Review: SmartScope Maker Kit

November 3, 2016 | 22:00
Review: SmartScope Maker Kit
Review: SmartScope Maker Kit
The SmartScope is an especially handy and affordable USB oscilloscope, logic analyzer and signal generator with a number of remarkable features. For instance, it is compatible with most operating systems and can be connected to a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The user interface of the software is based on a totally new concept, and the standard software includes several decoders for digital signal protocols.

Internally the SmartScope is built around a powerful Xilinx Spartan 6 FPGA, which also makes it suitable for use as an FPGA development platform. Elektor is now offering the unique SmartScope Maker Kit, which includes a special version of the SmartScope and two programmers with suitable cables.


 
The complete SmartScope Maker Kit
The complete SMartScope Maker Kit
What makes the SmartScope in this kit special is that it is equipped with a number of headers that provide access to all important signals in the SmartScope. The PCB with the headers is shown in the photo on the next page, which also indicates the functions of the various headers. Using the programmers included in the kit, you can individually program the FPGA and the USB controller on the board.

To allow the SmartScope to be used as a hardware platform for FPGA prototyping, LabNation has made its software and firmware stacks open-source and optimized them for this purpose. With access to the platform’s VHDL files, it is easy to compile your own FPGA code and download it to the SmartScope. Then you can control it through the USB link from a desktop, tablet or smartphone.

Of course, there are lots of other FPGA development platforms out there, but the SmartScope has several clear advantages here. For example, you have a complete USB tool chain available with a register bank accessible to your own programs running under Windows, Linux, Android or iOS, without requiring you to write a single line of code. In addition, there is a VHDL module that gives you access to all the peripheral hardware on the SmartScope board, including a dual ADC, a DAC, RAM and USB.
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