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Zynq-based hacker board has FPGA, BT, and WiFi too

Oct 7, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 3,524 views

Krtkl’s $60 “Snickerdoodle” SBC is aimed at robots and drones, and runs Linux on an ARM/FPGA Zynq-7000. You get WiFi, BT, 154 GPIOs, and expansion options.

The Snickerdoodle appears to be the most affordable single-board computers yet to run on the Xilinx Zynq system-on-chip, which combines dual ARM Cortex-A9 cores along with an FPGA subsystem. Whereas Aptiva’s Zynq-based Parallella and MYIR’s Z-Turn Board each starts at $99, the Snickerdoodle starts at $55, or $60 with free shipping in the U.S. Not surprisingly, with 45 days still to go, Krtkl has already won over a fifth of its 50K goal for the Snickerdoodle on the Crowd Supply crowdfunding site.

Snickerdoodle from top and side
(click images to enlarge)

With its extensive I/O enabled by the FPGA, the 89 x 51mm Snickerdoodle is aimed primarily at projects like drones and robots that require motor control and a variety of sensors. Computer vision systems can also benefit, says San Francisco startup Krtkl. The company lists potential applications like building an Arduino clone, a wireless pattern generator and logic analyzer, a cycle-accurate NES emulator, a cat-tracking robot, or even a custom-architecture microcontroller.

Snickerdoodle block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The base configuration uses a Zynq-7010, with the pair of Cortex-A9 cores clocked to 667MHz and a relatively low, 430-gate FPGA. Add $60 for a Zynq-7020 with an 866MHz clock rate, a 1.3M-gate FPGA, and 179 GPIOs, up from the standard 154. A heat sink is tossed in to cool this faster processor. There’s an on-board STM32 microcontroller that functions as a USB-to-serial bridge, power supply manager, Bluetooth integration bridge, boot source controller, USB boot flash mass storage device bridge, LED and button controller, and I2C auto-configuration manager.

With either Zynq option, the base configuration is 512MB of RAM, upgradeable to 1GB ($10). The board comes standard with a TI Wilink 8 wireless module with 2.4GHz, 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (both classic and LE). A $15 upgrade boosts the WiFi to 2.4GHz/5GHz, 2×2 MIMO operation, and a $10 option orients the GPIO downward instead of up, which the company recommends when using its “MicroShield” expansion boards. Standard features include a lockable microSD slot, a microUSB 2.0 port with serial console and storage support, and a wide-range 3.7 to 17V power supply.

Options include a $25 enclosure, a $5 set of pin housings, and a $10 pack of 50 19cm jumpers with Samtec pins on one end to plug into the pin housings, and 0.1-inch female pins and housing on the other for “Frankensteining” projects breadboard style. If that’s not enough, you can move up to a $25 BreakyBreaky breakout baseboard, also using 0.1-inch headers. This is one of a variety of expansion MicroShield boards that will be ready when the Snickerdoodle ships in March 2016, says the company.

”Frankensteining” jumpers with the Snickerdoodle and BreakyBreaky MicroShield baseboard (left) and the PiSmasher board with stacked Snickerdoodle
(click images to enlarge)

Other MicroShield add-on boards include an Arduino baseboard for connecting shields. There’s also a $55 PiSmasher baseboard that adds gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, and HDMI in and out ports, as well as 68 reconfigurable I/O connections.

Pricier options include a $300 Gryphon drone autopilot baseboard with four HD camera inputs, three 9-axis IMUs, two barometers, microUSB 2.0 OTG, GPS, more communication interfaces, and an automotive-grade safety microcontroller. A $500 WhiteRhino industrial baseboard provides five GbE ports, six USB 2.0 ports, HD camera inputs, and much more I/O including ADCs, DACs, CAN, and RS-485.

Gryphon flight board (left) and White Rhino industrial board
(click images to enlarge)

This is an open source project, with all baseboard and microShield schematics, Gerbers, and BOMs to be published by the March ship date. The Snickerdoodle runs on open source Linux or Free RTOS and supports middleware including ROS, APM, and OpenCV.

The board can also be controlled by an Android or iOS app, which lets you upload projects and hardware configurations. The app is said to smooth the setup learning curve for FPGAs, which is already eased with the Zynq’s tight integration between the ARM and FPGA subsystems.

To get the most out of the board, however, you will need to use the downloadable Eclipse-based Xilinx Software Development Kit, which is available for Linux or Windows desktops. A more advanced Xilinx Vivado WebPACK will work with the board, as well. Krtkl says it plans to develop a curated community of platform-integrated FPGA IP, offering open access to project builders and IP creators.

Further information

The Snickerdoodle is available now in Crowd Supply funding packages starting at $60 including free U.S. shipping. This ranges up to $155 fully loaded, not counting all the add-on options and MicroShield boards. Funding ends Nov. 21, and shipments are due in March. More information may be found at the Snickerdoodle Crowd Supply page and the Krtkl website.

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2 responses to “Zynq-based hacker board has FPGA, BT, and WiFi too”

  1. Allmendinger says:

    Very promising. Some benches and performance tests would be good to compare with other FPGA boards. I’m not a fan of Xilinx tooling though, I hope it will be compliant with modern SDKs (e.g. Synflow, MyHDL)?

    • Ryan says:

      We’re working on that as we speak, Allmendinger! As a side note, Xilinx tools have come a very long way in recent years (see: Vivado vs. ISE and Eclipse-based Xilinx SDK). Should you have any general/specific questions about the platform, please let us know!

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