Over the last few years, advances in semiconductor technology and RF design have enabled a plethora of high frequency test equipment that is affordable for the everyday engineer, hobbyist or student to purchase for personal use and/or learning. There is now a VNA available for close to $50 and signal generators, spectrum analyzers and oscilloscopes for a few hundred dollars. Below is a list complied of various high frequency test equipment including VNAs, Signal Analyzers, Spectrum Analyzers and Oscilloscopes for under $1,000, most under $500. Feel free to purchase one for your favorite engineer, science student or electronic hobbyist for the holidays and encourage people to explore the world of high frequency electronics.
AURSINC’s NanoVNA operates from 10 kHz to 1.5 GHz with V3.4. It covers HF, VHF, UHF, has an antenna analyzer measuring S-parameters, VSWR, Phase, Delay and Smith chart. The 50 kHz to 300 MHz frequency range of the si5351 direct output provides better than 70 dB dynamic range while the extended 300 to 900 MHz band provides better than 60 dB of dynamics, and the 900 MHz to 1.5 GHz band is better than 40 dB of dynamic range. Price is an amazing $60-70.
The miniVNA Tiny is a PC-based VNA that has many features and well suited for checking antennas and RF circuits for hams and commercial users. It is manufactured by Mini Radio Systems and operates from 1 MHz to 3 GHz in steps of ten Hz. The Z can range from 1 to 1,000 ohms and output power is -6 dBm @ 500 MHz. The dynamic range is up to 70 dB @ 500 MHz and it is powered via USB connection. Price is <$500.
The Pocket VNA is a USB powered that covers 500 kHz to 4 GHz with 80 dB dynamic range in the MHz region and 40 dB in the GHz region. It is a 2-port, bi-directional unit that has software available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android (alpha), Raspberry Pi and an open software API to access hardware with third-party software. Price is <$500.
Mini-Circuits teamed up with Vayyar Imaging to offer a DIY VNA kit for students. The UVNA-63 microwave transceiver kit includes everything students need to build a fully functioning vector network analyzer and bridge the gap between textbook theory in the classroom and practical, real-world measurement in the lab. The kit comes with the Vayyar transceiver that operates to 6 GHz and couplers, cables and tools to assemble the unit. Students can develop real-time S-Parameter measurement algorithms with Python or Matlab®. Although this was over our price range, we thought it is a nice educational kit to include, price <$3,000 (there is educational discounts of $500 to those that qualify).
ERASynth Micro is an open source signal generator that is very affordable. It can be powered from a USB port and features an LCD interface for standalone use without a computer or phone. It can generate low phase noise RF signals from 12.5 MHz to 6.4 GHz with a dual PLL architecture. It can generate signals from -50 to +15 dBm with phase noise of -115 dBc/Hz @ 1 GHz output (10 kHz offset) and switching time of 1 ms (typical). Price is about $250.
The SynthUSB3 thumb drive sized RF Signal Generator that operates from 12.5 MHz to 6.4 GHz in 0.01Hz steps. It can adjust calibrated amplitude 0.2 dB resolution up to +8 dBm and across more than 50 dB of range. Price is about $350.
Signal Hound’s VSG25A is a 100 MHz to 2.5 GHz vector signal generator with a 12-bit I/Q baseband arbitrary waveform generator which can be clocked at virtually any frequency from 54 kHz to 180 MHz, and includes a 4,096×16 bit pattern buffer for built-in or custom modulation. Output is -40 dBm to +10 dBm over the frequency range and pulse range from 6 ns to 25 ms width, 12 ns to 1 second period. Price is about $500 (6 GHz model is also available).
Aaronia’s BPSG generators provide RF signals for the testing of EMC-shielding and EMI/RFI measurements. They are available in four different versions covering frequency ranges from 23.5 MHz up to 6 GHz. They have a maximum power level of up to +18 dBm and a dynamic range of up to 63 dB, the BPSG series sets new standards for battery powered signal generators. Price starting at about $600.
AURSINC’s TinySA has MF/HF/VHF UHF Input for 0.1 to 350 MHz, UHF Input for 240 MHz to 960 MHz and signal generator with 2.8-inch Touch Screen Battery. The USB interface implements the Serial over USB (CDC) protocol and there is a large set of commands that can be invoked over the serial interface. Price is $90.
LATNEX SPA-6G is a Combo RF Explorer and Spectrum Analyzer. It is a portable Handheld Digital Ham-Radio-WiFi-Network-Sound-Audio-Signal Frequency Analyzer that covers 15 MHz to 2.7 GHz (3G Combo and WSUB1G) and 4.85 to 6.1 GHz (6G Combo). Price is $365.
