Design Con 2015

Best-in-Test 2014: RF/microwave

-November 27, 2013

Here are the finalists for EDN's Best-in-Test awards in the RF/µWave category. Please give them a review, then follow the links to vote or to return to the name Best-in-Test page to see finalists in other categories.

PXI Maestro Test System, Aeroflex


PXI Maestro is a automatic test system for use in wireless device manufacturing that lowers the cost of test and accelerates test development by adding the ability to test multiple devices in parallel. PXI Maestro adds significant capability to the proven PXI 3000 cellular and wireless test platform, and provides a production-ready test system with integrated chipset-specific device control.

The PXI Maestro can test up to eight devices in parallel in a single 19-in. chassis through its dual-channel Multi-UE architecture, which incorporates a multi-way active RF combiner module that supports connection of up to four devices to each channel.

PXI Maestro is optimized for speed regardless of whether implemented to test a single device or multiple devices in parallel. Efficient test system development minimizes equipment idle time both within and across measurement steps. PXI Maestro features a multi-threaded intelligent sequencer, which ensures that different tasks both within a measurement step and across a measurement sequence are overlapped or executed concurrently.


X-Series Signal Analyzers with Real-Time Spectrum Analysis, Agilent Technologies


Real-time spectrum analysis on Agilent’s X-Series signal analyzers delivers the industry’s best in multi-domain mode - probability of intercept (POI), analysis bandwidth, sensitivity, and frequency range. These features let system developers and signal analysts to see, capture, and understand highly elusive signals, whether known or unknown. The instruments are the industry’s first mainstream analyzers to be upgradable to real-time capabilities.

Industry-leading capabilities include:

  • 75dB spurious-free dynamic range across analysis bandwidths up to 160MHz provides deeper and wider measurements anywhere within a range of 50GHz
  • No need for a dedicated instrument: Adding real-time is an easy upgrade option for new and existing PXAs and MXAs
  • Detection of intermittent signals as short as 5ns with 100% POI—ideal for radar, electronic warfare and military communications
  • Sensitivity of -157dBm at 10GHz and variable resolution bandwidth within a measurement span to better resolve closely-spaced signals and identify intermittent low-level signals
  • Easy switching to traditional must-have measurements such as phase noise, noise figure and more
  • Integration with Agilent 89600 VSA software to thoroughly analyze complex signals


VectorStar MS4640B Vector Network Analyzer, Anritsu


The VectorStar MS4640B VNAs offer the widest frequency coverage of 70kHz to 20/40/50/70/110GHz with extensions to 1.1THz, as well as analysis tools for broadband measurements. It delivers industry-leading performance, including dynamic range of 109dB at 110GHz.

VectorStar features PulseView and a high-speed digitizer that create a digital architecture that captures pulse signals and makes S-parameter measurements. The result is 2.5ns resolution pulse measurements as well as long record lengths of up to a half second, compared to 25msec previously available. This lets engineers to see performance perturbations on the rising/trailing edges and within a pulse that have been missed by other systems.

VectorStar can cover frequencies from 70kHz to 110GHz, which eliminates uncertainties due to concatenation of low- and high-frequency data. It also performs time-domain analysis due to a hybrid bridge-coupler VNA architecture that minimizes DC extrapolation errors to ensure high-quality, low-frequency S-parameter data capture down to 70kHz. VectorStar features noise figure measurement leadership to 125GHz.

VectorStar’s 109dB dynamic range at 110GHz and ability to conduct high-sensitivity measurements with 0.1dB and 0.5° S21 stability over 24 hours allows engineers to conduct high accuracy measurements all day. VectorStar offers the smallest, lightest and easiest-to-position frequency extension modules that connect directly to wafer probes. DifferentialView enhances accuracy with TMS measurements—giving engineers greater confidence to achieve higher product specifications through testing.


ESR EMI Test Receiver, Rohde & Schwarz


The R&S ESR26 EMI test receiver covers the frequency range from 10Hz to 26.5GHz and performs conducted or radiated certification measurements in line with EN, CISPR, FCC, and military standards. Its broadband architecture lets the ESR26 perform standard-compliant disturbance measurements. EMI measurements that took hours in the past can now be completed in just seconds, saving valuable time. In addition, the instrument offers comprehensive diagnostic tools. The persistence mode lets users to clearly differentiate between pulse and continuous disturbances.

