Agilent delivers benchtop performance in field-service analyzers

-August 31, 2012

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Agilent’s Henri Komrij, and he brought along one of the new FieldFox analyzers for us to play with.  The goal with these new analyzers was to bring bench-top accuracy and multi-instrument functionality into the field for high-frequency communications testing, and do it all in an instrument that could be held one-handed and operated while wearing gloves.

Some of the applications you might want one of these little beauties for is to test cables in naval/submarine applications, radar installation and maintenance, and satellite ground stations. Specifically, they are well suited for cable and antenna analysis, interference detection, signal monitoring/verification, and transmitter/receiver tests. They also could be a great fit for education.

Yes, handhelds are great and we need them for field work, but what about getting field measurements to agree with those in the lab? To answer that, Agilent set out to design a unit that combined the high functionality and repeatability of a bench-top system with operation in the harshest conditions – including temperature swings and dust storms. (The units have gasketed outside panels to protect the instrument, are complaint with U.S. MIL-PRF-28800F Class 2 requirements, meets MIL-STD-810G Method 511.5 Procedure I requirements for operation in explosive environments, and come with a 3-year standard warranty.)

One thing that impressed me about these units is that they have no fans. I asked Henri how they dealt with the heat, and he said they implemented some serious power management techniques (if a feature isn’t ‘on’ it is ‘off’) as well as heat sinks.

As for portability, the units are designed for single-hand use, have a removable battery, and an adjustable display. To improve usability, the units are auto calibrated to the test ports, and include electronics standards chips to keep things on track. Another feature that struck me as impressive was the QuickCal feature, which can calibrate the FieldFox vector network analyzer (VNA) without a calibration kit and it can transfer the calibration to the end of a cable. Handy.

The FieldFox microwave analyzers are available with spectrum analyzer functionality. So, by adding an antenna you can find signals, mark, listen, and measure them. This is a great feature for detecting rogue signals. The unit can be set up to look for signals during a given period of time, and can detect and record them while unattended. The device can also perform channel power and occupied bandwidth measurements.

When in spectrum analyzer mode, the FieldFox offers +\- 0.5dB amplitude accuracy at power up using the Installign feature. When the unit is turned on, a measurement algorithm and chip constantly measure receiver and compare it to when it left the factory. Henri showed me an example where the FieldFox marker reading was -25.05dBm and the Agilent power meter reading was -25.04 dBm. Nice. The PowerSuite feature includes algorithms from Agilent’s bench-top equipment to make more accurate power measurements.

The new analyzers are available in three basic types: VNA, spectrum analyzer, or combination analyzer. Here’s a rundown of all the “instruments” one can find in a combination FieldFox microwave analyzer (a variety of different models exist across different frequency ranges, including combination analyzers):
  • Cable and antenna analyzer 30 kHz to 26.5GHz
  • Full 2-port vector network analyzer with time domain analysis, 30 kHz to 26.5GHz
  • Spectrum analyzer with full-band tracking generator, 100 kHz to 26.5GHz
  • Power meter, 5 kHz to 26.5GHz
  • GPS
  • Signal generator, 30 kHz to 26.5GHz
  • Vector voltmeter, 2-port, 30 kHz to 26.5GHz
  • Interference analyzer
  • Variable DC source and current monitor
  • Frequency counter

Here’s a list of some of the key specifications:
  • Can be configured as cable-and-antenna analyzers, spectrum analyzers, vector network analyzers, or all-in-one combination analyzers.
  • 6.6-pound (3.0-kg) package
  • Available in four frequencies: 9, 14, 18 or 26.5 GHz.
  • FieldFox microwave vector network analyzers provide full two-port S-parameter measurements with a trace noise of ± 0.004 dB and dynamic range of 94 dB (up to 18 GHz).
  • FieldFox microwave spectrum analyzers provide amplitude accuracy of ±0.5 dB at power-up, and detect signals in the band of interest with phase noise of -111 dBc/Hz at 10 kHz offset, and measure low-level signals in the presence of high-power transmitters with spur-free dynamic range of 105 dB.
In addition to the new FieldFox microwave analyzers, Agilent is also expanding its FieldFox RF analyzer line with two new combination analyzers: the N9913A (4 GHz) and the N9914A (6.5 GHz). These models expand Agilent’s RF lineup, which already includes the highly integrated N9912A RF analyzer (4 or 6 GHz) and the highly accurate N9923A RF vector network analyzer (4 or 6 GHz).
U.S. Pricing and Availability
The new models are available worldwide now. U.S. list prices for the microwave units start at $13,000 for the 9-GHz base model. Specific models and frequency ranges are as follows:
·         FieldFox microwave combination analyzers: N9915A (9 GHz), N9916A (14 GHz), N9917A (18 GHz) and N9918A (26.5 GHz).
·         FieldFox microwave vector network analyzers: N9925A (9 GHz), N9926A (14 GHz), N9927A (18 GHz) and N9928A (26.5 GHz).
·         FieldFox microwave spectrum analyzers: N9935A (9 GHz), N9936A (14 GHz), N9937A (18 GHz) and N9938A (26.5 GHz).
·         FieldFox RF combination analyzers: N9913A (4 GHz) and N9914A (6.5 GHz)

More Information
Product web page
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