SYZYGY Brain-1: Modular Arm + FPGA Development Platform

SYZYGY Brain-1 is a modular FPGA-based development platform that bridges the gap between high and low speed/pin-count interfaces.

SYZYGY is an open standard for high-performance peripheral connectivity with the perks of being compact, low-cost, and free to license. It has been popping up on FPGA development boards recently as it takes advantage of an FPGA's higher I/O count and is capable of handling a wide range of data speeds. It's the perfect middle option between the simple Digilent PMOD standard (low speed/low pin-count) and the very complex VITA 57.1 FMC standard (high speed/high pin-count).

So far, we've seen it pop up on Digilent boards such as the Eclypse Z7, USB104 A7, and Genesys ZU. In turn, SYZYGY-compatible peripheral boards such as Digilent's Zmod ADC board, have also come about. The SYZYGY Brain-1 by Opal Kelly is the baseboard in a new modular FPGA development platform that takes advantage of the SYZYGY standard to support a wide range of peripheral boards in terms of data speed and pin count.

This SYZYGY Brain-1 FPGA board is built on a Xilinx single Arm-core Zynq chip with four SYZYGY ports, 1GB of DDR3 SDRAM, Ethernet port, and microSD card slot. These features make the Brain-1 suitable for various applications such as data acquisition, software defined radio, sensors, machine learning, video, robotics, etc.

Opal Kelly has also been working on a series of SYZYGY peripheral boards referred to as PODs. Currently, a Pmod adapter, DAC, ADC, camera, multi-sensor, loopback tester, and Dual SFP+ PODs are available to purchase alongside the Brain-1.

This open-standard modular ecosystem is useful for just about any FPGA user as it means less focus has to be placed on the carrier board itself as it allows for a mix off-the-shelf boards and custom built boards.

The modular aspect of the SYZYGY Brain-1 FPGA development board also makes it ideal for initial product/project development where the end goal is to layout your own custom FPGA board. I can honestly think of a few projects where this would have come in handy. The only other FPGA development platform that is similar to the SYZYGY Brain-1 from a modular/breakout perspective is the line of boards from Trenz Electronic 7 Series carrier boards for their 4 x 5 SoM (System on Module) boards.

With the Brain-1 and PODs, Opal Kelly has also launched affordable high-speed cable option for the SYZYGY standard to help complete this development ecosystem.

Check out its funded campaign on Crowd Supply and the product archive here.

Whitney Knitter
Working as a full-time SDR/FPGA engineer, but making time for the fun projects at home.
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