Think handheld instrument and you might envision a 3½-digit display and a large knob you can manipulate while wearing heavy-duty work gloves. But portable instruments making news recently are sporting impressive graphical user interfaces—if they embody a user interface at all. Instruments with user interfaces include the R&S Cable Rider ZPH cable and antenna analyzer, which includes a color touchscreen with familiar smartphone-like operation. Users can place markers simply by double-tapping signals on the display. The analyzer also can be operated via the extra-large, widely spaced keys that allow easy handling even when the user wears gloves.

Instruments without user interfaces include USB models that rely on a PC or tablet to provide the GUI, and the architecture has received considerable interest this year. Copper Mountain Technologies, Pico Technology, and Tektronix have all recently introduced USB vector network analyzers. Jon Spurlock, Tektronix product marketing manager, said his company entered the market to help meet “the desire for wireless everywhere,” with 50 billion devices expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020. Elsewhere in this issue (page 24), Dylan Stinson, an RF product manager at Tektronix, offers a tutorial on VNA basics and their applicability to IoT device test.




The TTR500 Series full two-port, two-path S-parameter vector network analyzers can serve applications such as measuring passive/active components, antennas, matching networks, RF modules, test cables, and adapters. Specifications include a 100-kHz to 6-GHz frequency range, 122-dB dynamic range, less than 0.008-dB trace noise, and output power of -50 to +7 dBm, all in a compact package weighing 3.5 pounds.

The instruments include advanced features like the new VectorVu-PC analysis software, which presents a traditional look and feel for controlling and calibrating the instrument with a point-and-click interface. For automated test systems in design or manufacturing, the software includes programmatic support for SCPI commands such as command compatibility with common legacy VNAs for integration into existing test systems. In addition, the software offers an offline mode for data analysis with an output file format compatible with common EDA simulation tools.

The instrument also comes with a built-in bias tee for testing active devices. Accessible on both ports, the bias tee allows devices such as amplifiers to be DC-biased, making it unnecessary for users to contend with an external bias tee or pay a premium for an instrument with an optional internal bias tee. Tektronix



Four-receiver-architecture VNA

The PicoVNA 106 USB-controlled vector network analyzer boasts a full-function, minimal-error, “Quad RX” four-receiver architecture that supports both eight- and 12-term calibration without the uncorrectable switching errors, delays, and unreliability of traditional three-receiver designs. The instrument supports calibration methods such as “enhanced isolation correction” and “unknown thru,” the vendor reports.

The PicoVNA 106 has dynamic range of up to 118 dB at 10 Hz and 0.005-dB rms trace noise at its maximum bandwidth of 140 kHz. It can gather all four S-parameters at 190 μs per frequency point. The instrument is suitable for classrooms, small businesses, and amateur workshops, yet it is able to meet the needs of the microwave laboratory and expert. The vendor includes bias-tees for the convenient injection of a bias or test stimulus.

The PicoVNA 106’s small size, weight, and high performance suit it to field-service, installation, embedded, and training applications. Its remote automation interface suits it to test automation, perhaps as a reflectometry or transmission measurement core for embedded roles. It can serve broadband-interconnect, cable-and-harnesses, antenna, component, subsystem, and assembly test applications; test environments span manufacturing to installation. Pico Technology



One-port VNA

The R180 is a new one-port VNA addition to the vendor’s lineup of products. The entire lineup gives the user lab-grade performance in handheld devices. The R180 VNA (cable and antenna analyzer) features a frequency range from 1 MHz to 18 GHz and, the company says, is the first 18 GHz one-port VNA that can connect directly to a DUT, improving measurement accuracy by eliminating the limitation of test cables. The VNA can be controlled and powered through a USB-C port or an external 5-VDC power supply. The unit delivers accurate results in a variety of measurement formats, including time-domain measurement. Copper Mountain Technologies



Three-phase power-quality analyzer

The MPQ1000 three-phase power-quality analyzer is an IEC 61000-4-30 Class A CAT IV, 600-V instrument that can be used for a variety of applications including substation monitoring, equipment and breaker tripping, load studies, and load balancing. The intuitive, ergonomic platform offers both scope and DVM modes and can record power, energy, rms, sags, swells, and transients down to 1 μs. It can measure harmonic direction, THD, TDD, flicker, unbalance, rapid voltage change, mains signaling, and phase-angle deviation, and it performs waveform analysis to the 128th harmonic in real time.

