Microchip Offers a Lower-Cost Entry Point for PolarFire SoC Experimentation with the Discovery Kit

Priced at $132 for general use or $99 under academic discount, the Discovery Kit offers impressive bang for your buck.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months ago β€’ FPGAs / HW101

Microchip has announced its latest development board to feature the flexible PolarFire SoC chip, which combines field-programmable gate array (FPGA) capabilities with Linux-capable RISC-V processor cores: the low-cost, compact PolarFire SoC Discovery Kit.

"We are dedicated to helping support the growth of embedded systems that require low-power, high-performance FPGA fabrics. The PolarFire SoC Discovery Kit is a pivotal step in our journey towards creating more accessible, smart, secure and high-performing computing solutions for a wide range of applications," claims Microchip's Shakeel Peera of the launch. "With the new Discovery Kit, experienced and new design engineers, as well as university students, will have access to a low-cost RISC-V and FPGA development platform for learning and rapid innovation."

Microchip has announced the cheapest PolarFire SoC development board yet, the $132 Discovery Kit. (πŸ“Ή: Microchip)

The Discovery Kit is Microchip's lowest-cost device for experimenting with the PolarFire SoC, after the earlier PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit and the more recent PolarFire SoC Video Kit. While the Icicle Kit launched at $499, price hikes have seen it shoot up to around $600 β€” but the Discovery Kit is priced at an unarguably more pocket-friendly $132. Despite this, it features a fully-featured PolarFire SoC chip, the MPFS095T-1FCSG325E, with four 64-bit RISC-V application cores running at up to 667MHz, a fifth monitor core, and an FPGA fabric with 93k logic elements, 292 math blocks, and four SERDES lanes of 12.7Gbps.

The board is not only cheaper than its predecessors, but a lot smaller too β€” and there have been a few losses as a result. The two Ethernet ports of the Icicle and Video Kits have been reduced to just one, and there's no sign of PCI Express (PCIe) expansion this time around. Memory has been reduced to 1GB, too, and there are only two user-addressable push-button switches this time around.

The shrinkage has allowed for some streamlining, though: both the Icicle Kit and Video Kit had a confusing number of micro-USB ports around the board edges, and for a newcomer it was not always clear which port should be used for a given task. The Discovery Kit offers no chance for confusion: there's a single USB Type-C port, used for everything. For expansion, there's a 40-pin Raspberry Pi-style general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header, a mikroBUS connector, and ports for an eight-digit seven-segment display and a MIPI Camera Serial Interface 2 (CSI-2) compatible with Raspberry Pi Camera Modules. Finally, there's a microSD Card slot for storage.

The PolarFire SoC Discovery Kit is now listed on the Microchip website at $132 per board, or $99 for members of its academic discount program; a small quantity are currently available for early adopters, with general availability scheduled for April.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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