The ESR26 displays the probability of amplitudes occurring at specific frequencies using different colors, making it possible to detect disturbances that are hidden by broadband signals. The frequency-mask trigger responds to specific events within a disturbance spectrum. If the mask is violated, a trigger is activated, the measurement stopped, and the user can analyze the disturbance and its effect. Users can also verify existing results by means of the conventional stepped frequency scan. Plus, the instrument is a full-featured spectrum analyzer, providing analysis tools such as IF analysis and time-domain display. A number of options make the R&S ESR26 ideal for field use. These include a DC power supply with rechargeable battery pack, a solid state drive, and an optional ruggedized housing.


SMW200A Vector Signal Generator, Rohde & Schwarz


The SMW200A combines maximum flexibility, real-time generation, outstanding performance, and intuitive operation for testing digitally modulated signals. Its range of applications extends from single-path vector signal generator to multichannel MIMO receiver tester. It combines a baseband generator, RF generator, and MIMO fading simulator in a single instrument. The vector signal generator covers the frequencies up to 6GHz and features an internal I/Q modulation bandwidth of 160MHz. Use it to test components, modules, and complete products for wideband communications systems such as LTE-Advanced and WLAN IEEE 802.11ac. It also performs Envelope Tracking testing of power amplifiers for mobile devices.

The instrument can be equipped with an optional second RF path for frequencies up to 6GHz with a maximum of two baseband and four fading simulator modules. That forms two full-featured vector-signal generators for easy simulating fading scenarios such as 2x2 MIMO, 8x2 MIMO for TD-LTE and 2x2 MIMO for LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation. In addition, the R&S SGS100A signal generators can be connected as additional RF sources and controlled directly from the R&S SMW200A to achieve an integrated 4x4 MIMO receiver tests.

Available options for digital communications standards include LTE, LTE-Advanced, 3GPP FDD/HSPA/HSPA+, GSM/EDGE/EDGE Evolution, TD-SCDMA, CDMA2000/1xEV-DO and WLAN IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. These run directly on the R&S SMW200A without the need for an external PC.


AWG70000 Arbitrary Waveform Generator, Tektronix


As data rates and signal complexity increase across all electronics and RF segments, engineers and researchers need more advanced signal generators to stress new designs or to perform cutting-edge research. The ability to create, generate, or replicate either ideal, distorted, or "real-life" signals is essential in design, testing and operations of some of the world’s most complex data communications systems. The AWG70000A Series meets this need with an industry-leading combination of 50GS/s sample rate performance, 16GS of waveform memory and 10-bit vertical resolution. It produces fast, clean signals that can be routed through a receiver or other device under test for long periods of time for truly comprehensive testing.

Sample rate, dynamic range and waveform memory are key parameters for any AWG, and the AWG70000 excels at all three. The sample rate and waveform memory are unmatched by any AWG. High dynamic range is something that is normally only found in low sample rate AWG's, however, the AWG70000 provides as much as 80dBc of dynamic range. The AWG70000 Series helps accelerates designs and aid experimental research by enabling generation of advanced, previously impossible to generate, waveforms. By offering easy generation of very complex signals with complete control over signal characteristics, the AWG70000 offers an industry best solution for measurement challenges in the following applications—Defense Electronics, Optical, High-Speed Serial Data, and Advanced Research (see press release for specifics on each application area).


RSA5000 Real-time Spectrum Analyzer, Tektronix


The growth of digital RF across has led to the need for signal analyzers that capture the briefest of spectrum occurrences. The 26.5 GHz and 15 GHz RSA5000 Series Real-time Spectrum Analyzers meet these needs with a leading balance of high-end performance and mid-range pricing. While competitors are just starting to offer real-time spectrum analyzers, Tektronix is now in their 5th generation. The RSA5000 Series replaces conventional high-performance signal analyzers, offering the measurement confidence and functionality engineers demand for everyday tasks. A +17dBm TOI and –154dBm/Hz DANL at 2GHz provides the dynamic range needed for challenging spectrum analysis measurements. All analysis is fully preselected and image free.

The RSA5000 Series DPX spectrum display offers an intuitive live color view of signal transients changing over time in the frequency domain, giving immediate confidence in the stability of a design, or instantly displaying a fault when it occurs. Once a problem is discovered with DPX, the RSA5000 Series spectrum analyzers can be set to trigger on the event, capture a contiguous time record of changing RF events, and perform time-correlated analysis in all domains. You get the functionality of a high-performance spectrum analyzer, wideband vector signal analyzer, and the unique trigger-capture-analyze capability of a real-time spectrum analyzer, all in a single package.

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Voting closes December 31, 2013

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