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Welcome to the MiSTer wiki!
DISCLAIMER: this is an open project without focus on sales. Base hardware (Terasic DE10-Nano) can be bought from major electronic component resellers and will run a few cores out of the box. No soldering is needed
DISCLAIMER2: Many cores require RAM expansion hardware which can be assembled or bought from a few sources in the forums. The author of this project and contributors are NOT affiliated to these vendors and do not derive any income from it. Please direct any inquiries or concerns about expansion hardware to relevant third parties
What is it?
MiSTer is a port of well known MiST project to a larger FPGA and faster ARM. MiSTer provides modern video output through HDMI (VGA and analog audio are still available on daughter board). It's based on Terasic DE10-nano board. Here are some improvement over the MiST board:
- Altera Cyclone V SE FPGA with 110,000LE (41,500ALM) and 5,570Kbit of Block RAM.
- ARM Cortex A9 dual-core CPU at 800MHz.
- HDMI video and audio allowing connect to any modern monitor/TV.
- DDR3 1GB available for both ARM and FPGA.
- High speed ARM<->FPGA interconnect due to both are in the same chip.
- Linux on ARM provides support for many I/O devices and file systems.
- Board is mass produced by a big manufactured and freely available for a relatively cheap price 130USD (99USD for students/professors).
Due to a larger FPGA, bigger systems can be created. It's also possible to add more support from ARM side. For example TZX tape format can be parsed on ARM and then send to FPGA. Firmware is not limited by code size or available RAM. It'e even possible to emulate some parts of system on ARM which is not available in FPGA (so-called hybrid emulator).
MiSTer scales original video resolution to a standard HDMI resolution (usually 1280x720p60), so you don't need to look for some ancient monitor with VGA input supporting non-standard resolution and frame rates. For purists VGA is still available and it outputs original video resolution.
How does it work?
MiSTer adds several daughter boards to original DE10-nano board. You don't need to install all boards. MiSTer starts from entry level as a bare DE10-nano board. With just one additional board (SDRAM), you will be able to use almost all cores.
- SDRAM board (recommended expansion) This small board plugs into the GPIO0 connector of the DE10-nano board. Whilst the DE10-nano has fast DDR3 memory, it cannot be used to emulate a retro EDO DRAM due to a high latency and shared usage from ARM side. This SDR SDRAM on daughter board is required for most cores to emulate a retro memory module.
- I/O board (optional expansion) This board plugs into the GPIO1 connector of the DE10-nano board. It provides a legacy VGA output (6 bits per component), analog audio (3.5mm phone jack), digital optical audio, buttons, LEDs. This board is useful if you prefer VGA over HDMI or you want to put the MiSTer inside a case. This board also helps for core development (HDMI scaler code requires around twice more time to compile). Compiling for VGA-only will speed up the development. This board is not required to run most cores.
- RTC board (optional expansion) This board is plugged into LTC connector and provides a real time clock. You still can have a real time clock without the board if MiSTer is connected to internet via Ethernet. Only two cores use this feature, so it is only for enthusiasts.
- USB hub board (optional expansion) This board adds 7-port USB hub sitting under the main board.
Schematics and gerber files are available to download. Boards are considered as DIY(do it yourself). There are no restrictions who and how these board will be manufactured and sold, any 3rd party is welcome to manufacture and sell them.
DE10 uses Linux for house-keeping duties such as loading data from the SD card. It may feel that Linux may take considerable time to boot, but it isn't the case. The version used by MiSTer has been optimized to only take a couple of seconds to boot. Most monitors and TV requires longer time to lock on the video video and start to display, so the result is that the MiSTer feels instant-on like original hardware back in the day.
Discussion about the project is here