Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Battle of the Ultra High Bandwidth Oscilloscopes Continues

Back on 4/27/10 Agilent came out with the Infiniium 90000-X series oscilloscopes, which featured the highest real-time bandwidth at a ridiculous 32 GHz (see my post on it click here). That beat the previous leader, Tektronix by over 10 GHz. Scopes is a highly competitive market with Tektronix currently leading the market, Agilent in second, and Lecroy a distant third. With Tektronix as the market leader it was only a matter of time before they responded to their performance leadership being taken and they did (well kind of). Tektronix announced that by using silicon germanium (SiGe) technology found in IBM's 8HP chips in the high speed input circuits of their scopes they can achieve real time bandwidths of over 30 GHz. Tektronix stated "The 130nm SiGe BiCMOS technology offers x2 performance over the previous generation and targets delivery of oscilloscopes with real-time bandwidth beyond 30GHz.” For their 32 GHz scopes, Agilent uses the non-silicon technology of indium phosphide (InP) in their high speed input ICs. 
In Tektronix's press release they just said they have the technology but gave no mention of when this new technology would be seen in a new scope. It seems to me that they are just trying to tell their current high bandwidth scope customers that its coming so don't run out and switch to Agilent quite yet give us a chance to catch up. If they did have a design that was right around the corner my guess is they would have never made this announcement so I wouldn't expect to see a Tektronix scope break 30 GHz for at least another year probably more. The question is how high will Tektronix go in real-time bandwidth with this new chip technology? My guess is 40 GHz because you have to make a large leap frog over the competition to hold the top performance spot long enough to make the investment worth it (and trust me at bandwidths this high the investment is huge). What is your guess?

For more information on Tektronix's press release click here

For more information on Agilent's Infiniium 90000-X series click here