Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Next Generation of Universal Counters

Big announce for the world of GPETE, today Agilent releases the 53200A Series RF / Universal Frequency Counter / Timers!  This family is truly the next generation of universal counters or another way to say it is these are not your parent’s universal counters. I am sure you are thinking “what makes these the next generation of universal counters?” Two reasons, the advanced measurement capability contained inside these marvels and the user interface that makes them easy and fun to use. The 53200A series consists of three models: 53210A, 53220A, and the 53230A. Here is a breakdown of key features:
  •     Up to 12 digits/sec single-shot frequency resolution on a one second gate time
  •     Single-shot time interval measurements can be resolved down to 20 psec
  •     Built-in analysis and graphing capabilities that can be shown on the front panel display
  •     Gapless sampling up to 1 MSamples/s (53230A only)
  •     350 MHz baseband frequency, 6- or 15-GHz optional microwave channels
  •     Optional pulsed RF/microwave measurement capability (53230A only)

The three advance measurement features that make these counters stand out from any other universal counters that are available today are the 20 psec single shot resolution (SSR), gapless sampling up to 1 MS/s, and the pulsed RF/microwave measurement capability. The 20 psec SSR is an industry leading timing spec. Working for Agilent I had the privilege to start testing these marvels out months ago and I can tell you that the typical SSR is about 10 psec (Agilent is always conservative on the specs). Keep in mind light only travels 3 mm in 10 psec! Now SSR resolution is most often associated with time interval measurements, but every counter measurement basically comes down to timing so the better the SSR of a counter the more digits of resolution you get in frequency and any other measurement. Gapless sampling means there is no dead time or re-arm time between gate times, basically there is no gate time. This allows the 53230A to make true Allan deviation measurements. Gapless sampling also gives the user the ability to pull the gapless time stamp measurements from the instrument’s memory and perform modulation domain analysis (MDA). Finally the 53230A has optional pulsed RF/microwave measurement capabilities for measuring pulse width, pulse repetition rate, pulse repetition interval, and carrier frequency. This capability is invaluable for radar and electronic warfare applications.
The 53200A series has a large LCD color display and a user interface similar to that of a scope with a hard-key / soft-key layout. The large display increases the usefulness of the universal counter by displaying more data in more intuitive ways instead of just the traditional long string of numbers. As an example see the histogram and trend chart screen captures from the 53200A series. The large display also makes it easy and quick to navigate through menus for a more user friendly experience when accessing some of the more advanced features of a universal counter. That is all for now but you can count on seeing more posts pertaining to this new counter family in the near future. For more information on the 53200A series check out the link below.



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