iCESugar-nano is a $19 iCE40LP1k FPGA board with 3x PMOD connectors

Muse Lab’s iCESugar-nano is a tiny FPGA board based on Lattice Semi iCE40LP1K-CM36 programmable via its USB-C port through on-board iCELink debugger, and exposing I/Os for three standard PMOD connectors.

The board is fully supported by Yosys open-source toolchain ( Yosys+ nextpnr + IceStorm), and the onboard debugger supports drag-and-drop programming so that you can just drag the FPGA bitstream into the virtual disk to program it through a USB Type-C cable.

iCESugar-nano specifications:

  • FPGA – Lattice Semi iCE40LP1k FPGA with 1280 LUT/8KB SRAM/PLL
  • Storage – 2MB SPI flash (W25Q16)
  • USB – 1x USB Type-C port for power and programming
  • Expansion – 14x usable IOs with 1x 12-pin PMOD connectors and 2x 6-pin PMOD connectors
  • Debugging – On-board iCELink debugger based on Arm Mbed DAPLink
  • Misc – Adjustable clock (8/12/36/72MHz), LED
  • Power Supply – 5V via USB-C port
  • Dimensions – 3.9 x 1.8 cm

Documentation, schematic PDF, links to tools, and an Ubuntu virtual image with all tools pre-installed can be found on Github.

I first found the board for $19 while browsing Aliexpress, but it can also be purchased on Tindie for the same price. There are also some kits with a choice of PMOD expansion boards with eight LEDs, an 8-position DIP switch, a microSD card socket, or a 0.96-inch LCD.

If you’d like something a bit more powerful, Muse Lab also developed the iCESugar-Pro board with a 24K LUT Lattice LFE5U-25F-6BG256C FPGA, 32MB flash and 32MB SDRAM capable of running Linux on a RISC-V softcore. That board is sold for $47 on Aliexpress, and you’ll find resources for development on Github.

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18 Replies to “iCESugar-nano is a $19 iCE40LP1k FPGA board with 3x PMOD connectors”

  1. The Aliexpress-link points to an SODIMM-format module, not the one in these pictures here.

    Nevermind, the article jumped in my eyes and I ended up clicking on the wrong link.

    1. You are aware you are violating STMs license conditions by using their USB Middleware for a non-STM chip?

  2. The data sheet says the CM36 package is a 36 pin ucBGA and that note (1) says:

    No PLL available on the 16 WLCSP, 36 ucBGA, 81 csBGA, 84 QFN and 100 VQFP packages.

    So, maybe edit the description.

    I’m looking for an open soure FPGA to get my feet wet with and this looks nice–so I grabbed the data sheet and started looking. Being used to data sheets, this limitation stood out to me.

    1. Yes, correct. Now I can see they even have a commit to remove “PLL” mentions and support in Github, since the chip does not have one in the selected package.

  3. For those of us who never touched a FPGA… Would this be a good entry-level (arduino-like) thing to start?

    1. Same question here. I would also appreciate the opinion of someone with experience with FPGAs.

      1. Better to start with UP5K, as it is simply much more capable and understood by community.

          1. Any specific advice?

            I’ve read many times about horror stories related to the FPGA toolchains/IDEs, so I’m looking for an amateur level hw+toolchain just for hobby, not planning to do any serious job with this.

          2. Personally for a beginner I would say one of the digilent style boards would be best. You get flash, memory, schematics, examples and the FPGA is usually one of the middle tier devices that isn’t tiny yet not super expensive.

            If digilent had a lattice board with all the instructions etc to get it going with the opensource tools that would be great.

          3. That’s because Taobao, and a few other Chinese websites, have a terrible design that forces users to log in before accessing a listing.
            What’s really odd is that the login redirect appears to be random.

            I have an account with Taobao… here’s the screenshot.

    2. The iCEBreaker would be my choice for a beginner board compatible with an open source toolchain. It contains iCE40UP5K which is much more capable than the LP1k from the iCESugar-nano. You can get it from an official source to support the devs or get a cheap clone on AliExpress.

      1. @DurandA said: “The iCEBreaker would be my choice…”

        Nah, both iCEBreaker and iCEBreaker Bitsy are out of stock:

        https://1bitsquared.com/collections/fpga

        Maybe its due to the chip shortage? There’s plenty of ready stock for the Lattice ICE40UP5K FPGA, but only in the pesky 30WLCSP BGA package:

        https://www.digikey.com/en/products/filter/embedded-fpgas-field-programmable-gate-array/696?s=N4IgTCBcDaIJYGECiAWADAVQAoFYDWIAugL5A

        Then there are all the other parts on the iCEBreaker board, any of which may be out of stock too.

        There are a couple of low cost ICE40UP5K FPGA dev boards by Lattice that might work out instead:

        https://www.digikey.com/en/products/filter/evaluation-boards-embedded-complex-logic-fpga-cpld/796?s=N4IgTCBcDaIJYGECiAWADAVQAoFYDWIAugL5A

      2. @DurandA said: “The iCEBreaker would be my choice…”

        The OEM iCEBreaker boards from 1 Bit Squared may be out of stock, but then it occurred to me there are probably Chinese clones available online – and sure enough:

        https://fave.co/3FT4iTw

        In fact there are lots of Chinese cloned ICE40UP5K FPGA dev boards out there:

        https://fave.co/3PrjNGw

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