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RoadTest the TEKTRONIX  RSA306B - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 7
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 8
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Demo was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 10
TotalScore: 55 / 60
  • RoadTest: RoadTest the TEKTRONIX RSA306B
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Independent Products
  • Application you used the part in: Field Review
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: Keysight FieldFox

  • Detailed Review:

    Before i begin, this is a early early review. This was just after about two hours of use, I know Tektronix was looking for a review so i wanted to get a initial review and keep updating this review quite periodically as i compare it to the Keysight Fieldfox.

     

    To begin, i would really like to thank Element14 & Tektronix for giving me the opportunity to review the RSA306B. I have spent quite a bit of timing using the network analyzers from leading manufacturers. My most basic experience is with the Keysight Fieldfox N9917A and use equipment up to 4 THz. I work in a terahertz research and use this equipment everyday and i also have taught classes on using this type of equipment.  For my road test I was going to compare it to various 67 GHz spectrum analyzers but came to the conclusion of why compare this to equipment that cost well over 10 times its cost, so I will be comparing the Tektronix RSA306B to the Fieldfox N9917A.


    From a initial stand view the Fieldfox is a all inclusive Network / Spectrum analyzer that operates from 30 KHz to 18 GHz. It is a fully portable system that works Okay for its intended use. But for the price of it (~$20,000 USD), it's going to be a great comparison for the Tektronix RSA306B.

     

    Whats included in the box? Well,The unit its self, a USB flash drive that contains all of the documents and software to install, a calibration certificate, and a USB 3.0 Cable. This all can be seen below. For me i really liked the fact that everything you needed as on a flash drive because written manuals are almost useless now adays when you can easily use the "Find" feature in a PDF reader to get to the exact point you need.

    IMG_3357[1].jpg

     

    Software Install

    The software I installed was the Tektronix SingalVU-PC i installed this on a few PCs to see how it runs.

    The first PC I installed it on was a Laptop (4 gig ram, 1.2 GHz dual core) and it ran really well, it installed in a couple minutes and had zero issues running it on. This PC was just to see how it would run on a 5 year old laptop and yet again it ran with no problem, The first issue i ran into here was that the Tektronix uses USB 3.0 and my laptop only had USB 2.0 and the Textronix would absolutely not run in USB 2.0 mode. I will talk about this later on.

     

    The second PC i installed this software on was my Personal desktop that i built a few months ago and use to run HFSS on. The PC has 64 Gig Ram and 6 Cores that run at 4.2 GHz and the software installed in less then 45 seconds and ran with no issues as expected. This PC has USB 3.0 ports and as soon as i connected the Tektronix it appeared on the SingalVu software almost immediately and worked really well and this was the PC i used to initially test it out. I did run into a issue of it randomly disconnecting and reconnecting right away, again I will talk about this issue a little later on.

     

    The third PC i installed it on was the lab PC (12 Cores, 128 gig ram) and it installed no issue and ran perfectly. The PC case has usb 3.0 ports but i could not get the RSA306B to connect to the PC, I did not build the PC so i don't know entirely the internals of the PC or if it was security that was keeping it from connecting but i could not get the Tektronix RSA306B to connect. I will investigate this more, I intended to use the PC in the Lab because all of the equipment is down there but will just bring the Fieldfox and Agilent arbitrary waveform generator to my office to further test this more.

     

    SingnalVU Software

    The software for this product was really nice, I can't say much about it because I've used this type of equipment and it only took me about 20 minutes to get familiar with the user interface and sorta learn my grounds with it. It'll be hard for me to really review this interface because across industry it is really similar, From moving from one product to this product it was really easy and anyone experienced in this field will think the same. They did do a great job with the layout and making it easy to navigate. I really like how easy it was to just go back to preset because it has a main button on the screen. My main issue with this software was the way it exported data. Since i was comparing the RSA306B with other equipment I am going to plot the data from both units on one plot. The SingnalVU exported the CSV file with about 130 lines of information and then only 1 column of the data. The CSV file did not contain the frequency points so for me to be able to plot it i had to go and manually add this to all the CSV files i exported. No matter what equipment I've used previously it always exports the data with both the frequency and gain. I will further look into this to see if there is a option for this. I have not checked the other file formats, but this was disappointing to see because it added an extra step into this when all other equipment and even simulation software exports both.

