PicoVNA Series

Low-cost, professional-grade 6 GHz and 8.5 GHz VNAs for both lab and field use

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PicoVNA 3 software

Software for the PicoVNA Series

PicoVNA 3 software presents VNA measurement and calibration simply, intuitively, and with efficient usage at its heart. The software offers a comprehensive range of measurements and multiple trace, dual-axis plot formats in one, two, or four user-configurable display channels. All the standard vector network analyzer functions and tabulated measurements can be seen at a glance.

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Flexible measurement insight using the PicoVNA 3 software

The PicoVNA 3 software and GUI interfaces with the VNA over USB 2.0 and displays or exports measurement results. MS Windows display, in default or dark theme, presents up to four user-configurable plot channels, with dual y-axis cartesian, polar, or Smith plots, each supporting up to four live and four memory traces and eight measurement markers. Marker results are tabulated to the right and summarized below each plot to give an at-a-glance understanding of the networks under test. Y-axis reference, scalings, and offset are click-and-drag or type editable.

Supported calibrations

The PicoVNA 3 software supports a comprehensive range of calibration modes to address single or dual-port workload with male, female or mixed-gender interfaces, all with the best achievable accuracy (least uncertainty). In some instances, only a single calibration kit may be required.

As you would expect, the Pico calibration kits are individually serial-numbered and supplied with S-parameter data. This standard-form data is a traceable and accurate record of measured errors for the calibration kit. It can be loaded into the software, which will correct for these errors and those of the instrument during a calibration.

Alternatively, you can use a third-party calibration kit whose ‘model’, electrical length, parasitic values, and polynomial coefficients you can enter into the software and then save in Pico .kit format. Where a third party has supplied a calibration kit S-parameter data file, please ask us about the possibility of conversion to Pico format.

When using an automated E-Cal SOLT standard*, an extended set of traceable S-parameter data sits within the device and is read directly into the PicoVNA software over its USB control and power connection.

As for any vector network analyzer, for best accuracy, a calibration is performed before a measurement with the same sweep span and frequency steps as the measurement. If, however, a change of sweep settings is necessary for a measurement, the PicoVNA software will for convenience interpolate its corrections to the new sweep settings.

An enhanced isolation calibration setting is available for optimum dynamic range when using resolution bandwidths below around 1 kHz.

*Automated E-Cal and TRL calibrations supported by PicoVNA 108 and PicoVNA 3 software only.

Reference plane extension

Reference plane extension (offset) allows you to shift the measurement reference plane away from the point established during calibration. This is useful in removing the path length of assumed ideal interconnecting , connectors cables or microstrip lines from measurements.

The PicoVNA software allows independent reference plane extensions on each of the measurement parameters (S11, S22, S12 or S21), either as an automatic re-reference or by manual entry. Independent extensions allow, for example, different extensions on the two ports for S11 and S22 and then thru-line normalization for S21 and S12 transmission comparison with equivalent length thru-line.

De-embedding embedded port interfaces

When it is unsafe to assume the above ideal interconnecting connectors cables or microstrip lines; for example to achieve greater accuracy or to remove known imperfections in a test setup, we can choose instead to de-embed the interface networks on each measurement port. The PicoVNA software simply requires a full Touchstone .s2p file for the embedded interfacing network on each port. Likewise, defined networks can be embedded into the measurement to achieve a desired simulated measurement. As for a calibration, best accuracy will be achieved when the embedding network is defined at the same frequency points as the intended measurement. Unusually for a vector network analyzer, the PicoVNA software will interpolate where necessary and possible.

Z0 impedance reference

System measurement impedance (default 50 Ω) can be mathematically converted to any value between 10 Ω and 200 Ω. The PicoVNA software also supports the use of external matching pads and calibration in the new impedance using a calibration kit of that impedance.

Limit lines testing

The limit lines facility allows six segments to be defined for each displayed plot. These can be extended to 11 segments using an overlapping technique. Visual and audible alarms can be given when a limit line is crossed. All plot formats except Smith chart and polar support limit testing. Peak hold functions are also available.

P1dB utility

The 1 dB gain compression point of amplifiers and other active devices can be measured using a power sweep, either at a test frequency or over a sweep of test frequencies. The VNA determines the small-signal gain of the amplifier at low input power, and then increases the power and notes the point at which the gain has fallen by 1 dB. This utility uses a second-order curve fit to determine interpolated 1 dB compression points.

AM to PM conversion utility

AM to PM conversion is a form of signal distortion where changes in the amplitude of a signal produce corresponding changes in the phase of the signal. This type of distortion can have serious impact in digital modulation schemes for which amplitude varies and phase accuracy is important.

