With more and more hackers getting into FPGAs and CPLDs, the need for good quality third-party development boards has been steadily growing. This DIP-sized Artix-7 development board from MicroNova is absurdly powerful for the size. The Mercury 2 features a Xilinx XC7A35T with 33,280 logic cells; a 10-bit ADC; a 10-bit DAC; a full-speed USB; an ethernet PHY; 4 Mb SRAM & 32 Mb FLASH… the list goes on and on.
The board is densely packed, and beautifully laid out. I really admire tightly packed, complex boards like this. The designers’ PCB layout skills are on full display — this board would not have been an easy one to lay out! To have all the features that this board has, and to still be under $150 USD is simply awesome. If you are considering getting into FPGA development, the up-front cost can sometimes be prohibitive; but this board doesn’t require an external programmer, and it has plenty of future expansion options as your expertise grows.
MicroNova also sell a baseboard specifically tailored to the Mercury 2 which adds 7-segment displays, buttons & switches, audio in/out, PS/2 and RS-232 ports as well as a few sensors to use with the ADC. This was originally designed for the first Mercury FPGA board, but is fully compatible with the new Mercury 2!
The included documentation for this board is truly excellent. I find that good documentation can make all the difference when working with a new development platform. They even have a Getting Started Guide that walks you through the process of creating a new project in Xilinx Vivado (a famously complex piece of software), as well as example code, and info about all the different parts on the board itself. This shows a level of commitment that reflects well on the designers!
If you’ve been thinking about getting into FPGA development, this might be a great option. Oh, and it’s made & assembled in the USA!