The OSCIUM WiPry 2500x is a Wi-Fi Spectrum Analyzer for 2.4 & 5 GHz plus views all interference including ZigBee, Bluetooth, Baby Monitors, etc. It has support for Android, iOS, Mac, PC and can scan/troubleshoot Wi-Fi signals. Price is $650.
The Signal Hound USB-SA44B is a Software Defined Receiver optimized as a narrow-band real-time RF spectrum analyzer. It is compact, simple to use, and an effective troubleshooting tool for general lab use, engineering students, ham radio enthusiasts and electronics hobbyists. It operates from 9 kHz to 6 GHz and has a dynamic range of -151 dBm to +10 dBm with resolution bandwidths of 0.1 Hz to 250 kHz and 5 MHz. This was about the only spectrum analyzer we could find for about $1,000.
Rigol 1,000 Series include the B, D and E series oscilloscopes. The E Series are the value model with 50 or100 MHz models that include two channels and 1 Million points of memory. The D Series add low speed digital capture enabling basic mixed signal analysis in an economic package. The B Series provide more speed and power including their economic four channel, 200 MHz DS1204B model which provides 2 GS/s sampling. With features including FFTs, record and replay, roll mode, alternate trigger mode, and adjustable trigger sensitivity the 1,000 Series is an entry level scope. Price $260 and up.
OWON SDS1000 2 Channel Series are very economical digital oscilloscopes with bandwidth from 20 to 100 MHz, sample rates of 100 MS/s to 1 GS/s with 7” high resolution LCD including SCPI, and LabVIEW support. Price is $260 and up.
Hantek DSO4004C Series is a four Channel oscilloscope, with one Ch Arbitrary/function waveform generator, independent keys of oscilloscope and waveform generator with 80 to 250 MHz bandwidth, minimum measurement range 500μV /div,1 GS/s sample rate digital trigger system, high trigger sensitivity, low trigger jitter and high resolution 7-inch color TFT screen. Price is $279 and up.
Oscium has an interesting oscilloscope – the iMSO-204x transforms a smartphone or tablet into a mixed signal oscilloscope. It has two analog and four digital channels, 50 MSa/s sample rate and 5 MHz bandwidth. Price is $399.97.
Keysight Technologies InfiniiVision 1,000 X-Series Oscilloscopes are entry level instruments with 50 to 200 MHz bandwidth, 2 or 4 analog channels and up to 200,000 waveforms/sec update rate. They can make professional measurements, Bode plots (G models only), mask, test, math, FFT, analog bus, and protocol triggering/decode (all standard). Well suited for educators for easy set up in teaching labs with the free Educator’s Resource Kit. Price is $480 and up.
The Tektronix TBS1000C oscilloscope is designed for educational institutions, embedded designers and maker community. It includes a 7” WVGA color display with up to 1 GS/s sample rate, bandwidths from 50 MHz to 200 MHz and a five-year warranty. Its courseware system integrates lab exercises with step-by-step instructions for students. Price starts at $500.
Teledyne LeCroy T3DSO1000/1000A oscilloscopes feature two channel and four channel models. The 2 Channel model is available in 100, 200 or 350 MHz bandwidths, a single ADC with up to 2 GSa/s maximum sample rate, and up to 28 Mpts of sample memory. When all channels are enabled, each channel has sample rate of 500 MSa/s and a standard record length of seven Mpts. When only a single channel per ADC is active, the maximum sample rate is 1 GSa/s and the maximum record length is 14 Mpts. Price is $725 and up.
Rohde & Schwarz R&S®RTC1000 oscilloscopes have bandwidth of 50 MHz to 300 MHz, Max. sample rate of 2 GS/s, max. memory depth of two Msample, 8 digital channels (optional, retrofittable) and pattern generator of 4-bit patterns up to 50 Mbit/s. Price is $980 and up.
The GW Instek MDO-2000A has selectable bandwidth from 100 to 300 MHz. The sampling rate is 2 GS/s and the memory depth is 20M/Ch. Displays are available from 5.7” to 8” TFT LCD. It has per channel 20M memory depth and VPO waveform display technology. Price is about $1,000 and up.
SIGLENT SDS1000DL+ series is a dual-channel 50 MHz model. It includes a 30 kpts memory with its 7-inch TFT LCD screen. Along with a 500 MSa/s sampling rate, the SDS1000DL+ supports 32 parameters measurements and common mathematical operations to speed up complex / repetitive measurements. Price starts at $260 and up for broader bandwidths.
Let us know if you find any others that can be added to the list.