PicoVNA 6 GHz Vector Network Analyzer

PicoVNA 6 GHz Vector Network Analyzer





High performance, portability and low cost

  • 300 kHz to 6 GHz operation
  • High speed of > 5500 dual-port s-parameters per second
  • > 10000 S11 + S21 per second
  • ‘Quad RX’ four-receiver architecture for optimal accuracy
  • 118 dB dynamic range at 10 Hz bandwidth
  • 0.005 dB RMS trace noise at bandwidth of 140 kHz
  • Compact half-rack, lightweight package 
  • PC-controlled over USB from a Microsoft Windows interface
  • Reference plane offsetting and de-embedding
  • Time domain and port impedance transformations
  • Tabular and graphic print and save formats, including Touchstone
  • P1dB, AM to PM, and stand-alone signal generator utilities
  • Fully accessible, guided 8 and 12-term calibration processes
  • 6 calibration modes, including unknown through and connected DUT isolation
  • Calibration and check standards with data for confident measurements

Making vector network analysis accessible

Today’s microwave measuring instruments need to be straightforward, accurate, portable and affordable. No longer restricted to specialists, they are now used by scientists, educators, surveyors, inspectors, engineers and technicians in radio and gigabit data applications. Now Pico Technology has applied its expertise in microwave sampling oscilloscopes and time domain transmission and reflectometry to bring you a USB vector network analyzer.

The PicoVNA 106 is a professional USB-controlled, laboratory grade vector network instrument of unprecedented performance, portability and affordability. Despite its small size and low cost, the instrument boasts a ‘Quad RX’ four-receiver architecture to eliminate the uncorrectable errors, delays and fragility of three-receiver designs with internal transfer switches. 

The PicoVNA 106 offers exceptional dynamic range of 118 dB and only 0.005 dB RMS trace noise at its maximum operating bandwidth of 140 kHz. It can also gather all four s-parameters at every frequency point in just 190 µs; in other words a 500 point 2-port .s2p Touchstone file in less than one tenth of a second. The cost is so low that the PicoVNA 106 could even be used as a cost-effective high-dynamic-range scalar network analyzer! It’s affordable in the classroom, small business and even amateur workshop, yet capable in the microwave expert’s laboratory.

Vector network analysis everywhere

With all these advantages, the PicoVNA 106 is ideal for field service, installation test and classroom applications. Its remote automation interface extends its use to applications such as:

  • Test automation or the OEM needing to integrate a reflectometry or transmission measurement core, in:
    • Electronics component, assembly and system, and interface/interconnect ATE (cable, PCB and wireless)
    • Material, geological, life-science and food science tissue imaging or penetrating scan and radar applications
  • Inspection, test, characterization or calibration in the manufacture, distribution and service center industries
  • Broadband cable and harness test at manufacture, installation and fault over life
  • Antenna matching and tuning

‘Quad RX’ four-receiver architecture

In a VNA a swept sine-wave signal source is used to sequentially stimulate the ports of the interconnect or device under test. The amplitude and phase of the resultant transmitted and reflected signals appearing at both VNA ports are then received and measured. To wholly characterize a 2-port device under test (DUT), six pairs of measurements need to be made: the amplitude and phase of the signal that was emitted from both ports, and the amplitude and phase of the signal that was received at both ports for each source. In practice this can be achieved with a reasonable degree of accuracy with a single source, a transfer switch and two receivers; the latter inputs being switched through a further pair of transfer switches. Alternatively three receivers can be used with an additional input transfer switch or, as in the PicoVNA, four receivers can be used. Using four receivers eliminates the receiver input transfer switch errors (chiefly leakage and crosstalk) that cannot be corrected. These residual errors are always present in two- and three-receiver architectures and lead to lower accuracy than that of the Quad RX design.

