Review: Rohde & Schwarz FPH spectrum analyzer

-December 07, 2015

Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) recently released their new affordable handheld spectrum analyzer, the model FPH “Spectrum Rider”.  The basic unit tunes from 5 kHz to 2 GHz, but may be user upgraded to a top end of 3 or 4 GHz as budgets or analysis needs change. The review unit tuned from 5 kHz to 4 GHz. This article is a review of this new analyzer.


While termed "handheld", the unit is more than a handful (Figure 1). While it matches the form factor of many of its competitors, such as Keysight and Anritsu, it still weighs in at a hefty 5.5 pounds. The hand strap on the side does help steady it using a single hand, but I’d not want to carry it one-handed for very long. R&S does provide an optional neck strap and carry case that will support it at a usable angle. The side handle is also convenient for carrying. There’s also a handy rear foldout support that’s a bit finicky to unsnap as there’s little to grasp, but once deployed, props up the unit safely. Underneath the support leg, you’ll find the replaceable lithum-ion battery and micro SD card slot for storing data and screen shots. The plastic enclosure is covered with a rubberized protective boot. There are no vents or fans and all ports are covered with rubberized plugs, so the instrument is rated to MIL-PRF-28800F class 2 and against dust and drip water (rain, typically) to the IP51 spec. Boot-up time is about 17 seconds. For more information on specifications, click on the link in the References section.

The color touch screen is impressively clear and sharp and is easily readable in direct sunlight. It includes gesture control, so the frequency, span, reference level and markers may all be controlled by finger control (either scrolling or two-finger pinching, etc.).

Figure 1 – The Rohde & Schwarz model FPH handheld spectrum analyzer with collapsible stand deployed.


The primary controls: Frequency, Bandwidth, Sweep, Trace, and Measure, and Marker are located above the numeric keypad, with Span and Amplitude going down the left side. Above that are the system keys: Preset, Setup, Mode, Lines, Save/Recall, and Screen Capture – which I love, by the way. You can configure the file name text in Settings, and then each press of the Screen Capture button auto-increments the count. Files are saved in JPEG or PNG format.

Figure 2 – Front panel showing the major controls.

Setting the frequency limits is easy. You can either set Center/Span or Upper/Lower limits. For communications purposes, there’s a way to enter the channel uplink or downlink. The Frequency Offset control allows shifting of the displayed spectrum in 1 Hz increments. The Bandwidth button allows control of a manual or auto BW setting. RBWs can be set from 3 Hz to 3 MHz in a 1/3/10 sequence. In like manner, sweep time may be set manually or set to auto. Setting can run from 20 ms to 1000 seconds. The Scroll wheel has a center push button the serves as an “Enter” control.

Figure 3 – The top panel showing the various ports; Input, Trigger/Ref In, Headphones, and two USB.

The top panel (Figure 3) includes the Input port, External Trigger/External Reference Input, headphone jack, and a couple USB ports. The left side panel includes the battery charger connector and a security slot. The right side panel includes an Ethernet and USB port. The instrument may be controlled remotely using either the Ethernet or USB ports through standard SCPI or VISA control. All ports include rubberized covers for weather protection.

Figure 4 - The Rohde & Schwarz model FPH handheld spectrum analyzer probing an embedded controller board using a Rohde & Schwarz RS H 50-1 near field probe.

The Trace control allows setting of Clear/Write, Max Hold, Min Hold, and Average. It also controls the detector modes: Auto Peak, Max Peak, Min Peak, Sample, and RMS. This is also where you would enable the second trace and save to memory 1 or 2. There are also some trace math functions.

Figure 5 – A plot showing the harmonic content from a ST Microelectronic STM32f4 Discovery embedded processor from Figure 1. Note the marker located at the peak clock frequency of 269 MHz. The display was placed into Max Hold and we’re looking from 30 to 1000 MHz.

The Marker control allows finding the peak signal (New Marker), which is immediately connected to the scroll wheel. There are six markers available with associated delta frequency and amplitude readouts in the upper display. In addition, setting a marker on a specific signal and then pressing Marker Function, reveals demodulation settings for AM and FM. I love the fact the marker label (“M1”) is located off the trace. There is an oddity, though. I suppose in order to preserve display real estate, R&S has chosen to use the entire left-hand portion of the screen to display the trace. The issue is that the trace obscures the vertical scale. My preference would be to sacrifice part of the screen and go with the convention other analyzers use, by keeping the vertical scale information clear of trace data.

Span allows setting of manual, full, zero, or last span. The Amplitude control will set the reference level, range/reference position, vertical units (dBm, dBmV, dBuV, or W. With the appropriate transducer, additional units of dBuV/m, dBuA/m, V/m, and W/m^2 are available. The Att/Amp/Imp soft key allows setting of RF attenuation (0 to 40 dB), input impedance (50 or 75 Ohms).

You can attenuate the signal to a suitable level either manually or automatically. In the "automatic attenuation" mode, the level of attenuation at the RF input depends on the current reference level. The R&S Spectrum Rider provides two ways of automatic attenuation. For the highest possible sensitivity, it provides the "Auto Low Noise" attenuation mode.

For the lowest possible intermodulation, it provides the "Auto Low Distortion" mode. The main difference between the two modes is that the attenuation level is 5 to 10 dB higher in case of "Auto Low Distortion" than it is for "Auto Low Noise". In the default state, "Auto Low Distortion" is active.

The Transducer soft key will bring up a variety of R&S antennas and power sensors. This automatically adds the transducer factors, which is pretty cool. For example, you can enter the antenna factors for a given antenna and the display will read out directly in dBuV/m. Up to 1000 data points may be entered and stored. These data sets may only be created or edited using the supplied R&S Instrument View software.

Next: Measurements

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