Lattice debuts iCEstick FPGA Evaluation Board at $24.99

Lattice Semi has released their iCEstick eval board. This board has a high-performance, low-power iCE40HX1K FPGA on board and has a USB thumb drive form factor. IO connectors include 16 LVCMOS/LVTTL (3.3 V) digital I/O connections on 0.1” through-hole connections and a 2 x 6 position Digilent Pmod connector for other peripheral connections. The board’s FTDI 2232H USB device allows iCE device programming and UART interface to a PC. On board devices include a Vishay TFDU4101 IrDA transceiver and five user LEDs. The board also includes a Discera 12 Mhz MEMS oscillator, Micron 32 Mbit N25Q32 SPI flash and is powered directly from the USB connector.

The iCEstick is supported by Lattice iCEcube2 design software for HDL development. Programing the onboard iCE40HX-1k device’s SPI flash is done with Lattice Diamond Programmer.

More details can be found in the 21-page PDF iCEstick user manual.

The Lattice iCEstick evaluation board is available from Lattice Semi’s online store for $24.99.

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  1. This may be a good platform to develop an idea I’ve been working on for an IrDA attack platform. So many devices utilize IrDA still , and there are only a couple variations on the protocol. Handheld devices like PDA’s, bar top gaming machines, registers and kiosks are just some of the devices that I have found that still utilize IrDA. It is certainly something I wish to explore more. The FPGA may be overkill but because it is all on one board and I haven’t decided on the right combination of chips to use for an initial draft (i’ve started with TIR1000 and maxim3120 with a micro), I may see how the learning curve for a lattice device would be (considering I have some minimal experience with xilinx CPLDs and altera FPGA) Thanks for sharing this!

    Stay Fluxy.

  2. Compared to the iCEblink40 I like that this variant of the HX1K has a PLL. However too bad that the form factor wastes most of the 96 I/Os. Using the BGA package they might have been able to squeeze in more pins on the sides..

  3. Could be a nice dev board for non-IR related projects but I’d like to see some RAM included there for that.

  4. Yes, the ICEstick press-release is dated 20 Auguest 2013. So this is a timely post DP. Well done!

    I have been looking at this little USB eval board. Long post, so bear with me…

    This iCEstick board uses the iCE40HX1K-TQ144 FPGA part which is $5.59 USD in unit-quantity from Mouser as of my 23 August 2013 (GMT+7 hours) post-date. The H1K low-density FPGA parts have 1280 logic cells, 64K on-die RAM and one PLL. There are more capable HX4K and HX8K parts, but only the HX1K and HX4K parts are offered in a prototype-friendly TQFP144 package.

    These iCE40 parts seem to be designed by a California-based company once named SiliconBlue, a designer (manufacturer?) of ultra low-power programmable logic devices for mobile products which according to Wikipedia (yeah, I know) was acquired by Lattice in 2011.

    The development suite is called iCEcube2 which seems to be free to download with Windows/Linux compatible versions. But it also seems you need a Lattice Account login and a MAC address to (at-least) install with either a “Node-Locked” or “Floating” license authorized by SiliconBlue license server.

    When I see Node-Locked and Floating license requirements, especially that require an Internet Account and a MAC Address, my short-hairs immediately stand-up. This may mean you have to at-least be connected to the Internet to install, and may mean you always need to be Internet connected to use the software and you may be limited to use the tools on a single machine only without paying a bunch of money.

    I need to look at the Lattice licensing details further (and their related Privacy Statement) to understand what limitations exist. That is going to be time-consuming. If anyone else has experience with what Lattice is doing in terms of this iCEcube2 licensing, please post and save me (us) time.

    I’ve seen lame “Node-Locked” licensing before based on a MAC address – and worked around it by MAC spoofing (yeah, sue-me). This is a dumb way to go Lattice, IMO.

    If history is to repeat itself, expect the price of this iCEstick module to go up in a few months, maybe near double.

    Lattice is known for relatively high direct shipping costs, especially for International shipping outside the U.S. But now I see the Lattice online “store” is “Powered by Mouser”. So there may be more shipping options. As of my post date Findchips says these iCEstick boards are in-stock at the likes of Mouser and Digi-Key directly at $24.99.

    There is also the ICE40HX1K-BLINK-EVN which uses the same FPGA but the USB interface is provided via an ATMEL AT90USB162-16MU USB enabled micro-controller instead of the FTDI FT2232H part on the USB stick board. The ICE40HX1K-BLINK-EVN has a lot more I/O and four capacitive-sense buttons. Both boards are USB powered and have on-board LDO’s.

    The ICE40HX1K-BLINK-EVN board was introduced in August 2012 for $19 plus shipping, but in October 2012 the price went up to $34.12 USD (as of post date). That may be an indicator of where and when the price of the USB stick version is going.

