Which Spectrum Analyzer Is The Best? It Depends

Today we’re going to talk about spectrum analyzer comparisons.

In today’s video, we’re talking about the comparisons between different spectrum analyzers, spectrum analyzers are a hardware tool that lets you visualize something you can’t see with your human eyes.

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My name is Keith Persons,

and today we’re going to talk about

spectrum analyzer comparisons.

In today’s video, we’re talking about the comparisons between

different spectrum analyzers,

spectrum analyzers are a hardware tool

that lets you visualize

something you can’t see with your human eyes

Radio waves, they’re going 2.4 or 5 billion times a second

And our human body has no sensors that can relate to that at all

So in order for us to experience what’s going on in the radio world

will either have to have a radio that will decode it

and turn it into audio sound

Or what we’re going to be doing with spectrum analyzers is taking

and collecting the RF data and then slicing it up

and using a bunch of math

to convert it into something that’s visual

Well, let’s get started

To compare spectrum analyzers,

we’re going to use these graphics

to help us understand how they work

Here’s just a little sample from another company,

spectrum analyzer

Probably it’s about a thirty five thousand dollar one,

we’re not going to be using those

we’re going to be comparing spectrum analyzers that work

in the Wi-Fi world,

perhaps 900, 4.9, 2.4 gig, 5 gig

And hopefully as 6 gigahertz comes along,

we’ll have spectrum analyzers that will also

help us in the 6 gigahertz range

Let’s compare so

We have Ekahau sidekick.

A Cognio, in cognio made a chipset called Sage,

and originally it was in a PCMCIA format

That was the form factor and a lot of us have used them for,

oh, over a decade ago

And today they’re embedded inside Cisco AP called Clean Air

Netscout or Net Ally or it started out originally as Air Magnet

had a spectrum XT, also a USB form factor

And we’ll talk about that one as well

Metageek makes a DBx

They used to make a 2.4 only,

but now they only do the 2.4 and 5 combined

But they do have a new Wi-Spy Air,

which works with handheld devices,

very small battery operated one

Oscium has a Wi-Pry

and as well we’re going to look a little bit at Nuts About Nets

has a handheld, it doesn’t use your computer has its own screen,

but if you wanted to, you can hook it up together

So those are the ones

we’re going to be doing a little bit of comparison on

Before we can talk about how to compare them, though,

we need to understand some terms

and how we’re going to compare these

Now, one of the terms we’re going to compare is price

We understand price

That’s a very easy way to do it

Another way we can compare is what’s their form factor or

what’s their connection to your computer?

USB, USBC, USB micro or mini

or how you’re going to get connected

But also, we need to talk about a couple of terms here,

first is frequency ranges

What ranges can it hear?

Now, again, these aren’t 20 or thousand dollar spectrum analyzers

that can hear in the in the jargon D.C. to daylight everything from,

you know, super, super slow waves

all the way up to light waves

We don’t have anything that’s even close to that

They come in either 2.4, 5 gigahertz and they’re slightly different

But since they’re selling into the Wi-Fi market,

they’re pretty close together on that one.

The next one’s called a resolution bandwidth

And we have a couple of graphics here

that also explain this a little better

Resolution bandwidth is how it’s going to chunk up the data

that it receives and it’s going to listen

in this big of an area

Now, even with really low resolution bandwidth,

like you can see the 100 kilohertz example on the left

It can see hump

And depending on what you’re looking for, that might be enough

that can tell you what you’re looking for

Especially for something like a microwave oven, pretty obvious

As we go to a hot ten kilohertz, that’s way, way less than a

hundred kilohertz, 10 times less

It now allows us to see some spikes that were kind of

hidden before they were in the big hump.

But now we can see the detail

as you get down from 10 kilohertz to 100 hertz,

we’re again, way less

But now we’re looking at a very small, very precise information

Now, depending on your need, you may or may not need to see

this level of resolution,

but it does allow you to see things differently

So resolution bandwidth gets there

The next one is Sweet Time

And that’s how long are we going to take to cross the entire

frequency range that we’re looking at

Could be from 2.4 all the way through 5 gig

Could be, we can focus them

I think most of these spectrum analyzers, you can focus

and make it use that same sweet time, but on a smaller chunk

And then the last one is Duty Cycle

Most vendors use a different form of calculation for duty cycle

If you don’t understand how it is,

we have some other training modules will get deep into

how that process is done in a variety of different ways

But the duty cycle calculation changes

Just for a short view of that

If you’re in Metageek, you set the time range that you want

the duty cycle to calculate on

So if I set a time range for ten minutes

and something is only on for one minute,

even if it was on 100 percent of the time,

it would show up only as 10 percent duty cycle

We control the time range

If you’re in control of the time range,

you have to also then be very cognizant of what that is

Some other Spokane’s do their duty cycle near instantaneous

On the last time they looked of the last time I looked,

what’s the percentage?

And so those are closer to instantaneous

and you would get different duty cycles depending

on which vendor’s product you’re using

So just be sure you know what those are

Let’s drill in and look at these

We have an Ekahau Sidekick, Cognio Clean Air,

NetAlly makes the Spectrum XT, Wi-Spy DBx, Wi-Spy Air,

a Wi-Pry and RF Explorer

You can, at your leisure

I’m not going to go through all the little details here,

but you can see they have different price points

By the way, the Cognio,

you can no longer purchase it in PCMCIA format

I know some people, I have a couple, I still hang around

In fact I have a couple of laptops

that whose only purpose is for me to be able to

put that Cognio Clean Air in there

So you can check this out

There’s a smaller resolution, meaning I’m looking at tighter,

more precision sweep time is how fast I’m going

Allow me to collect data, maybe moving very quickly

And if I have a slow sweep time,

I might miss those things that are going by

You also have to look at the connection type

What kind of computer are you going to be connecting to

and how would you like to do that?

Just about any of these can connect up to a dongle

If I’ve USBC, I put on USB dongle

and I can put either the micro or the minis in there

The nice thing about some also support lightning

And so if you want to do a handheld device,

you can also support lightning

Choose wisely

Make sure you are getting what you need

So look at the capabilities they have

Look at their price

Look at the form factor and connection

I like to look at the resolution and sweep time

because I like to see the little nitty gritty things is going by

In your own world, when, where and why will you be using

spectrum analysis and then use the answers for that

to help you choose which one you want

If you’d like to learn more

Not just about spectrum analyzers, about Wi-Fi in general,

about our community of Wireless LAN Professionals

Please come and join me at a Wireless LAN Professionals

or WLANPros.com

My name is Keith Parsons

Thanks for being part of the community

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