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Tiny SBC runs Linux on Xilinx ARM+FPGA SoC

Aug 6, 2013 — by Eric Brown — 8,082 views
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[Updated Aug. 8] — Avnet has unveiled a smaller, lower cost follow-on to its community backed ARM+FPGA based ZedBoard. The $199 Linux-ready MicroZed board is built with a Xilinx Zynq-7010 SoC, and can be used as either a single-board computer (SBC) or as a computer-on-module (COM) feeding 100 programmable GPIO signals into a carrier board.

Two months after announcing the production-grade version of the ZedBoard, the first community-backed SBC to build upon the Xilinx-7000 family of ARM+FPGA system-on-chips (SoCs), Avnet has followed up with the smaller (4.0 x 2.25 inches), more affordable, and more flexible MicroZed. It’s about two-thirds the cost of the $395 ZedBoard, reflecting its lesser I/O allotment and less FPGA-capable Zynq-7010 SoC model.

MicroZed is based on a Xilinx ARM+FPGA SoC
(click images to enlarge)


The MicroZed does offer greater expansion customization, however. Users can try it out as a simple SBC evaluation kit before integrating it with off-the-shelf carrier cards for prototyping. For dedicated embedded applications, users can develop their own custom baseboards, or they can leverage Avnet’s customization services for generating a more tightly-integrated system design.

The MicroZed’s Zynq-7010 has the same dual-core Cortex-A9 processor as the more commonly used Zynq-7020 integrated in the ZedBoard. The maximum CPU clock rate for the Zynq on the stock MicroZed board is 667MHz, which is the maximum for the -1 speed grade Zynq (although customers can request a different speed grade through their local Avnet FAE on custom builds). The FPGA programmable logic, which is tightly integrated with the ARM subsystem via an AXI4 interconnect, is on the low end of the Zynq-7000 family [PDF].

MicroZed key functions and connectors, top and bottom
(click images to enlarge)


Like the Zynq-7020, the -7010 is equivalent to a standalone Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA, but it is a lower-end model. (Higher-end Zynq-7030 and -7045 models mimic more powerful Kintex-7 FPGAs.) The Zynq-7010 offers 28K logic cells, compared to 85K for the Zynq-7020, and similarly has about a third of the -7020’s look-up tables (17,600 LUTs), extensible block RAM (240KB), programmable DSP slices (80), peak DSP performance (100 GMACs), and flip-flops (35,200).

Block diagrams: MicroZed SBC, Xilinx Zynq-7000 SoC
(click images to enlarge)


As with the ZedBoard, a ready-to-use Linux filesystem is provided. However, in this case it’s contained in soldered-on, bootable QSPI flash. A version for the microSD card, which ships blank in the board’s evaluation kit, will be available for download from

Interestingly, the MicroZed offers twice as much RAM as the ZedBoard, with 1GB of DDR3. This reflects its multifaceted role as both an entry-level hacker SBC and as a CPU module that could form the basis of a commercial product. By comparison, the ZedBoard is a more capable hacker board, but offers more limited commercial possibilities.

Although Avnet is not billing this as an open-source community board, as it does the ZedBoard, the MicroZed’s product page is posted on the community site, and it shares the same basic technology. As with the ZedBoard, full schematics, BOM, layouts, mechanicals, and hardware user guides are available.

The MicroZed lacks any of the multimedia I/O found on the ZedBoard — its real-world ports are limited to a gigabit Ethernet port, a micro-USB 2.0 OTG port (see note below specs list), and a USB 2.0-interfaced UART. However, the bottom of the board provides a pair of 100-pin “microheaders” containing a total of 108 user I/O signals (100 PL and eight PS MIO), which include buffered bidirectional GPIO signals that can be configured as 48x LVDS pairs or 100x single-ended interfaces. The other 92 microheader pins support ground, Vin, PL Vcco, JTAG, and XADC. Various headers, jumpers, oscillators, and resets are also provided.

Specifications listed for the MicroZed include:

  • Processor — Xilinx Zynq-7010 (XC7Z010-1CLG400C) CPU/FPGA SoC:
    • Dual 667MHz ARM Cortex-A9 cores
    • Dual NEON coprocessors
    • Integrated Artix-7 class FPGA subsystem with 28K logic cells, 17,600 LUTs, 80 DSP slices
  • Memory:
    • 1GB DDR3
    • 128Mb QSPI (Quad SPI) flash
    • microSD slot with Linux reference system on 4GB SD card
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB OTG (host/device) port (*) with cable
    • USB-based UART
    • Xilinx PC4 JTAG
    • PS JTAG pins accessible via Pmod
    • 2×6 Digilent Pmod compatible 8 PS MIO connections for user I/O
    • 100x GPIO via 2x 100-pin “microheader” connectors, configurable as up to 48x LVDS pairs or 100x single-ended
  • Other features — reset button; user LED and push switch; 33.33 MHz oscillator; boot-mode jumpers
  • Power — 5V (USB UART) or 5V/12V (barrel jack or micro- header) AC/DC supply
  • Dimensions — 4.00 x 2.25 inches
  • Operating system — Linux-ready; Android-compatible
    (*) Note: The stock MicroZed’s micro-USB 2.0 OTG port is configured for USB-Host only. “Putting it into Device or OTG mode requires a bit of simple rework, including removing caps and changing a resistor,” Avnet informs us.

The MicroZed evaluation kit includes a tool license voucher for Xilinx Vivado Design Edition, which includes Logic Analyzer. The Vivado software is available for download from Xilinx’s online store, or a free DVD can be requested here.

The MicroZed is available immediately at $199. More information, including manuals and schematics, are available at Avnet’s MicroZed product page.

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One response to “Tiny SBC runs Linux on Xilinx ARM+FPGA SoC”

  1. Luke McCarthy says:

    Cheaper to get a Parallela fro $99 which has the same Zynq-7010 SoC and an Epiphany co-processor too.

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