iCEcube2 supplies a complete HDL development environment. That includes a choice of synthesis tools: Lattice's LSE (Lattice Synthesis Engine) and Synopsys Synplify Pro. It also includes Aldec's very powerful mixed language simulator: Active-HDL. Full Verilog and VHDL (as well as a mixture of the two) is supported.
All IP for Lattice iCE40 is free, and therefore there is no need for a tether or any similar type of "evaluation" mode.
Lattice does have a free equivalent tool for system building, but the systems that it builds are more appropriate for devices with larger density than iCE40. Therefore, it does not target iCE40 devices. The name of the tool is LatticeMico System, and is included in the Diamond Software Tools. It supports two processors: the 32-bit LatticeMico32 and the 8-bit LatticeMico8. The free version of Diamond targets families such as MachXO2, LatticeXP2
Arrow do the Altera based No PMOD BeMicro SDK ($80), which I have, while Avnet do the Xilinx based LX9 with PMOD ($90).
All very similar looking beasts.
Do Lattice do something similar to OpenCore from Altera? This was the selling point for us in that we could use OpenCore IP as long as we remained tethered (programmer connected) for as long as we want.
Also Altera has Qsys and Xilinx has Platform Studio, for building NIOS II/Microblaze processor systems respectively as well as PCI express systems, does Lattice have a free equivalent?
I haven't had a chance to even try out FPGAs but at this price it is quite tempting just to pick one up and give it a try. I may never do anything more than learn a bit more about FPGAs, but that price is hard to beat.
The price is good for training purposes. But how does the Development Software - Lattice iCEcube2™ design software for HDL development, compare with development software for Xilinx and Altera? Does Lattice support both Verilog and VHDL? I had programmed FPGA's 10+ years ago (Altera), so any feedback will be appreciated.
Doesn't software and support make or break a product?
Feedback from attendees at Design West is that they want more content and training around hardware, I/O, and peripherals - seems like this would be a great demostration/teaching tool to introduce sensing devices and more to the community.