What is our primary use case?
We use it for high-speed signaling, including RF. Of course, 5G is catching up and in the future it is going to converge at a certain frequency range that will benefit both sides of the industry.
The signal we are measuring is primarily the internet signal through the data centers and switching routers. We are not directly measuring the RF signal, like for the 5G wireless. However, all the data from 5G is going through the backbone before translating into the digital signal, which requires much higher bandwidth to accommodate all the 5G signals.
We are definitely utilizing the full bandwidth.
How has it helped my organization?
The most important thing is to correlate with the simulation, and Keysight scopes have long been known for doing that pretty well.
What is most valuable?
The most valuable features are its quality and reliability. The type of instrument they make is pretty much the industry standard and trustworthy. They align R&D and design their equipment well, including post-processing stuff.
The user interface is getting better due to a lot of feedback from users. With testing getting more complicated these days, you have to go through a lot of different drop-down menus and then go through a lot of steps. It's hard to say there is an easy solution, but of course, from the user's point of view, we would like to have something as simple as possible. The good thing about the GUI interface which is, of course, software-based, is that you can record and save your test setup very easily.
What needs improvement?
Something I'd like to see is much better documentation and some good examples. That would be very helpful for a new user to get better at using the new test equipment. Otherwise, procedure-wise, the testing is pretty repeatable.
For my applications, it's really the repeatability and the accuracy, moving forward to very high data rates. For that, we are looking at very close to the picosecond and sub-picosecond range. Accuracy and repeatability are very important for the company to achieve.
For how long have I used the solution?
More than five years.
How are customer service and technical support?
Technical support is pretty good. They an 800 number, but they also provide a few engineers who are dedicated to the company. So I get very good support from these individuals. We have very good working relationships.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We went with Keysight because of the brand name, quality, and I've been using it for a long time, since I was a graduate student. They have always been good in the midrange testing instruments and I have very high confidence in them.
Another thing about Keysight is that they are very generous. They provide demo units so that we can get first-hand experience and provide feedback. Then they can go back to their lab and to optimize the design for us. It has happened a couple of times that we used some early-release products to try them out and it really helped us a lot to engage in the early stages of new technologies.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Pricing always is very expensive. There's no free lunch.
What other advice do I have?
Moving forward to the next-generation of design, the support from testing is very important because you could end up in a situation that you are working on something where there is no testing instrument available. If you can work with a company that works on the leading edge, provide them with feedback and insight, that will be helpful. You will be able to start early engagement, using a solution before anybody else has a final product. My advice would be to build a very good relationship with a testing company.
The learning curve depends. In the old days it was a matter of getting used to a hardware interface. These days everything is Windows-based. Sometimes there is a learning curve there but it really depends on the user, in my opinion.
We are facing a paradigm shift here. The traditional, analog Z signal is very good and easy to implement, but when you go to higher data rates, it's not sufficient because your fundamental Nyquist frequencies are going up quite a bit. We are facing a lot of losses in the media, including the PCB packaging. What we need to do is maintain the same Nyquist frequencies, but the tradeoff is that we have to go to a different way of doing things. Analog Z would not be sufficient and we have to go to the PAN4 or PAN-N types of structures of the signals. We need to switch and it's happening now already.
I would rate this product at ten out of ten. The reliability and quality have always been there over the years that I've been using Keysight. Of course, other brands are pretty good too. It's just that I have had more experience dealing with Keysight for 20-something years.