8-channel, 250-MHz scope features FPGA signal processing and 14-bit resolution

August 06, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
A PXIe-format oscilloscope is one of a series of software-designed instruments announced by National Instruments; following on from the company's introduction of the vector signal transceiver, these add programmable signal paths to customise the functions of oscilloscopes, RF signal analysers and high-speed serial instruments.

NI's announcement, that it has delivered the power and flexibility of software-designed instrumentation to new instrument types and automated test applications, introduces a 14-bit, 250 Msample/sec, 250 MHz, 8-channel oscilloscope; a 26.5 GHz high-performance RF vector signal analyzer; a 2-bit, 2 Gsample/sec, 2 GHz intermediate frequency digitiser; and a 12.5 Gb/sec, 8 TX/8 RX lane high-speed serial instrument.

NI software-designed instruments contain a user-programmable FPGA customised with the familiar graphical data flow of the LabVIEW system design software, eliminating the need for specialised languages such as VHDL and Verilog, digital design experts or payments to instrument vendors each time a customisation is needed.

The NI PXIe-5170R and NI PXIe-5171R reconfigurable oscilloscopes are general-purpose instruments that contain a user programmable FPGA for in-line signal processing, protocol decoding and advanced trigger schemes without dead time. The scopes provide four or eight, simultaneously-sampled calibrated analogue input channels with 14-bit resolution, a sample rate of 250 Msample/sec and 100 or 250 MHz analogue bandwidth. All channels can be individually programmed for AC or DC coupling and an input range between 200 mVpp and 5 Vpp. Eight programmable digital IO-lines can be used for trigger or timing signals or to communicate with other hardware or the device under test using serial protocols such as I2C or SPI or proprietary communication schemes. The high-throughput Gen2 x8 PXI-Express interface of the NI PXIe-5170R and NI PXIe-5171R is capable of streaming 3.2 GB/sec across the PXI-Bus to the host, for example to store the data on a RAID-System. The FPGA is a Xilinx Kintex 7 device that you program with Labview, to add custom signal processing or analysis functions: or, you can also program it via HDL tools.

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