At Washington State University, the electrical engineering department uses Digilent FPGAs in several classes. Students are allowed to pick from a variety of our FPGAs. The main choice is between the Nexys or Basys lines of FPGAs. As a student, I hear a lot of confusion from students about the differences between the two series of boards. I figured that students can’t be the only ones who have questions about the difference, so I decided to write a quick summary of the differences. I’ll be using the Nexys 4 and the soon-to-be newest member of the Basys series as an example. I’ve compiled two lists to highlight the differences between the two, as you can see from the differences in sizes of the lists the Nexys has many extra features.
Some features on the Nexys series that are not included in the Basys:
– Ethernet port
– More Pmod connectors
– Audio output
– 128 Mbit QSPI for faster programming, vs. 32 Mbit QSPI
– 2 seven-segment displays
– 2 tri-color LEDs
– 3-axis accelerometer
Essentially, the Basys series is a simpler set of FPGA boards that offers the most basic functionality required of an FPGA. The Basys series has the smallext ARTIX-7 chip, while the Nexys series has a bigger chip with more functionality. If you want a basic FPGA board to get you through our basic projects, the Basys is for you. However, if you want an FPGA with all the bells and whistles (such as extra ports, interfaces, and multi-color LEDs), the Nexys is for you.
At WSU, not only do we use the Digilent FPGA boards, but we also use the Learn modules created by Digilent and for Digilent products. I am currently working on updating the the series of Learn modules for EE214: Design of Logic Circuits. This is the introductory class that uses the Nexys and Basys series of products, and the projects are open for the public to view!
You can find the old versions of the projects here on the Learn site. These are compatible with the Nexys 3 and 4, as well as the Basys 2. I am posting the new projects that are compatible with our soon-to-be released Basys board on Instructables in their own EE214 Collection as I update them. The projects are all-inclusive, including lecture material as well as project guides, so that all you need is a Basys or Nexys board. You will then be able to program awesome FPGA projects, including your own VGA controller or stopwatch!