Data gathered during testing can be recorded with the MPQ1000 record verification by pushing a button. The MPQ1000 features onboard data analysis. An SD card can expand memory. All data recorded can be viewed on the unit’s color VGA display or transferred to Megger’s power quality analysis software via USB cable, USB stick, Ethernet, or directly from the SD card. The MPQ1000 unit also features flexible current clamps that have four selectable ranges from 0 to 6,000 A. Megger



Cable and antenna analyzer

The handheld R&S Cable Rider ZPH cable and antenna analyzer helps infrastructure manufacturers and network operators efficiently install and maintain the steadily increasing number of mobile communications antenna systems. With a measurement speed of 0.3 ms per data point, it features a fast boot and warm-up time, allowing users to start taking fast measurements just over a minute after switching it on. Moreover, there is no requirement for calibration due to temperature and frequency changes.

A wizard function guides users through measurements in easy-to-follow steps. The wizard helps inexperienced field technicians avoid operating mistakes when performing antenna and cable measurements. Since there is no need to change settings manually for different measurements, the analyzer reduces test time during installation and maintenance.

The instrument weighs 2.5 kg and offers a battery life of nine hours. The R&S Cable Rider ZPH base unit covers a frequency range from 2 MHz to 3 GHz. Extending the frequency range to 4 GHz is straightforward with the R&S ZPH-B4 option, which is enabled via a key code. Rohde & Schwarz



Tactical radio tester

The recently upgraded CTS-6000 Tactical Radio Series communications test set can test both analog and digital functions of the most widely deployed military tactical radios. The CTS-6000 for field and at-platform testing reduces testing time and cost, maintenance and calibration costs, lifecycle ownership costs, and the number of “no fault found” results. The vendor calls it “essentially an entire lab bench in a tablet-sized device,” enabling users to employ more than 16 included software-driven test instruments to test tactical handsets, amplifiers, antennae, and any other component of a radio system.

The recent upgrade adds five new test functions: error vector magnitude, wideband streaming transmit and receive, real-time RF burst trigger, power analyzer, and nonvolatile memory reader and avionics data loader. Astronics Test Systems



OBSAI analysis software

OBSAI (Open Base Station Architecture Initiative) RF Analyzer software can be integrated into the BTS Master MT8220T (pictured), MT8221B, and MT8222B models; Site Master S3xxE analyzers; Spectrum Master MS2712E and MS2713E handheld spectrum analyzers; and Cell Master MT821xE instruments. With the software installed in the handheld analyzers, wireless carrier engineers, technicians, and contractors responsible for solving interference and PIM issues can identify interference sources on the radio uplink from the ground, thereby lowering operational expense by reducing the use of tower-climbing crews.

The new OBSAI Analyzer allows users to conduct RF-based measurements over a fiber-optic link to locate interference affecting an RF module (RFM) by tapping into the fiber link between the RFM and baseband module. The Anritsu handheld instruments will decode the OBSAI protocol IQ data and convert it to RF data. The solution supports all OBSAI Link Rates, including Line Rate 8x (6.144 Gb/s). With the software installed, the analyzers support 5-MHz, 10-MHz, 15-MHz, and 20-MHz RP3 bandwidths. The company also announced an update to its CPRI (common public radio interface) RF Analyzer software. Anritsu



Armament test set

Recently exhibited at the 2017 International Paris Air Show, the MTS-3060 SmartCan universal O-Level armament test set is capable of testing both legacy and “smart” (MIL-STD-1760-based) weapons systems. The SmartCan supports multiple aircraft and armament systems in a single handheld, battery-operated unit, allowing maintainers to benefit from a common test set for multiple platforms and armament systems. The vendor says the MTS-3060 is deployed in 10 countries on multiple platforms and used by the U.S. Air Force as a smart weapon simulator for JDAM and AMRAAM. Marvin Test Solutions



Handheld thermometer

The OS758LS handheld dual-laser infrared thermometer delivers reliable noncontact measurement for instant troubleshooting. It measures temperatures up to 1,600°C (2,912°F) with adjustable emissivity for accurate results. The high 60:1 distance-to-spot ratio allows precise measurements from a safe distance. Applications include HVAC system testing, equipment and electrical maintenance, automotive diagnostics, and production-line monitoring. The rugged design is suitable for industrial use. Detailed data can be downloaded and saved. Pricing starts at $510. OMEGA Engineering

Home Product Focus Portable units sport impressive GUIs, or lack them altogether
Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here