Support for 8 and 12-term calibration and the unknown thru

Almost all vector network analyzers are calibrated for twelve error sources (six for each signal direction). This is the so-called 12-term calibration, which experienced VNA users are used to performing fairly regularly. In a four-receiver design some error sources are so reduced that 8-term calibration becomes possible, along with an important and efficient calibration technique known as the unknown thru. This gives the ability to use any thru interconnect (including the DUT) during the calibration process, vastly simplifying the procedure and reducing the number of costly calibration standards that need to be maintained.

Advanced vector network analyser users will be pleased to know that internal a-wave and b-wave data is made available for export under a diagnostic facility.  Amongst others, Transfer switch error terms can therefore be derived.

Bias-Ts

Bias-Ts are often not provided, or available as costly extras, on other VNAs. Use the PicoVNA 106’s built-in bias-Ts to provide a DC bias or test stimulus to active devices without the complexity and cost of external DC-blocks. The bias is supplied from external power supplies or test sources routed to the SMB connectors adjacent to each VNA port.

Test cables and calibration standards

A range of RF and Microwave accessories are available from Pico Technology. Test cables and calibration standards have particular significance to the overall performance of a VNA, so we recommend that you select your accessories carefully. Cables and standards are often the weakest links in a VNA measurement, generally contributing significantly to measurement uncertainty despite their high cost. At the lowest levels of uncertainty, costs can be significant and measurements can be compromised by seemingly quite minor damage or wear. For these reasons, many customers hold both premium-grade items for calibration, reference or measurement standards, and standard-grade items as working or transfer standards and cables. Pico Technology can now offer cost-effective solutions in both grades.

The PicoVNA 106 may also be used with third-party calibration kits, such as the Keysight/Agilent 85032F, that are characterized by polynomial coefficient models either in written form or as a text file.

Phase- and amplitude-stable test leads

Two test cable types and grades are recommended and provided by Pico Technology. Both of high quality, with robust and flexible construction and stainless steel connectors, the main difference between them is the stability of their propagation velocity and loss characteristic when flexed; that is, the degree to which a measurement could change when the cables are moved or formed to a new position. Cables are specified in terms of flatness and phase variation at up to 6 GHz when a straight cable is formed as one 360° turn around a 10 cm mandrel. 

Dynamic range

The PicoVNA 106 delivers an exceptional dynamic range of 118 dB at 10 Hz and only 0.005 dB RMS trace noise at its maximum operating bandwidth of 140 kHz. It can also gather all four S-parameters at each frequency point in just 182 µs or S11 + S21 in 95 µs. In other words, a 201 point 2-port .s2p Touchstone file in less than 37 ms or up to two .s1p files in less than 19 ms.

PicoVNA 106 specifications

Receiver characteristics
ParameterValueConditions
Measurement bandwidth140 kHz, 70 kHz, 35 kHz, 15 kHz, 10 kHz, 5 kHz, 1 kHz, 500 Hz, 100 Hz, 50 Hz, 10 Hz 
Average displayed noise floor
Band (MHz)
0.3 – 10
10 – 4000
> 4000
Typical (dB)
–110
–118
–110
Max. (dB)
–100
–108
–100
Relative to the test signal level set to maximum power after an S21 calibration.
Ports terminated as during the isolation calibration step.
Dynamic rangeSee dynamic range in the product features10 Hz bandwidth
Maximum (+6 dBm) test power
No averaging
 
