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Is GOWIN the saviour of legacy retro-hardware?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I didn't realize retro-hardware was in need of a savior?  Can you explain what you mean by that?


As for the GOWIN FPGAs, they seem to have popped up recently with the Tang Nano 9K board.  I'm always looking for newer FPGA options so I did some research from a maker's perspective of the GOWIN FPGAs:


1. The FPGA (GW1NSR) used on the Tang Nano board is just as hard to obtain right now as any other FPGA.  When Mouser and Digikey do have stock they generally cost about the same (about $30 depending).


2. The GOWIN parts are not available from one of the largest Chinese parts suppliers (LCSC), who supplies parts to PCB companies like JLCPCB, PCBWAY, etc..  Without that availability, those parts are not really usable by hobbyists to put onto boards that they intend to provide in larger quantity to the hobbyist community.  The retro-consumers also expect hobby boards to be as cheap as the Rpi and other commercially available boards.  It is very frustrating off-putting for a maker.


3. I do not know how the Tang Nano can cost only $15 and be financially viable, but there is no way any hobbyists can come close to competing with something like that.

  3a. The Tang Nano seems to be just as hard to get, apparently having to be purchased from ebay or aliexpress, neither of which I would consider stable sources.

  3b. Using the Tang Nano as a starting point means you are forced into a physical configuration, power consumption, and feature set.


4. Tooling and documentation is critical when it comes to electronics.  I have not looked into what GOWIN provides, but if the docs are not great, or vendor tools are hard to use, that is a fast path to not using those parts.


5. A hobbyist designed board is going to be a better path to retro-computer upgrades than hacking a pre-made PCB into a system. IMO.


6. Most of the GOWIN parts are BGA (ball-grid-array) with very fine pitch ball-spacing.  IIRC, there is only one or two QFP (quad-flat-pack) packages in any family line-up.  Using fine-pitch BGA packages increases the complexity and cost of making PCBs, and none of this is very hobbyist friendly as far as repairs, hacking, or troubleshooting.


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2 hours ago, matthew180 said:

I didn't realize retro-hardware was in need of a savior?  Can you explain what you mean by that?

Most folks are loathed to re-target a hobby design, I was hoping GOWIN would make it possible to keep older designs reproduce-able.

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Just wait and try to get tech support for a bad Tang. Doesn't exist, if you have found a way to get response from them beyond their meager web page please post it.

Seems to me, if you have the ability and knowledge to post a fault (VDP Down) then you can post WHY and what to do about it.

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