     

    Initial Test

    Since i had that issue with the LAB PC for this inital test i tested the RSA306B and Fieldfox with the a military spec voltage controlled oscillator (VCO). To begin with the RSA306B has a N-type connector so i had to use a N-type to SMA connector. This was the same with the Fieldfox as both can be seen below. The N-type to SMA connector and SMA cable are both rated for 18 GHz. So both of these are being tested under the same condition. The VCO was powered by a Agilent B2900A precision source.

    pictureeee.jpg

     

    Warm up time.

    All this RF equipment is thermally sensitive so i gave it about a 45 minute warm up time since i couldn't really find any information on it in the documents. While measuring the VCO with the RSA306b i noticed that it was still showing that it was warming up but i continued with measurements about a 90 minutes since start up it finally went away and it finally had warmed up so i started back from the beginning with all the measurements which i didn't mind because i just got the chance to get more familiar with it. From a practical stand point it felt like quite a bit of time for reference the Fieldfox only needs about 15 minutes.

     

    Noise Floor.

    To just start i began by testing the noise floor of the RSA306B and compared it to the Fieldfox. The lower the noise floor the better the spectrum analyzer is. On high end equipment you can get ~ -180 dB noise floor and a noise floor of - 120 dB is considered good enough. Looking below you can see the noise floor for both the RSA306B and Fieldfox. The noise floor of the RSA306B was about -95 dB and had rather large spikes across the entire bandwidth that was measured. The Fieldfox had a rather smooth noise floor but was only around - 97 dB across the entire bandwidth (Note: the Fieldfox can be pushed to ~ -110 dB but I kept the resolution bandwidth high to measure, it becomes way to slow when you push the noise floor down to -110 dB). Both had slightly poor noise floor and would not be practical for any application that needed meet significant specification but I'm sure this was not the intent of the RSA306B. When i compare this to the Fieldfox mind you a device that costs 5 times as much as this, I think the RSA306B is a great competitor and when the RSA306B is pushed to its lowest resolution bandwidth it still updated really fast when compared to the Fieldfox.

    noise_floor_comparision.jpg

     

    VOC Test

    The VOC have a center frequency of 2.256 GHz with a tolerance of .01%. The VOC's control pin was shorted to ground to just test at the center frequency. The Fieldfox measured a peak at 2.2557 GHz and the RSA306B showed 2.259 GHz. Again we see that RSA306B has great comparison to the Fieldfox. There was only a 0.15% difference in accuracy in measurement. But the one thing the RSA306B still maintains the spikes outside of the center frequency  (same ones that appear in the noise floor) and this is one thing that

     

    VOC_comparision.jpg

    VOC_2_comparison.jpg

     

    Initial Thoughts- (Like i said its a quick review! I will keep updating this. Please don't think this is the final review)

    Until i update this is what I have gathered.

     

    1) The SingalVu software works really nicely and works great with the RSA306B. For the time i used it i did get this weird occurrence of it disconnecting and reconnecting. I did have the USB3.0 screwed into the RSA306B and my PC never showed it disconnecting from the USB port just the software showed that.

    2) The SingalVu should really output the frequency with the data so people can plot it easier.

    3) The filtering in this system should really improved having a noise floor of only -95 dB is kind of low.

     

    The main question I'm hoping to answer with further testing is, What is this good for?

    I know this seems redundant but i don't entirely know what to think of this and what Tektronixs hope for this is. With a noise floor of -95 dB its not good enough for practical applications. Are they hoping to get into hobby level, but that raises the question of a price tag of $3800 to much for hobby level. This showed great comparison against equipment that is significantly more expensive but the Fieldfox is a full fledged 2 Port Network and Spectrum analyzer and is all self contained and not needed to be tethered to a PC. I will be testing the Fieldfox and RSA306B with the Agilent arbitrary waveform generator and hope to find the what the RSA306B is useful for or where it really shows its advantages. As of right now i find this as a great toy for a hobbyist but don't see the practical use behind it.


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