    There was a post about the ICE40HX1K-BLINK-EVN board here on the DP Blog back on 19 September 2012. Click on the “FPGA” tag in this post and scroll down to the “LatticeSemi offers discounted FPGA dev boards” link to read the post and comments.

    The Blink board seems to use a Linear LTC1799 – 1kHz to 33MHz Resistor-Set SOT-23 Oscillator for the clock which from the schematic seems to be an unpopulated jumper selectable header for configuration as 3.33, 33.33, or 333 MHz (not clear about this). The USB stick from the schematic seems to use an unspecified part-number 12.0 MHz MEMS oscillator with a jumper that may be used to inject an external clock (if-so, quite useful). The LTC1799’s jitter performance is pretty bad. The MEMS clock will have better jitter performance, but likely not as good as a crystal oscillator.

    The schematics for both boards are published. But it looks like the Gerbers for the ICE40HX1K-BLINK-EVN board are available, but not for the USB stick eval board.

    The iCE40HX1K FPGA has a sysClock PLL fvco spec of 533-1066 MHz which is pretty fast for a low-cost part. But as with any FPGA, system PLL VCO frequency is not a great indicator of just what can be accomplished in a particular application.

    I like the fact that unlike the older Blink EVB which uses the AT90USB162-16MU, the USB stick version uses an FT2232H for USB programming. This makes the USB board a better reference design because there’s no proprietary code involved, like with the AT90USB162-16MU micro-controller on the Blink eval board.

    Maybe take the USB stick schematics and spin an open-source module for this FPGA with an FT2232H USB chip and more I/O? The mount-friendly TQPF144 package is no obstacle when it comes to a Dangerous Prototype Board (wink-wink Ian).

    If an open-source board is spun, be sure to add a lot of clock options or at least an external clock input jumper. Sometimes with programmable logic you need a really slow clock for debug before cranking up the speed. It beats messing with internal vs. external clock source selection and PLL on-part configuration to move back and forth.

    1. I also hate anything that has to go through some process on the net to get it to work. I got some program (suite) from Lattice many many years ago for some early CPLD stuff and didn’t use it. Years later when I had a use for it, I dug it up and tried to install. It took me off to Lattice and got something about “…no longer supported” – That was that! If I’m making something, I like to know I’ll be able to use it still in 5, 10, 20 years, whatever. Sure there’s the argument that there’s new devices, etc, but that doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to do something with the older gear and people are depending on it. I’m really loathe to go for anything that is purely on-line or linked to on-line, I want the Dev software on my computer and still able to work if I dust it off years later, even if in a VM.

  5. Could be a bus blaster replacement – $10 cheaper, same USB interface, enough I/O and an FPGA instead of a CPLD.

  6. I would recommend you to consider ordering it directly from Mouser as it may save the shipping costs (as you can combine it with another parts).

  7. Got mine in today. Yeah, it ended up being $35.04, I think it shipped from Mouser, since it came from Mansfield, TX. I would have been hit with the 8.25% sales tax + shipping.

    Anyways, I want to say this. Where the heck is the IDE? Jumping through loops to down load the project software, then the programmer then the patch to that so it works with the dev board just seems kind of silly, specially when you want people to buy your products.

      1. I already have that. I’ve figured out that there isn’t and IDE built in. Xilinx tools are a lot easier. =)

    1. There’s a patch? Aaah- I thought it was just me.
      I got an iCEstick for Xmas, finally found time to install software in Jan 2014. Download icecube 2 [took 5 tries before it downloaded without error] and Programmer 3

      For some reason, it installed Digilent’s Adept.
      Then it showed no listing for the iCEstick [Now I need to find that patch]

      The IDE is… not great, but I’ve used worse. It comes with umpteen sub-menus in a list down the left. The first few are obvious [new project, load project etc] but after that your guess is as good as mine.

  8. @EllisGL,

    Sometimes no IDE is a blessing. Tell us about the install and license process. Do you always have to be Internet connected? What happens if you try to use on a different machine and on two machines at the same time?

    Thanks, David

  9. David,

    I found it strange that they want the MAC address to get a free license. I haven’t installed on another machine yet. I’ll have to dig out my laptop and see how well it works on Linux.

  10. I’ve got ICE Cube 2 to test it in a WinXP VM. It’s not that bad as some people think. To start working with it, you definitely must read the manual. You have all the tools in, but they’re separate programs.
    It doesn’t need Internet connection to run. The license is locked to the HW mac address, but since it’s provided for free (I got 2 by mistake), the only point for using license scheme is to unlock more features if you buy them.
    I had more problems trying to run it in my *clean* WinXP VM, but I had the same problems with Altera’s quartus II. They required Visual C++ 2005 SP1 ATL updated RTL to be downloaded from Microsoft and installed or some parts would fail with log entry in windows application log.

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