A-C8V4 FPGA Dev Board – My Thoughts

Recently I ordered a rather well priced FPGA development board from Ebay. The board is unbranded, save for the ALTERA logo appearing a few times, it does have a product code of A-C8V4 though.

Using a Cyclone II QFP, the board appears to be loosely based on the DE2 from Terasic. Overall, I don’t actually have many complaints, for $100 including shipping, it’s not too bad.

The board come with a USB Blaster and cable, 5V 1A Power Adaptor, plastic cover and a TTL/USB module.  It also comes with a software disk including Quartus II, Modelsim, sample code and a schematic of the board. Here it is assembled on my desk.

a-c8v4

Now let me cut right to the chase by outlining what you need to know.

  • The LCD module goes on upside down, so the board has to be rotated to read it, odd, but not a big issue
  • Every peripheral is controlled by a PNP transistor, thus active low, so make sure your unused pins aren’t driving ground.
  • The 3 right-most 7 segment enable pins are shared by D5,D6,D7 of the LCD. While it’s possible to operate the LCD in 4 bit mode, this conflict is one you must be aware of.
  • The VCC and GND pins of the RS232 header appear to be unconnected. The port itself works fine, but if you want to connect a bluetooth module for instance, you’ll want to solder pins to the power pads at the top left, or power it externally. My guess is that this is because the TTL module didn’t like to be powered externally, e.g. through the board.
  • The TTL module drivers are very finicky and often choose not to work, this was my main motivation for using a bluetooth connection.
  • The chip is the EP2C8Q208C8N, with 8256 Logic Elements and a core voltage of 1.2V. It can be programmed with the JTAG connector or flashed with the Active Serial connector.
  • The 7 Segment displays all share the same A-G pins and need to be multiplexed to work, but I will upload code for this soon.
  • No slide switches, at all.
  • Very few LEDs that aren’t hard-wired to the peripherals, about 6 that can be driven by the FPGA.

Overall, not bad. It’s brought me many many hours of fun over the holidays, but isn’t quite as good as the DE2 boards I’ve grown used to using. For 1/3rd the price, though, I don’t regret the purchase at all.

3 Comments

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  1. Hey thanks for the information , im thinking of buying this FPGA just for start since im from south america and Altera wont offer us the university program to buy a official one at a good price

    what interesting project can you do with this particular cyclone II? i saw that this chinese board has some external sdram and sram ,could i use it for video processing with an cmos camera or something like that in the future ? i know a bit of vhdl so my motivation was to play with VGA :P.

    btw i cant find it for buying in ebay, just aliexpress

    Cheers

    1. Hi there! I have noticed that even with the university program, the DE2 boards and other educational cyclone boards are quite costly.

      The Cyclone II itself performs well and I have personally not run into any issues with limitations in size so far. I decided to test some of the VGA code just a moment ago and can verify that it works correctly, though the sample code only renders simply colours and boxes. All the sample code is in Verilog, but if you know VHDL you’ll have no trouble picking it up.

      As for projects, I definitely think a cmos camera would be usable with this board. The comments in the sample code that comes with the board are garbage due to encoding problems with chinese, but if you google the A-C8V4 product code, one of the results should be a very large PDF manual entirely in english written by another engineer. As for finding it on ebay, try searching ‘cyclone ii’ or ‘EP2C8Q208C8N’.

      Best of luck

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