RFSoC 4x2 Board and Kit

Summary

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new RFSoC 4x2 kits. The new kits greatly improve on the performance of the older RFSoC 2x2 kits, at the same price. Due to global supply challenges the RFSoC 2x2 kits are discontinued but software support for existing boards will continue.

Please see below for more details.

Outline

  • Introducing the New RFSoC 4x2 Board and Kit
  • RFSoC 4x2 Enhancements
  • Improved Performance at the Same Price
  • New Partner: Real Digital
  • Even More Commitment to Open Source
  • RFSoC 2x2 Boards and Kits are Discontinued
  • Support of RFSoC 2x2 Boards and Kits Continues

Introducing the New RFSoC 4x2 Board and Kit
In Feb 2021, the PYNQ team launched the RFSoC 2x2, an exciting new platform for software-defined radio and instrumentation. However, due to the well-documented interruptions in the global supply chain, sourcing some parts on the RFSoC 2x2 became increasingly difficult. Our first response to this challenge was to re-spin the 2x2 board to use only parts that were more readily available. However, we took this instead as an opportunity to design a completely new board, the RFSoC 4x2. This new board, shown below, retains all the best features of the 2x2 while adding the most commonly-requested new features, especially the most sought after feature - an upgrade to the Zynq UltraScale+ RFSoC Gen 3.

RFSoC 4x2 Enhancements
The RFSoC 4x2 uses a Gen 3 RFSoC ZU48DR device which dramatically improves the performance of the RF data converters. Where previously the RF-ADCs converted 12-bit samples at a maximum rate of 4,096 GSPS, the newer Gen 3 ADCs have an input bandwidth of 6 GHz and can capture 14-bit samples at 5 Giga-samples per second (GSPS). Meanwhile, the board’s RF-DACs output 14-bit samples at 9.85 GSPS, up from 6.554 GSPS for the Gen 1 parts. As shown on the left-hand side of the board photo, the RFSoC 4x2 board doubles the number of high-speed ADC ports to four.

The RFSoC also has a dedicated QSFP28 (quad small form factor pluggable) interface. This enables high-speed data transfer directly between an external host and the Gen 3 device’s programmable logic and RF converter tiles. The compact, hot-swappable QSFP28 interface supports 4x25Gbps, 2x50Gbps or 1x100Gbps Ethernet, depending on the external transceiver chosen by the user.

Other very practical enhancements include a new OLED display which provides boot-time status information to greatly simplify connecting to the board. Once boot is complete, the OLED display becomes user programmable.

The RFSoC 4x2 kit comes with the RFSoC-PYNQ software framework and educational materials including open-source SDR applications and comprehensive tutorials. RFSoC-PYNQ includes new reusable designs that target the improved hardware capabilities. For example, the open-source spectrum analyzer design has been upgraded to operate from DC to 4.915 GHz with an instantaneous bandwidth of 2.457 GHz. There are also new reusable designs that demonstrate how to perform high-speed offload over the QSFP28 interface using UDP over Ethernet.

Improved Performance at the Same Price
We are very excited to announce that the RFSoC 4x2 will be offered at the same academic price of USD 2,149. The board is only available to academia and to buy the board, academics must first apply to the AMD Xilinx University Program to get pre-approval to purchase the RFSoC 4x2 kit.

New Partner: Real Digital
The ability to maintain the price of USD 2,149 in the light of global inflation and supply chain challenges is in large part thanks to our new partner, Real Digital . Real Digital share our passion to produce the most capable RFSoC board possible at an exceptional academic price. The company was founded four years ago by Clint Cole. Some of you will know that Clint previously founded Digilent, and later sold it to National Instruments. He has a long pedigree of producing excellent development boards for use in academia. In many ways, we are welcoming back a longstanding partner rather than introducing an entirely new one.

Even More Commitment to Open Source
Real Digital have also helped us to deliver on our vision of making the RFSoC 4x2 a more fully open-source project. So not just the RFSoC-PYNQ framework and design examples but also the board schematics, bill of materials, and even the PCB Gerber files are available open-source. This will enable research teams, for example, to use the RFSoC 4x2 as the starting point for developing custom boards which they may require in their specific research experiments.

RFSoC 2x2 Boards and Kits are Discontinued
The RFSoC 2x2 board, produced in partnership with High Tech Global, is officially discontinued. No further units are available for sale.

A small number of reserve units are available for a short period from the AMD Xilinx University Program in the event that some team has an urgent need. In all other cases, we recommend that users migrate to the newer and more capable RFSoC 4x2 kits.

Support of RFSoC 2x2 Boards and Kits Continues
Existing RFSoC 2x2 boards will be supported by the RFSoC-PYNQ framework for the foreseeable future. Any change in this status will be communicated with a minimum advance notice of 6 months. Even after new development for the RFSoC 2x2 boards stops, it will be possible to continue using the last, feature-frozen version of the RFSoC-PYNQ framework and the source software will continue to be available.

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