MAX1000 kit review

I’ve just received this cute little board: MAX1000, US$30 board made by Trenz shipped by Arrow. The whole kit came in a box that looks like a match box, a small operating instruction leaflet which doesn’t tell you much. Most of the useful stuff are from Trenz website. The kit targets IoT and start-ups claiming that it is suitable for integrating to final product. Here’s what’s on board:

  • At the heart is MAX 10 device, 8k LUT which is enough for a decent micro-controller system. Note that this device is a Single Supply device. So when looking for more information, make sure you’re looking at the right section.
  • Side by side is 8MB SDRAM. The SDRAM makes your FPGA system much more powerful because you can deploy much bigger software with SDRAM. Some of the low-cost FPGA development kits don’t include any sort of external RAM which makes you tied down. There’s high chance that you’d need some micro controller running in these small FPGA packages.
  • This MAX1000 kit features MKR foot print which is bread-board friendly and provide 7 Analogue input pins, 15 Digital Pins. Note that all the digital IOs are 3.3V, not 5Volt. Analogue pins have the range of 0 to VREF. MAX10 ADC can be configured to use internal reference voltage (VCC_ONE) or external reference voltage which must be less then or equal to the VCC_ONE, 3.3V in this case.
  • On board 3-axis accelerometer LIS3DH. I haven’t tried it but from the data sheet, it looks pretty interesting with motion sensor/VR application.
  • On board flash, it gives you extra 8MB storage for big software or data logging. Sweet!

Some extra selling points of this board:

  • The JTAG interface is pulled out to the 6-pin header which means this can be used to configure another FPGA devices – A USB-Blaster feature.
  • From the schematics, there are 10 connections between the FTDI and the FPGA: 4 of them are JTAG, the other 6 are not labelled. I hope that these are for RS232 signals. After plugging in, my PC shows that it has USB COM port7. It’d be really sweet if we have integrated serial port. I really hate Serial JTAG (Serial protocol via JTAG interface). Further testing showed that this USB-Serial actually works. You can now transfer data up the PC for further processing.
  • The MAX10 device actually has 9 analogue inputs, 1 one dedicated pin and 8 on dual purpose pins. 7 of them are put on the MKR interface. The other 2 are put in the 3-pin header below the SPI flash.

I really have high hope for this board as I can see with this price point, it’s more friendly to beginner and with the SDRAM, it can do interesting stuff. Interesting stuff in beginner world tend to be slow speed and require a microcontroller.

I can’t wait to have a test drive!

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