The market and range of applications for the vector network analyzer (VNA) have simply exploded in recent years and continue to do so. Growth is not simply driven by the proliferation of microwave, gigabit and wireless signals in our lives, but also in penetrating and short-range radar imaging and proximity detection in secure spaces, and in dielectric materials, tissues and composites. The vector network analyzer sits behind our data flow, communications, food, healthcare, defence, civil infrastructure, robotics and automation.

The breadth of roles places heavy and varied demands on the VNA so inevitably, following the release three years ago of the popular PicoVNA106 6 GHz instrument, the cries of "more is better" began to ring out: "more frequency range," "more port power and dynamic range," "make it faster," and "load it with more functionality!"

On all of these, the newly announced PicoVNA 108, in the same low-cost, small-footprint and portable format, does not disappoint. The PicoVNA 108 can see out further to 8.5 GHz, and it can see down deeper to –124 dB. It provides new "save on trigger" synchronization for multiple measurements, for example with changing conditions or multiplexed measurement routings. This, added to the convenience of integrated bias-Ts, speeds batch test and device characterizations. We have also added offset frequency capability to the Quad RX four-receiver architecture, and synchronization and control of the PicoSource AS108 8 GHz agile synthesizer from within the PicoVNA 3 software. This instrument partnership allows RF mixer and RF/IF system characterizations using the PicoVNA 108. Other popular third-party signal generators are also supported.

Before we announce the amazingly low price of the PicoVNA 108, let's dispel any thought that the PicoVNAs are based upon anything other than a full-function, professional-grade and widely respected, UK-designed measurement engine. For only £5795, the PicoVNA 108 can deliver all four S-parameters in as little as 190 µs, with high dynamic range and accuracy. The PicoVNA 106 is £4205. At these prices the PicoVNAs achieve substantial cost saving for the professional user and are affordable to small and start-up businesses, volume users in the classroom and even some amateur users. Price is comparable with traditionally lower-cost single-port reflectometers and even scalar network analyzers of similar bandwidth. 

Many readers will be aware that calibration standards and interconnects can both dominate measurement errors in network analysis, Pico supports both PicoVNA models with low-cost but equally impressive SMA and PC3.5 calibration standards and test leads, all with precision-machined stainless steel connectors. PicoVNA software supports 8- or 12-term calibration, including the "unknown thru" method. Unwanted measurement contributions from feedlines or test jigs can be eliminated using manual or auto-sensed reference plane shift, normalization or de-embedded Touchstone, taken from either measurement or EM simulation. Fast Fourier time-domain transformation and impedance transformation are both included as standard.  TDT/TDR plots have a system rise time down to 58 ps and these support resistance and distance to fault readout out to over 100 meters.