Olimex Shows Off Its GateMateA1-EVB, a Low-Cost Open-Hardware Board for the Cologne Chip GateMate A1

Clever development board makes it easy to experiment with Cologne Chip's unique GateMate FPGA and its Cologne Programmable Elements (CPEs).

Gareth Halfacree
4 months ago β€’ FPGAs / HW101

UPDATE (1/5/2024): Olimex founder Tsevtan Usunov has officially shown off the first prototype of the GateMateA1-EVB, ahead of a full production run and general availability of the board.

"The first prototypes of [the] Cologne Chip GateMateA1-EVB are ready for test," Usunov writes on the company blog beneath a photograph of an assembled board. As promised in previously-released renders, the development board features a flexible Cologne Chip A1 FPGA at its heart and a wealth of connectivity around its edges β€” including PMOD and UEXT connectors for solder-free expansion to external devices.

Olimex has yet to confirm a launch date for the device, which will depend on the results of prototype testing.

Original article continues below.

Bulgarian open source hardware specialist Olimex has unveiled the finalized design for its Cologne Chip GateMate A1 field-programmable gate array (FPGA) development board β€” offering an open source device for experimentation with the flexible chip.

The GateMate was announced earlier this year, promising a novel architecture based around the "Cologne Programmable Element." Packing 20,480 in the CCGM1A1, Cologne Chip aimed to offer an FPGA with more flexibility than its rivals β€” by allowing the CPEs to be configured as either 20,480 eight-input LUT trees or 40,960 four-input LUT trees with 40,960 flip-flops or latches.

The chip is also supported by a free and open source toolchain, using the Yosys framework for synthesis though a proprietary but free-to-use place and route (PNR) package β€” something the company pledged at the time to eventually replace with support for the open source nextpnr. Olimex was the first to announce an in-house GateMate carrier board, designed to compete with Cologne Chip's reference design, which has now been unveiled ahead of production.

"[Cologne Chip's] GateMate A1 chip has nice features," Olimex founder Tsvetan Usunov writes of the company's first in a planned series of CPE-based FPGAs. "What we really like is their open source commitment β€” they offer open source tools for programming. Our aim is to make this the most affordable FPGA [board] of its class."

Olimex's GateMateA1-EVB development board takes a single GateMate CCGM1A1 chip and places it on an open-hardware breakout with 64Mb of pseudo-static RAM (PSRAM), a VGA video output, PS/2 keyboard input, four general-purpose input/output (GPIO) banks with switchable 1.2/1.8/2.5V power supplies and logic levels, and both PMOD and Olimex's own UEXT connectors for external hardware.

There's also a companion processor in the form of a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller with 2MB of off-chip flash, handling "programming, debugging, [and] IO," Usunov explains.

Currently awaiting design verification ahead of volume production, the GateMateA1-EVB will launch at a price of €50 (around $54,) Usunov promises β€” with more information available on the company's blog.

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