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New Arduino boards include first FPGA model

May 21, 2018 — by Eric Brown 7,337 views

Arduino launched a “MKR Vidor 4000” board with a SAMA21 MCU and Cyclone 10 FPGA, as well as an “Uno WiFi Rev 2” with an ATmega4809 MCU. Both boards have a crypto chip and ESP32-based WiFi module.

In conjunction with this weekend’s Maker Faire Bay Area, Arduino launched two Arduino boards that are due to ship at the end of June. The MKR Vidor 4000 is the first Arduino board equipped with an FPGA. The Intel Cyclone 10 FPGA will be supported with programming libraries and a new visual editor. The Arduino Uno WiFi Rev 2, meanwhile, revises the Arduino Uno WiFi with a new Microchip ATmega4809 MCU. It also advances to an ESP32-based u-blox NINA-W102 WiFi module, which is also found on the Vidor 4000.

Uno WiFi Rev 2 with MKR Vidor 4000 (left) and MKR NB 1500 with MKR WiFi 1010
(click images to enlarge)

The new boards follow two other Arduino MKR form-factor boards unveiled on May 12 (see farther below). These include the MKR WiFi 1010, a WiFi-enabled replacement for the MKR1000 that adds the same u-blox Nina W102 module, and the MKR NB 1500, which incorporates an LTE Cat M1 NB-IoT radio.

MKR Vidor 4000, front and back, at Maker Faire Bay Area
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike many of the Arduino boards released in the middle part of the decade, none of the new boards run Linux. In March, however, Arduino announced an expansion of its Arduino Create development platform for deploying Arduino sketches on Linux systems. The IDE now supports Arm boards like the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone in addition to Intel boards like the UP Squared.

MKR Vidor 4000


The MKR Vidor 4000 uses the same MKR form factor and 32-bit, Cortex-M0+ Microchip SAMD21 MCU as the MKRZero, as well as last year’s MKR WAN 1300 and MKR GSM 1400. Yet, the big news is the onboard Intel/Altera Cyclone 10 FPGA.

MKR Vidor 4000
(click image to enlarge)

Arduino’s first FPGA-enabled board will “finally make FPGA accessible to makers and innovators,” according to a statement from Massimo Banzi, Arduino co-founder. Arduino CEO Fabio Violante calls it “the most flexible Arduino ever” and a “resourceful Swiss Knife.”

The MKR Vidor 4000 was co-developed with ipTronix srl. At the Maker Faire, ipTronic CEO Dario Penninsi demonstrated the board with an image recognition demo. Penninsi told us that developers will even be able to program the FPGA to implement Ethernet. The FPGA can also be used DSP applications including audio and video processing.

The board incorporates a u-blox NINA-W102 WiFi module based on a WiFi-enabled ESP32 SoC. There’s also a Microchip ECC508 cryptography chip “for secure connection to local networks and the Internet,” says Arduino. All the board’s pins are driven both by the SAMD21 and FPGA, and there’s a mini-PCIe expansion slot with up to 25 user programmable pins.

MKR Vidor 4000
in Maker Faire
image recognition demo

The MKR Vidor 4000 is equipped with 8MB SRAM and 2MB QSPI flash, 1MB of which is user available. The board offers a micro-USB device port, as well as interfaces including 8x DIO, 8x interrupts, 7x ADC, and single DAC, UART, SPI, and I2C. At 61.5 x 25mm, the 32-gram board is slightly smaller than other MKR boards, which are pin compatible. The 5V board supports a Li-Po battery.

The Cyclone 10 FPGA incorporates 16K Logic Elements (LEs), 504Kb of embedded RAM, and 56x 18×18-bit hardware multipliers for high-speed DSP. Each pin can toggle at over 150MHz and can be configured for functions including UARTs, QSPI, PWM, quadrature encoder, I2C, I2S, and Sigma Delta DAC.

