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Digilent Digital Discovery with High Speed Adapter - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 10
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 10
TotalScore: 60 / 60
  • RoadTest: Digilent Digital Discovery with High Speed Adapter
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes - null
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: I have an old Logic8 but it is not that powerful so I can compare to Digital Discovery.
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: Documentation lacks.

  • Detailed Review:

    Introduction

    Hi, as an electrical engineer who got inside the embedded system world, very early I started learning about the importance of using good tools to have the work done given that I had some troubles that a logic analyser or an oscilloscope could easily solve.

    So I promptly I started using a logic analyser (Logic8) as part of my development tools which have helped me a lot for about 4years. I can surely say that without such an instrument my job as an embedded developer was bound to fail.

     

    So, one day I was randomly swiping on facebook when I saw an ad of element14 about RoadTest, usually I just ignore but this time I didn't. At that day Digital Discovery was openned for application. I applied myself as I want to use the tool in my professional life.

     

    Participate of the RoadTest was a very nice experience that also teached me how to record videos, why should I master the tools I have and how to share experience.

     

    Enough talk. Let's get on the road.

     

    Unpacking

     

    In this section I show the unboxing of my Digital Discovery.

     

    I received a medium size cardboard box with everything inside it. The products inside were all covered by bubble wrap. There wasn't even a single detail of bad transport situation. Everything  was in  perfect state.

     

    Cardboard box content:

         - Digital Discovery plastic box with: a digital discovery, a micro usb cable, a 2x16 flywire connector ,a 2x6 flywire connector;

         - Plastic Bag with: High speed adaptor board and 16 twisted pair cables.

     

    The unboxing is reported from figure 1 to figure 8. See below:

     

    Figure 1: Cardboard Box

     

    Figure 2: Equipment covered in bubble wrap

     

    Figure 3: Resistent plastic bag of high speed adapter and twiste pair probes

     

    Figure 4: Digital Discovery box

     

    Figure 5: Contents of cardboard box

     

     

    Figure 6: All parts of the roadtest kit

     

    Figure 7: Details of HighSpeed adapter

     

    Figure 8: Detail of high speed a probe

     

    Some curiosity

     

    As I like PCB's someway  artistic I openned my Digital discovery to take a closer look and see the floor planning and some tracks along their ways. I found signs of length matching, probably DDR3  ( Logic analyzer buffer )tracks and signs of a good floor planning. By the way, I'm thinking about change the value of the status led resistors (R189, R191,R193) , sometimes they look too bright.

    Led circuit link: https://reference.digilentinc.com/reference/instrumentation/digital-discovery/reference-manual#leds_and_ddr3_memory

     

    Of course, my eyes could capture a better visual of the parts but the images are still good, see figure 9, figure 10 and figure 11.

     

    Figure 9: Digital Discovery disassembly

     

    Figure 10: Digital discovery top side detail

     

    Figure 11: Digital discovery Bottom side detail with length matching tracks visible

     

    A detail about digital discovery is that it is implemented with a FPGA, the Spartan-6 from Xilinx. So it is a good idea for those who wants to know a little bit more about the tool search for Spartan-6 documentation, but it's not mandatory to work with digital discovery.

    Videos

    This series of videos on this RoadTest review shows the digital discovery from inside the box to hands on.

     

    Part 1 - Inside the Box

    https://youtu.be/BUfd_oksqfQ?list=PL5QjlwGPgo8_msFBKmJaOEJBfUmfhQs4N

     

    Part 2 - Waveforms Overview

    https://youtu.be/dRjAppiYtMQ?list=PL5QjlwGPgo8_msFBKmJaOEJBfUmfhQs4N

     

    Part3 - Supplies instrument

    https://youtu.be/TKFTNRlmIQM?list=PL5QjlwGPgo8_msFBKmJaOEJBfUmfhQs4N

     

    Part 4 - Logic, Patterns and StaticIO instrument Part1

    https://youtu.be/YcmVE0UUfp0?list=PL5QjlwGPgo8_msFBKmJaOEJBfUmfhQs4N

     

    Part 5 - Logic, Patterns and StaticIO instrument Part2

    https://youtu.be/1oejo0V7CTI

     

    Part6 - Script

    https://youtu.be/KUNzneAKqR4

     

    Part7 - Protocol Analyser ( UART and I2C )

    https://youtu.be/hbLGi181ZCg

     

    Comparing related products

     

    Gather various products that performs logic analysing, pattern generation and comparing them is not that easy. So the following table is an approximated comparison since every analyser has its exclusive feature. If you want to buy one consider carefully your needs, for instance, many of them have a lot of protocols decode, or really high sample rate, or accepts RS485 logic levels directy.

     

     

    Logic Analyser
    Pattern GeneratorN of ChannelsSample Rate
    Memory

    Price (US$)

    Website

    Digital Discovery

    YES

    8/16/32800/400/200256MB199.99Digital Discovery: Portable Logic Analyzer and Digital Pattern Generator - Digilent
    SQ200YES4

    200

    16MB174.78https://ikalogic.com/pages/scanaquad-logic-analyzer
    IO-3232BYES16/32400/2008MB1.399USB Logic Analyzer | USB Pattern Generator|IO-3200
    LAP-C 16128*NO1610064135,00https://www.amazon.com/Zeroplus-LAP-C-16032-16-channel-Analyzer/dp/B0027QRPIA/ref=sr_1_2?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=150736…

    *Logic Cube analyses varies mainly due to protocols decode

     

    Some difficulties

     

         I had trouble to find information about the operation of logic instrument, like better explanation of how does noise option works, how buffers works. Also, I didn't find information on how does the use of weak pull ups in DIN connector affect inputs sensibility. And, to understand the slew rate option  "quiet" I had to refer to Xilinx Spartan6 documentation.

     

    Conclusion

     

    Digital discovery is by far a must have tool for embedded design. The price is affordable for a hardware that makes the job done, for the same performance in other product one may pay twice or higher ( e.g: IO-3200 Logic Analyzer, Pattern Generator starts at $750,00) . Also, the software is easy  and the script feature is a plus. For an improved experience more effort should be made by Digilent around examples and documentation.

     

    References

     

    1 - https://reference.digilentinc.com/reference/instrumentation/digital-discovery/reference-manual

    2 - https://reference.digilentinc.com/reference/instrumentation/digital-discovery/start

    3 - https://forums.xilinx.com/t5/Spartan-Family-FPGAs/What-is-QUIETIO/m-p/4190

    4 - https://www.xilinx.com/support/documentation/user_guides/ug381.pdf


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