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 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The Snickerdoodle doesn't cut corners when it comes to physical connections either. The board offers up to eight physical connectors for use with 0.05″ pitch headers or wire bundles (Figure 2).
Figure 2. The Snickerdoodle offers a complete set of connectors to on-board devices and subsystem. (Source: Krtkl)
The combination of built-in wireless connectivity and a hybrid ARM/FPGA SoC is certainly a new feature in low-cost boards such as Arduino, Beaglebone, or Raspberry Pi. In contrast to the usual low-cost kits, the Krtkl team is looking to offer a dev kit that delivers “…professional-level hardware at maker-friendly prices and a democratization of advanced technologies,” according to a company statement. Indeed, the Snickerdoodle's combination of performance and features gives it an edge in functionality above the typical maker board (Table 2).
Table 2. Dev board capabilities and pricing (Comparison chart by Krtkl).
Krtkl is looking to steal not only a march on the competition but also help existing Raspberry Pi and Arduino users reuse their existing hardware on Snickerdoodle. Along with application-specific baseboards such as an autopilot system for drones, Krtkl plans to offer baseboards designed to go head-to-head with Raspberry Pi and Arduino (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Krtkl plans to eventually offer a variety of baseboards including an “industrial-strength” baseboard priced at $500. (Source: Krtkl)
The Snickerdoodle crowdfunding campaign is running now on crowdsupply. Funding ends on Nov 21, 2015. The company is touting the board and add-ons in a short video (below).