Temperature stability, typical0.02 dB/ °C for F < 4 GHz
0.04 dB/ °C for F ≥ 4 GHz
Measured after an S21 calibration
Trace noise, dB RMS
Bandwidth
10 kHz
70 kHz
140 kHz
Typical
0.0008 dB
0.003 dB
0.005 dB
Max.
0.002 dB
0.005 dB
0.01 dB
201-point sweep covering 1 MHz to 6 GHz.
Test power set to 0 dBm.
Measurement uncertaintySee table belowTest level of –3 dBm
No averaging
Bandwidth 10 Hz
Ambient temperature equal to the calibration temperature.
A 12 error term calibration is assumed carried out with a good quality 3.5 mm calibration kit capable of achieving the performance specified.
Spurious responses–76 dBc typical, –70 dBc max.The main spurious response occurs at close to (2 x RF + 1.3) MHz, where RF is the test frequency in MHz. For example, when testing a bandpass filter with a centre frequency of, say 1900 MHz, an unwanted response will occur around 949.35 MHz. There may also be spurious responses close to (3 x RF + 2.6) MHz. In all known cases the levels will be as stated.
Measurement uncertainty – value
PC3.5 test port interfaces
Reflection measurementsTransmission measurements
Freq. rangeMagnitudePhaseFreq. rangeMagnitudePhase
–15 dB to 0 dB+0 dBm to +6 dBm
< 2 MHz0.7 dB< 2 MHz0.4 dB
> 2 MHz0.5 dB> 2 MHz0.2 dB
–25 dB to –15 dB –40 dB to 0 dB
< 2 MHz0.8 dB10°< 2 MHz0.2 dB
> 2 MHz1.0 dB> 2 MHz0.1 dB
–30 dB to –25 dB –60 dB to –40 dB
< 2 MHz3.0 dB20°< 2 MHz0.5 dB
> 2 MHz2.5 dB15°> 2 MHz0.3 dB
    –80 dB to –60 dB
   < 2 MHz2.0 dB15°
   > 2 MHz1.5 dB12°
SMA test port interfaces
–15 dB to 0 dB+0 dBm to +6 dBm
< 2 MHz0.99 dB11.3°< 2 MHz0.57 dB8.5°
> 2 MHz0.71 dB5.7°> 2 MHz0.28 dB2.8°
–25 dB to –15 dB –40 dB to 0 dB
< 2 MHz1.13 dB14.1°< 2 MHz0.42 dB2.8°
> 2 MHz1.41 dB8.5°> 2 MHz0.14 dB1.4°
–30 dB to –25 dB –60 dB to –40 dB
< 2 MHz4.24 dB28.3°< 2 MHz0.71 dB11.3°
> 2 MHz3.54 dB21.2°> 2 MHz0.42 dB5.7°
    –80 dB to –60 dB
   < 2 MHz2.83 dB21.2°
   > 2 MHz2.12 dB17°
Test port characteristics
Load match
Uncorrected:
Corrected:
16 dB, typical
46 dB, typical
40 dB, min
 
Source match
Uncorrected:
Corrected:
16 dB, typical
46 dB, typical
40 dB, min
 
Directivity
Corrected:47 dB, typical
40 dB, min
 
Crosstalk
Band
< 2 MHz
2 MHz – 4 GHz
4 GHz – 6 GHz
Typical
–100
–110
–100
Max
–90
–90
–90
10 Hz bandwidth
Maximum (+6 dBm) test power
No averaging
Maximum input level+10 dBm, typ1 dB compression
Maximum input level+23 dBmNo damage
Impedance50 Ω 
ConnectorsType N, female 
Bias-T input characteristics
Maximum current250 mA 
Maximum DC voltage±15 V 
Current protectionBuilt-in resettable fuse 
DC port connectorsSMB(m) 
Sweep I/O characteristics
Sweep trigger output voltageLow: 0 V to 0.8 V
High: 2.2 V to 3.6 V
 
Sweep trigger input voltageLow: –0.1 V to 1 V
High: 2.0 V to 4 V
 
Sweep trigger input voltage±6 VNo damage
Sweep trigger in/out connectorsBNC female on back panel 
Measuring functions
Measuring parametersS11, S21, S22, S12
P1dB, 1 dB gain compression
AM-PM conversion factor
 
