quite simple just like any other FPGA-based development board. Numato provides board definition files which can be installed into Vivado. These board definition files include the MIG settings for the provided DDR3 memories which can save hours of head scratching and debugging.

One thing that is intriguing with these boards is Numato’s Tenagra Platform System Management software. This software can connect to the board or boards over the USB link and provides the ability to test the memory on the board or program either the FPGA or QSPI memory. The tool also includes links to the schematics and documentation while also providing a Xilinx Virtual Cable Server.

When the program opens, we first see the home screen that allows us to select the board we wish to work with.

Selecting the board then allows it to be tested, programmed, or product documentation linked.

I thought I would try the memory exercise which allows us to test the DDR or Block RAM. We select the source of the test data and the destination for testing and we can control the pattern, address, and size of the transfer. This is quite an interesting application for testing memory structures.

We are also able to use the Tenagra software to download images to the board.

These boards are interesting and I am really intrigued with the DisplayPort in and out on the Mimas board. Next, I want to take a closer look into how that works and possibly create an image processing application.

It is good to see a few lower priced Artix and Spartan FPGA development boards.



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