Last summer, National Instruments released its vector signal transceiver (VST), which packs powerful hardware as well as interesting software-defined capabilities in a PXI format. I saw the VST on display at a couple of trade shows, and it was debuted at last year's NI Week.
Earlier this year, NI announced the release of 10 pieces of IP that would help designers use NI LabVIEW system design software to build their own custom RF instruments. Some examples of IP include: hardware power servoing for RF amplifier test; RF channel impairments including fading, noise, multipath and Doppler effects; digital device under test control; and contiguous I/Q waveform streaming to and from disk.
Recently, the company also announced its second VST, the NI PXIe-5645R. Built on the same software-designed architecture as the first vector signal transceiver, this new product also includes a high-performance, differential or single-ended I/Q interface with 16-bit data sampled at 120 MS/s, for a total of 80 MHz of complex equalized I/Q bandwidth. This baseband I/Q interface allows the new vector signal transceiver to test both the upconverted RF and downconverted baseband signals of a device with a single instrument.
The software-designed NI PXIe-5645R vector signal transceiver adds baseband I/Q capabilities to increase test coverage for RF transceiver test.
I recently asked Erik Johnson, Product Manager, RF & Wireless Test National Instruments and Ryan Verret, Senior Product Manager, FPGA Technologies National Instruments about the new IP and new version of the product.
It seems to me that the beauty of the VST is that it "can do anything." At the same time, the challenge seems to be "it can do anything." Are you finding that customers really need some inspiration to move away from how they've "always done that test" to recognize what they can do on the VST?
It's a challenge to design a product that "can do anything” while at the same time making it familiar enough so new users will feel comfortable with it. A key element of NI's approach to redefining RF instrumentation is software that is both ready to run out-of-the-box so customers can get up and running quickly, and also empowering them to fully customize their instrument as needed.
For example, the NI RF Soft Front Panels combined with an NI vector signal transceiver provide customers with an experience that they are used to with traditional box instruments. Featuring one-button built-in measurements such as TOI, CCDF, ACPR, OBW, channel power, transmit power, and spectral mask, customers can quickly measure, display, and store results. This familiar experience both inspires customers to move away from the traditional box instruments and makes NI vector signal transceivers ideal for characterization and validation environments.
At the same time, the user-programmable FPGA on the NI vector signal transceiver gives customers capabilities limited only by their application requirements—not the vendor's definition of what an instrument should be. We have seen this software-designed approach provide inspiration to many customers. Their use of the FPGA might range from small tweaks to trigger behaviors or implementing digital communication with their device under test (DUT), to a complete re-architecture of I/Q data movement for closed-loop, real-time signal processing. Furthermore, even if they are not going to use the user-programmable FPGA immediately, they like having the option to customize their instrument if necessary.