Is the Xilinx EDK free?

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I am a hobbyist, actually an embedded software engineer trying to learn
about verilog and FPGAs, and would like some advice.

I'm thinking of buying either the Xilinx Spartan 3 starter kit or the
Digilent Spartan 3 board with a larger FPGA (say, the 400 instead of
the Xilinx one with the 200).  It's the same board, but Digilent allow
me to order a larger part.

Do I need a larger FPGA?  I can't answer that...  but I figure it's
like RAM... better to have too much and not need it than need it and
not have it.  What am I going to do with it?  My first project will be
to make an LED flash.  Beyond that, I have no idea, but the
Digilent-built boards have lots of ins and outs to play and learn with.

The Xilinx starter kit comes with ISE6.1 Evaluation, WebPack and also
the EDK evaluation and MicroBlaze license.  The Digilent board is just
a board.

I'd like to use the latest tooks (WebPack 7.1), and use the MicroBlaze
core, but I'm not a professional, don't have a rep and don't have a

If I buy the Digilent board, can I just download the EDK, or is it
something Xilinx charges for so I'd be better off buying the Xilinx
starter kit?

Advice appreciated.


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?

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Also a 1mil gate S3

If you can wait a while(like until end of the year)

Also are the Xess boards


Tony Burch /

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Depends what you want to do but can't hurt.
Lots of xilinx app notes.
Can also request a resource cd that has all the xilinx docs on it,
link on s3 starter kit page

Lots of potential projects may need modifying slightly do to board

digilentic have a few reference designs and also
addon boards like usb and ethernet , lcd etc
reference designs
peripheral boards
xilinx link for daughter boards

xilinx has a few for the S3 starter kit at the bottom of this page

old arcade games /

Good stuff here /

picoblaze core from xilinx

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webpack is free
edk is not, supposedly you get an eval copy when you buy
an S3 starter kit from Xilinx
and xilinx were supposedly shipping copies
of the eval edk to everyone that bought an S3 starter kit but
I haven't receieved an eval edk cd yet.

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They charge for it US$450 ?
The eval version is 30 days only I think ?

There are a couple of opensource cores from
that  have compilers for them but not prepackaged with gui tools

Also for microblaze - uclinux port


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
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Looks interesting.

I'm grateful to Xilinx and Altera for making their design entry and
synthesis tools available for free.  I wish they'd do the same for
their EDK (but then, if they did, I'm sure I'd also want a free MAC, or
PCI core).

Thanks for all the links Alex.  I'll most likely get the larger
Digilent board, and forget about microblaze.  A shame though.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
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Just as a random interjection, you can actually get a free pci core..
At :)  32/33MHz only though...


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
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Hi Paul!

Go for the Picoblaze instead, it's free and comes with tools.


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?

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I didn't know that.  Thanks - Picoblaze will do nicely :-)

Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
I second the picoBlaze recomendation. We have a design that uses an
embeddec picoBlaze, and it worked great.

If you use the picoBlaze, be sure and download pBlazeIDE, the free IDE,


Paul Marciano wrote:

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Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
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Hi Paul,

You can download a free evaluation of the complete set of Nios II tools

Our system integration tool (SOPC Builder) is included free with
Quartus, and with Nios II you get a whole suite of IP, configurable
processor choices, and IDE:

There are a lot of features and more are being constantly added (such
as your choice of 100% vhdl or verilog, push-button RTL simulation of
your system running code, clock-domain crossing with a couple of
mouse-clicks, multi-processor debugging, RTOS integration (eCOS,
uClinux, MicroC/OS-II, and several more), complex example designs, etc.
The free evaluation tools are only crippled in one way: The Nios II CPU
has to be used in a "tethered" mode where your download cable has to be
connected to the target board; you can then evaluate the product in
hardware as long as you want. The full-blown license is about $1K US
with a very nice dev board, less for just the subscription to the
processor only.

We also recently introduced a $295US evaluation kit with Cyclone
1C12/flash/sdram, etc.:

Hope you'll consider us as well.

Jesse Kempa
Altera Corp.
jkempa at altera dot com

Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
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Thanks Jesse - I'll definately download it and take a look.  The
I have is the $295 evaluation kit and $1K license for the processor IP.
Both of these are outside my budget.

Why not make these available for free under a non-commercial license?
That would allow anyone to freely evaluate it without restriction,
they make the decision to commercialize their design, at which point
they must pay.  I guess that requires a level of trust in the customer

I imagine the Xilinx/Digilent relationship does a good job of grabbing
mindshare of hobbyists and students who may eventually become
real customers in their corporate/engineering lives.

I read a lot of good things about Quartus, and the companies I have
at have used Altera FPGAs...  but for me, to learn, the cost of entry
is too

I will look at it.  Thanks for the links!


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?

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Hi Paul,

Well I think that is the intent of the 'tethered' evaluation mode. The
idea is that you get full use as long as the target board (Altera dev
board or not) is connected to the PC... but I will leave the reasoning
behind all this to the marketing force; "I'm just an engineer".

Is this an academic project of some sort? If so, you might contact the
Altera University Program. Depending on your project and circumstances
they may be able to get you boards and/or licenses without cost.

Jesse Kempa

Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?

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I'm a working stiff, not a student, so I can't use the AUP.

Thanks for the idea though - I'm sure there are students out there with
similar cost concerns who could benefit.


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
Hi Paul,

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If you don't pay for the core or the software, you can still build a NIOS II
system that will run either for 1 hour when standalone, or indefinitely as
long as it's attached to the PC running Quartus through the cable supplied
with the eval board. Cost: $295.

Of course, you could also look at the Pluto II board
( ) for $54,95. A NIOS II will
fit into the EP1C3T144 FPGA on that board. You won't have the capability of
'tethered operation', but 1 hour of running time should give you lots of
opportunities to learn stuff.

Best regards,


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
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capability of

That's a nice little board, thanks!

Q. How do you limit the operation to 1hr?  Do you have a countdown
timer hard wired for a configured clock frequency?  What if the
processor is configured for xHz and an x/2 Hz oscillator is fitted -
will it run 2hrs?


Re: Is the Xilinx EDK free?
Hi Paul,

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Yep. There's about a 36-cell difference between a licensed core and an
unlicensed one, and that's the down counter and its clock-enabling logic.

Note that in the EP1C3, without any external SRAM or Flash, you only have
room for ~4K ROM and ~2K RAM (or the other way around). No problem if you
want to learn assembly, but for C you'll be on a tight budget.

I've written small control applications in C with this configuration (not
for this board) and as long as you don't use printf or other size hogs,
there's a surprising lot of functionality you can stick into 4K of code.

Also, Quartus is smart enough only to update the internal hardware ROM
pattern after you recompile your software, so software changes can be
relatively quick.

Best regards,


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