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Hacker-friendly SBC runs Linux on ARM+FPGA SoC

May 30, 2013 — by Eric Brown 6,132 views

Avnet Electronics Marketing has begun shipping an improved, production-grade version of its community-supported, Linux-ready Xilinx Zynq-7020-based development kit. The $395 ZedBoard includes a Zynq-7020 SoC with dual 667MHz Cortex-A9 cores and FPGA programmable logic, and offers gigabit Ethernet, USB OTG, HDMI, A/V ports, and more.

The production-grade ZedBoard single-board computer (SBC) implements more than 50 enhancements over the original CES (Commercial temp range, Engineering Sample) ZedBoard version that was released in limited quantities in July 2012 and sold out by March of this year. This latest version of the 6.3 x 5.3-inch board is based on an updated version of the Zynq-7020 system-on-chip (SoC).

ZedBoard front and back
(click images to enlarge)


New features are said to include secure boot, faster SD card boot-up, system clock reset improvements, DDR functional updates, and more accurate static power estimates. Additional enhancements include the elimination of single and double bit errors, as well as a more reliable Ethernet TxDMA, says Avnet.


Xilinx’s Zynq-7000 family combines dual Linux-programmable ARM Cortex-A9 cores with the circuitry found in the company’s field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). The Zynq-7020 (which is also used on iVeia’s I-Z7e module) is controlled by dual Cortex-A9 cores, clocked to 667MHz.

Xilinx Zynq-7000 FPGA family block diagram
(click image to enlarge)


The SoC’s ARM subsystem is tightly linked via high-speed AXI interconnects and cross-point switches to an FPGA subsystem that offers the equivalent programmable logic of an Artix-7 FPGA. The FPGA provides 85,000 logic cells, 53,200 look-up tables (LUTs), and 276 GMACS of peak DSP performance.

The ZedBoard ships with 512MB of DDR3 memory and 256Mb of QSPI (Quad SPI) flash, as well as a full-sized SD/MMC card cage on the back of the board. Avnet supplies a 4GB SD card with a Linux reference system. Real-world ports include gigabit Ethernet, micro-USB OTG, and a second micro-USB port for JTAG debugging. There’s also an HDMI, VGA, and audio ports, as well as an onboard connector for a 128 x 32-pixel OLED status display.

ZedBoard key components and block diagram
(click images to enlarge)


As shown in its block diagram, the ZedBoard provides expansion connectors that expose I/O functions from both the ARM CPU and FPGA fabric subsystems of the Zynq-7020 SoC. Most of the FPGA-related functions are available via XADC headers and FLM (LPC) connectors. Several PMOD analog inputs are available as well.

Programmable logic functions are supported via Xilinx’s free, but proprietary, device-locked ISE WebPACK design suite. The Linux-compatible FPGA and CPLD design package provides HDL (hardware description language) synthesis and simulation, implementation, device fitting, and JTAG programming, says Avnet.

The Zedboard is supported by the community website, said to receive more than 1,200 visitors a day, which hosts user-created reference designs and projects for sharing. The forums are pretty lively, bringing FPGA and ARM developers together to learn each other’s tricks. There seems to be considerable interest in the Zynq-7000 platform, which had one of the highest growth rates of any processor family listed in the EETimes 2013 Embedded Market Study.

According to, the programmability and expandability features of the ZedBoard make it ideal for rapid prototyping and proof-of-concept development.

Specifications listed for the ZedBoard include:

  • Xilinx Zynq-XC7Z020 (Zynq-7020) CPU/FPGA SoC:
    • Dual 667MHz ARM Cortex-A9 cores
    • Dual NEON coprocessors
    • Integrated FPGA subsystem
  • Memory:
    • 512MB DDR3
    • 256Mb QSPI (Quad SPI) flash
    • SD/MMC slot with Linux reference system on 4GB SD card
  • Networking – gigabit Ethernet port
  • Multimedia I/O:
    • HDMI port (1080p+60 with audio)
    • VGA port (8-bit)
    • Audio line-in, line-out, mic (I2S 24-bit codec)
  • FPGA-fabric based I/O (PS & PL) headers:
    • Xilinx XADC header
    • 5x PMOD analog inputs (2x differential, 4x single-ended)
    • FMC (LPC)
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB OTG (host/device) port
    • Micro-USB port
    • USB-based UART
    • JTAG debug port
    • ARM Debug Access Port (DAP)
    • 128×32 OLED onboard interface
  • Other features: 8x slide switches; 7x push-button switches; free ISE WebPACK with device-locked ChipScope License
  • Power — 12 V AC/DC supply @ 3.0A max. input
  • Dimensions – 6.3 x 5.3 inches
  • Operating system – Linux-ready; Android-compatible

The production-grade ZedBoard is now available for $395. More information may be found on the ZedBoard community site and on Avnet’s ZedBoard product page. A full list of enhancements over the initial CES version may be found here.

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