Arduino promises to introduce “an innovative development environment” that “aims to democratize and radically simplify access to the world of FPGAs.” The environment will include sketches and libraries with pre-compiled FPGA bitstreams that will be automatically upload onto the FPGA along with the MCU code aimed at the SAMD21. Developers will be able to choose from multiple pre-made configurations.

Later this year, Arduino will add a visual block language development environment. Developers will be able to assemble different peripheral or IP blocks onscreen. The visual design is then translated into Verilog and compiled on Arduino cloud servers before being downloaded onto the FPGA. At the same time a custom version of Arduino is generated on the fly to allow programming using the new configuration.

In a blog, Alasdair Allan writes that developers who know Verilog or VHDL ((VHSIC Hardware Description Language) should be able to “program the board using their normal FPGA toolchain from Altera/Intel right out of the gate.” According to Allan, the Vidor 4000 and other products such as Alorium Technology’s XLR8 boards, which add an Altera MAX10 FPGA to an Arduino clone, are part of a renaissance in the FPGA market. The increased interest in programmable FPGAs is being driven by the Project IceStorm open source toolchain for the Lattice FPGA chips, he added.

Uno WiFi Rev 2

The new Uno WiFi Rev 2 was co-developed with Microchip. The board updates the two-year old Arduino Uno WiFi, which added an ESP8266 SoC with 2.4GHz WiFi to the Arduino Uno design. The Rev 2 swaps out the Microchip ATmega328 AVR MCU with 32KB flash and 2KB SRAM for a new, 8-bit ATmega4809 AVR MCU with 48KB flash and 6KB of RAM.

Uno WiFi Rev 2
(click images to enlarge)

Like the MKR Vidor 4000, the Uno WiFi Rev 2 is equipped with an ECC608 crypto chip, an onboard IMU, and a u-blox NINA-W102 wireless module. Compared to the ESP8266, the the ESP32 provides adjustable power output, thereby “enabling optimal trade-offs between communication range, data rate and power consumption,” says Arduino. The Uno WiFi Rev 2 to be set up as a WiFi access point and can be used for OTA updates of Arduino sketches.

The Uno WiFi Rev 2 provides 6x analog inputs and 14x DIO pins, 6x of which can be used to output PWM. You also get a 16MHz ceramic resonator, a micro-USB port, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button.

Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 and MKR NB 1500

On Arduino Day, Arduino unveiled two additional, unpriced MKR boards due in June, offering WiFi and NB-IoT, respectively. They follow the LoRa ready MKR WAN 1300 and 3G-enabled MKR GSM 1400.

MKR WiFi 1010 (left) and MKR NB 1500
(click images to enlarge)

The MKR WiFi 1010 is an update to the two-year old MKR1000 board, the first of Arduino’s tiny MKR form factor boards. The new model adds a u-blox NINA-W102 for 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n. The board is built around the same SAMD21 MCU found on the original MKR1000, the MKR Vidor 4000, and other MKR boards.

Like the MKR Vidor 4000, the MKR WiFi 1010 integrates an ECC508 crypto chip. The board can run on a Li-Po battery or from the 5V micro-USB port.

The MKR NB 1500 provides NarrowBand IoT (LTE Cat M1) wireless service. It’s compatible with Narrow Band IoT NB classes and supports global Cat M1/NB1 deployed bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 20, and 28.

The SAMD21 based MKR NB 1500 provides 22x digital I/O pins, 12x of which can be used for PWM, and it offers 7x analog inputs. Other peripherals include i2S, I2C, SPI, and UART. The board can be charged with a LiPo battery.

Further information

The MKR Vidor 4000 and Uno WiFi Rev 2 will be available in Late June. Pricing was not disclosed. More information may be found in Arduino’s announcement, as well as the MKR Vidor 4000 and Uno WiFi Rev 2 product pages. More on the MKR boards that were announced a week ago may be found on Arduino’s MKR WiFi 1010 and MKR NB 1500 product pages. The unpriced boards are also due in June.

Many thanks to Rick Lehrbaum, who contributed photos and input for this article.

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