No-name Altera MAX II Dev Board

Microcontrollers are the heart of many DIY projects, but there are some situations where a CPLD or FPGA is more appropriate. There are many development boards available from Terasic, but I wanted to try something different. I’ve heard “no-name Chinese FPGA boards” can often be more trouble than their worth, but I decided to take a chance with a rather inexpensive CPLD one.

This is a fairly bare bones Altera MAX II development board from a seller on AliExpress named “EDA Board”. It took over 5 weeks to arrive, so I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this if you want to work with it any time soon. It’s a good deal for the price as most similarly-priced development boards are merely breakout boards without any on-board components. This board has two 4×7 digit LED displays, eight LEDs, five input buttons, a buzzer, and unpopulated breakout pins for the remaining pins on the MAX II. It comes with a USB Blaster clone and power cables too! Unfortunately there are no schematics availble and contacting the seller has proven to be difficult, but I determined the pins used by the LED displays to be as follows:

Pin Description CPLD Pin
A 85
B 84
C 83
D 82
E 81
F 78
G 77
Decimal 76
D1 95 (left), 89 (right)
D2 92 (left), 96 (right)
D3 91 (left), 86 (right)
D4 97 (left), 85 (right)

The silkscreen lists the pins used by the LEDs, buttons, and buzzer on the board, but the 4th LED from the bottom incorrectly says “PIN_55” when it’s really pin 54. My board also had a zero ohm resistor across the “on” pins instead of a power switch as shown in the item pictures.

Putting these minor inconveniences aside, I think this board will be good for simple CPLD projects. However, I’ll probably stick with something from Terasic if I wanted to work with a Cyclone FPGA in the future.