Skip navigation

Not-as-expensive FPGA Boards

I haven't done a poll in a while so I thought it would be fun and instructive to do one about less-expensive FPGA boards.  One of the challenges of getting into FPGA design is that the boards are usually a lot more expensive than a Raspberry Pi or a microcontroller board from ST, NXP, or TI.  This may prevent people from giving FPGAs a try, which in turn makes the boards more expensive since they're manufactured in smaller quantities.


Still, if you look around there are some nice boards under US$100 and even under US$50.  I highly recommend Joel Williams' list of Cheap FPGA Development Boards.


Here are some boards available for US$50 or less that seem particularly interesting.  I've used the Papilio One and iCEstick myself.


  • Gadget Factory Papilio One 250K: This is one of my favorite boards and IMO a very good value at US$38.  It has a Xilinx Spartan-3E 250K, 48 I/Os on headers, and a JTAG programmer.  It's currently out of stock, but you get its "big brother" with a 500K part for US$65.

  • Generic Cyclone II board: Two years ago Michael Kellett wrote a nice 'blog about a US$15 Altera Cyclone II board available from Chinese distributor AliExpress.  It's an impressive board, except that it doesn't come with a programmer.  Michael was able to get a bundle with a programmer for just under US$50.

  • Lattice iCEstick:  At US$22 from some vendors, this is the least expensive FPGA board I know of that includes a programmer.  It has a Lattice iCE40 1K LUT FPGA, which is a small FPGA -- maybe a fifth the capacity of Papilio One 250K.   On the other hand, iCE40 is the only FPGA that has a fully open-source tool chain.


  • Numato Labs Mimas: At US$35, Numato's Mimas is the cheapest Spartan 6 LX9 board I've seen with a programmer.  It has a lots of I/O on headers, along with some LEDs and push-buttons.  Numato is based in India, so I don't know what shipping is like.  Numato also has Mimas V2 for US$50, which adds 64MB DDR SDRAM, VGA connector, and 3-digit 7-segment display but much less general-purpose I/O than Mimas.  And they also have the US$30 Elbert V2 with a 50K Xilinx Spartan 3A and I/O similar to Mimas V2.


  • Scarab Hardware miniSpartan3 is a small Xilinx Spartan 3A board with a 50K or 200K part for $30 or $40, including an on-board programmer.  I've never dealt with Scarab personally.  The miniSpartan3 is a nice size to incorporate into other projects and has lots of general-purpose I/O.


So which one do you like best?  Or is there another not-as-expensive FPGA board you prefer?  If you have experience with any of these boards or vendors, please comment.

Poll Results
  • Gadget Factory Papilio One 250K (7%)
  • Generic Cyclone II board (20%)
  • Lattice iCEstick (30%)
  • Numato Labs Mimas (23%)
  • Scarab Hardware miniSpartan3 (7%)
  • Other - please leave a comment (13%)


Archive Poll

Confirm archive of Not-as-expensive FPGA Boards

Archiving expires a poll and removes it from the active polls list.

To restore an archived poll, edit the poll, change the dates as desired, and save the poll.

Delete Poll

Confirm delete of Not-as-expensive FPGA Boards

Warning: This will delete the poll and all of its comments.