Error correction12 error term full S-parameter correction (insertable DUT)
12 error term full S-parameter correction (non-insertable DUT)
8 error term full S-parameter unknown thru correction (non-insertable DUT)
S11 (1-port correction)
De-embed (2 embedding networks may be specified), impedance conversion
S21 (normalize, normalize + isolation)
S21 (source match correction + normalize + isolation)
Averaging, smoothing
Hanning and Kaiser–Bessel filtering on time-domain measurements
Electrical length compensation (manual)
Electrical length compensation (auto)
Effective dielectric constant correction
 
Display channels4 channels 
Traces2 traces per display channel 
Display formatsAmplitude (logarithmic and linear)
Phase, Group Delay, VSWR, Real, Imaginary, Smith Chart, Polar, Time Domain
 
Memory traceOne per display channel 
Limit lines6 segments per channel (overlap allowed) 
Markers8 markers 
Marker functionsNormal, Δ marker, fixed marker, peak / min. hold, 3 dB and 6 dB bandwidth 
Sweep functions
Sweep typeLinear sweep
CW sweep (timed sweep)
Power sweep (P1dB utility)
 
Sweep times
BandwidthS11, S21, S11+S21 calibrationFull 12 or 8 term calibration
140 kHz19 ms37 ms
10 kHz37 ms72 ms
1 kHz0.21 s0.42 s
100 Hz1.94 s3.87 s
10 Hz19.2 s38.4 s
LF Adder (For each low frequency point <2.5 MHz)1.25 ms/pt2.5 ms/pt

10 MHz to 6 GHz, 201-point trace length. For other lengths and bandwidths, sweep time is approximately:
TSWP (s)= N x (TMIN + FBW / RBW) + TARM
where N = number of frequency points,
TMIN (s)= minimum time per point (s2p: 167 μs; s1p: 85 μs),
FBW = bandwidth settle factor (s2p: 1.91; s1p: 0.956),
RBW = resolution bandwidth (Hz).
For sweep repetition period add software rearm time TARM = average 6.5 ms or worse case 50 ms. For markers on, increase TARM by 39 ms.

Number of sweep points, VNA mode51, 101, 201, 401, 801, 1001, 2001, 4001, 5001, 6001, 7001, 8001, 9001,10001 
Number of sweep points, TDR mode512, 1024, 2048, 4096 
Signal source characteristics
Frequency range300 kHz to 6.0 GHz 
Frequency setting resolution10 Hz 
Frequency accuracy10 ppm maxWith ambient of 23 ±3 °C
Frequency temperature stability±0.5 ppm/ºC maxOver the range +15 °C to +35 °C
Harmonics–20 dBc maxWith test power set to < –3 dBm
Non-harmonic spurious–40 dBc typical 
Phase noise (10 kHz offset)–90 dBc/Hz [0.3 MHz to 1 GHz]
–80 dBc/Hz [1 GHz to 4 GHz]
–76 dBc/Hz [> 4 GHz]
 
Test signal power
F < 10 MHz:
10 MHz < F < 4 GHz:
F > 4 GHz:
–3 to –20 dBm
+6 to –20 dBm
+3 to –20 dBm
 
Power setting resolution0.1 dB 
Power setting accuracy±1.5 dB 
Reference input frequency10 MHz ±6 ppm 
Reference input level0 ±3 dBm 
Reference output level0 ±3 dBm 
Miscellaneous
Controlling PC data interfaceUSB 2.0
Support for third party test softwareDynamic Link Library (DLL) as part of user interface software
External dimensions (mm)286 x 174 x 61 (L x W x H)
Excluding connectors
Weight1.85 kg
Temperature range (operating)+15 °C to +40 °C
Temperature range (storage)–20 °C to +50 °C
Humidity80% max, non-condensing
Vibration (storage)0.5 g, 5 Hz to 300 Hz
Power source and current+12 to +15 V DC, 22 W
Power source connector5.5 mm diameter hole, 2.1 mm diameter centre contact pin.
Centre pin is positive.
Host PC requirementsMicrosoft Windows 7, 8 or 10
2 GB RAM or more
Warranty3 years

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