Dev board aims at Raspberry Pi, Arduino with hybrid ARM/FPGA SoC

October 06, 2015

Stephen.Evanczuk-October 06, 2015

Krtkl (pronounced "critical"), a Bay-area startup, looks to shake up the dev board world with Snickerdoodle -- a (really) low-cost, crowd-funded kit designed to outperform competitive boards while undercutting their pricing.

Based on the Xilinx Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC, the 50.8mm x 88.9mm Snickerdoodle board also offers WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity as well as 154 I/O lines -- 100 of them customizable (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Snickerdoodle board combines the Xilinx Zynq-7000 hybrid SoC (ARM Cortex-A9 core plus FPGA fabric) with TI WiLink 8 wireless connectivity and extensive I/O. (Source: Krtkl)

Krtkl plans to offer the Snickerdoodle starting in March 2016 in two versions -- a base version built around the Xilinx Zynq 7010 and an upgraded version built around the Zynq 7020 (Table 1). Along with wireless and general-purpose I/O, the board will include 2x Gb Ethernet, antenna, switches, ADC, LEDs -- and even secure crypto key storage.

Table 1. Base and upgraded versions of Snickerdoodle. (Source: Krtkl)

What's amazing is that all this can be had for $55 (plus $5 shipping) for the base version or $155 for an upgraded version. This certainly isn't the only cheap FPGA eval board: For example, the $25 Cypress PSoC4 Pioneer Kit is designed to work with Arduino shields and Digilent Pmod daughter cards -- and the PSoC4 is also a hybrid device that combines an ARM Cortex-M0 with customizable analog and digital fabric. As with the Cypress Pioneer Kit, however, most alternatives you'll find are true eval kits intended to let you gain experience with the featured FPGA or MCU.

If you want to get a taste of a Xilinx Zynq-7000 hybrid device, you're going to spend more -- maybe a lot more. For example, the Digilent Zybo Zynq-7000 Development Board costs $189. Or there's Xilinx's own Evaluation Kit, which costs $895. It's not a precise apples-to-apples situation (naturally) because both Digilent and Xilinx include node- and device-locked copies of the Design Edition of the Xilinx Vivado Design Suite. With Vivado, you can use the free Xilinx WebPack Edition. On the other hand, like the Digilent board, the $55 base version of Snickerdoodle is based on the Xilinx Zynq-7010 device -- and like the Xilinx Evaluation Kit, the upgraded version of the Snickerdoodle is based on the Xilinx Zynq-7020 (see Table 2 below).

Snickerdoodle goes one step further than those boards with its on-board wireless connectivity. Based on Texas Instruments WiLink 8 ICs, the base configuration of the board uses the TI WL1831 to offer 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi with Bluetooth 4.0. The upgraded version uses the TI WL1837 to offer 2.4GHz & 5GHz 802.11n 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

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