by RHS Research LLC

The Xilinx Artix dev kits that fit in your laptop. A convenient, affordable way to explore Xilinx PCIe IP.

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The NanoEVB fits in an M.2 2242 key A or E. It comes with a 6" pigtail connector for I/O. Can also fit into a full-length mPCIe slot with an adapter.



The PicoEVB fits in an M.2 2230 key A or E, which is common in newer laptops. Can also fit into a full-length mPCIe slot with an adapter.


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"A major selling point of this board is the PCIe interface. Most FPGA boards with PCIe will cost over a grand, and will only fit in a large desktop computer."


"Everything needed to program and debug the FPGA is on board, and taking into consideration the low price, it is a great alternative for designing PCIe on a low budget without reducing functionality."

Hackster News

"If you want to prototype PCIe designs, the PicoEVB looks like a great option."

NanoEVB and PicoEVB are affordable, open source, development boards which can be used to evaluate and prototype PCI Express designs using a Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA on Windows or Linux hosts. The boards are designed around the Artix 7 (XC7A50T).

Use Cases

While the main intent of NanoEVB and PicoEVB is PCIe design prototyping, it can be used as an integrated part of your laptop (or desktop) computer. Use a board as an encryption co-processor for security, or as a hardware-level encoder/decoder for speedy workflows. It’s your FPGA, design what you like.

Features & Specifications

FPGAXilinx Artix XC7A50TXilinx Artix XC7A50T
Form Factor M.2 (NGFF) 2242, keyed for A and E slots M.2 (NGFF) 2230, keyed for A and E slots
Dimensions 22 x 42 x 3.8 mm 22 x 30 x 3.8 mm
Host InterfacePCIe x1 gen 2PCIe x1 gen 2
Host ToolsVivado 2016, 2017Vivado 2016, 2017
Serial ConnectionRS232 connection to the FPGA via FTDI FT2232RS232 connection to the FPGA via FTDI FT2232
MGT LoopbackYesYes
Built-in JTAGYesYes
Spare Debug UART Yes No
External Interface 4 digital channels OR 1 analog (differential) and 2 digital, OR 2 analog (differential) No
User-controllable LEDs33

Open Source Software & Hardware

The board schematics in their final form (PDFs) will be published under a permissive license. In additon, major software components are open source:

  • The "cable driver", is already CC0 licenced.
  • All of the host code (PCIe drivers) used in the prototype comes from Xilinx under GPL.
  • The FPGA project is derived from a freely available Xilinx sample project.

Files are being published in the project GitHub repository.

NanoEVB Block Diagram

NanoEVB high-level schematic

PicoEVB Block Diagram

PicoEVB high-level schematic

Compact Size

Current FPGA development boards are large. Almost all development kits require a desktop PC, or are designed to sit on a lab bench. NanoEVB aims to change this — the entire development kit fits inside a laptop! In addition, the JTAG cable is built-in, no external cables needed- just plug it into a PCIe slot and go.


Furthermore, to explore PCIe designs, currently you need to spend over $1,000. NanoEVB and PicoEVB have PCIe connectivity to the host computer, and as such, you can design PCIe-based solutions and explore Xilinx’s IP for PCIe solutions without spending a grand and without taking up a ton of space.

Manufacturing Plan

The manufacturing process for NanoEVB and PicoEVB is pretty straightforward:

  1. Select a PCB fabrication house capable of producing this PCB (done)
  2. Select an assembly house capable of placing/soldering all the parts on the PCB (quote in-hand, with more to come)
  3. Kit the PCBs and board components and ship to assembly house for assembly
  4. Final test of assembled boards to verify all power supply voltages, all LEDs, all external ports, and USB and PCIe connectivity.

Risks & Challenges

The designs have been prototyped; multiple boards and iterations have been built and tested. This mitigates a lot of risk. The remaining risk is in manufacturing execution:

  • There is some risk that the PCBs could be mis-manufactured.
  • There is some risk that the assembly house damages or improperly assembles the boards, resulting in scrap.
  • There is some risk that component availability is lower than needed at the time of procurement. The FPGA holds the highest chance of causing additional delivery delay.

These are generally the same issues that may occur with any PCBA fabrication, and any that crop up should be surmountable.


RHS Research LLC

Dave Reynolds

See Also

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