Phase meter utility (PicoVNA 108 only)

The phase meter adds a valuable phase and amplitude alignment and stability measurement capability to the PicoVNA 108. The two ports become auto-lock receivers at any user-specified frequency within the 300 kHz to 8.5 GHz tuning range of the VNA. The receivers will lock to externally applied signals within approximately ±70 kHz of the set frequency and begin to measure and cross-refer phase and amplitude of the two signals as numerical readouts.

Calibration and normalization facilities are provided, allowing, for example, precise alignment of a quadrature-phase relationship or determination of differential phase and amplitude balance or stability.

The IF bandwidth setting determines displayed result resolution, update rate, and also measurement noise at any given signal level. At IFB of 10 Hz, resolution is 0.001° and 0.001 dB and update rate around 4 readings per second. Amplitude and phase accuracies match those of standard VNA transmission measurements.

Check standard comparison utility

The supplied Touchstone measurement data for a serial-numbered check standard is loaded into the PicoVNA memory trace as a ‘Reference’ measurement.

With a valid, full S-parameter, full-span calibration established and the check standard connected between the test ports, the comparison utility performs a measurement. It then compares and tabulates, at each frequency point, the measurement with the stored ‘Reference’ data. Magnitude and phase difference are tabulated.

The utility combines uncertainties for the instrument and test leads (respective specifications) with measurement uncertainty and stability of the check standard (also supplied). The difference between reference and measurement is then compared with total uncertainty, giving a result of ‘pass’ (within uncertainty) or ‘fail’ (outside uncertainty).

You can save the comparison dataset for archive or analysis and a Microsoft Excel template (available for download) helps you visualize the comparison and its uncertainties.

This is a very demanding evaluation of an instrument, test leads and the calibration performed, very nearly, to the full specification of the instrument and leads. The test is designed to identify a weak process, or worn, contaminated or damaged system components that might lead to a compromised measurement. To gain a pass, correct calibration procedure must be followed, including the use of torque wrenches to make the connections at calibration and comparison measurements.

The uncertainty data provided attempts to take into account the expected variability of your measurement setups when mating the check standard with Pico-supplied PC3.5 or SMA port connectors. There is a wide variation in the quality of commercially available test cables and SMA connectors, and contamination, damage or wear can easily occur. We guarantee that the uncertainty data provided will cover your test setups only when you use Pico-supplied calibration standards, port adaptors and test leads in new condition.

Example code

The PicoVNA 3 software provides an ActiveX server, allowing you to write your own software to communicate with the PicoVNA Vector Network Analyzer on Microsoft Windows platforms.

Example code is available via our GitHub organization page, including a toolbox for use with MathWorks MATLAB.

Optenni antenna matching screenshot with PicoVNA

Computer-aided design partners

Antenna matching with Optenni Lab CAD software

IoT, 5G, WiFi, V2X – has there ever been a bigger market explosion than the use of the antenna, and use within very challenging locations? Optenni Lab is industry-leading RF design automation software for antenna matching and RF chain performance optimization. The tool addresses multiband, broadband, multi-antenna, and tunable antenna systems and synthesizes measurement-based matching solutions in real-time. In other words, Optenni Lab outputs optimized matching circuits based on live vector network analyzer measurements of antennas. Optenni Lab versions from 4.3 SP5 are compatible with the PicoVNA. The tool synthesizes optimal topologies from discrete, distributed, variable, or switched component libraries against desired bandwidth and isolation targets, taking into account mutual coupling to nearby antennas. Optenni Lab automatically outputs highly complex and normally time-consuming designs. This CAD software interfaces the PicoVNA 2 control DLL directly and no further software is required.

Cadence AWR Design-Simulate–Implement–Measure workflow

Cadence AWR Connected for PicoVNA

The AWR Connected wizard for the PicoVNA brings affordable vector network measurement right into the Cadence AWR Design Environment. Component, system, and subsystem measurements are available, controllable, and displayed inside your simulation workspace. Real-world measurements become available for one-click transfer directly to project data files – that you can use within your simulations or for direct plot and comparison.

Design–Simulate–Implement–Measure workflow is encapsulated in a single design environment, tightly coupled for optimized speed and efficiency.

Features at a glance

  • Control and view PicoVNA output inside your design environment
  • One-click measurement transfer to new or existing project data files or plots
  • Fast, convenient comparison of ideal, modeled and measured component data
  • Simulation with measured component or subsystem data
  • Extend measured data to zero hertz for passive component simulation at DC
  • Measure and plot active Max. Stable Gain, Available Gain, K-Factor, and B1

Powerful education and training alliance

Can there be any more effective and rewarding learning experience than completing the whole design cycle? Unfortunately, the high costs of microwave network measurement have for many compromised that experience in the classroom. We believe that the more affordable PicoVNA 106 6 GHz full-function, professional-grade vector network analyzer, partnered with Microwave Office, changes the game.

Designed within Microwave Office, the PCB project design file is available to download. Students and trainers can engage at any point in the design cycle, compare simulation with real measurement, and experiment within the simulated and real environments.