The Agilent X-Series Signal Analyzers

Using the X-Series Signal Analyzers to Navigate Today's Economic Climate

September 28, 2009

  1. The Fork In The Road
  2. Delivering Future-Ready Signal Analysis
  3. Agilent's X-Series: Stay Ready, Stay in Sync and Arrive Ahead
  4. Conclusion
  5. Related Information

Navigating today's economic climate is no easy task, especially for those companies developing, integrating or manufacturing electronic products. On top of any engineering challenges they face, the global economic downturn is now forcing many to also confront a dynamically-changing business environment. To remain competitive, companies are reshaping and adopting new business strategies in the lab and around the globe. Their capital budgets are being squeezed and every purchase request highly scrutinized. And, they are being forced to make business decisions today that will impact whether or not they emerge stronger tomorrow. One key decision companies face pertains to test equipment. While the purchase of test equipment might seem like a trivial concern given the state of the economy, it can be a highly strategic decision. Selecting the right test equipment allows companies to not only satisfy their business requirements today, but in the future as well, while garnering them a significant competitive advantage. The signal analyzer, a critical tool used for measuring and characterizing signals in a range of applications, including aerospace/defense, cellular base station and handset, digital video, wireless networking, general purpose, consumer electronics and education, offers a prime example of this point. By carefully selecting the right signal analyzer, a company gains greater confidence in the longevity of their decision, even in the face of shifting external forces (e.g., the economy or competition).

The Fork In The Road

Many companies now find themselves at the proverbial "fork in the road." Decisions they make today regarding which signal analyzer to purchase will not only have a huge effect on their current success or failure, but also determine how they emerge from the tough economic downturn in the future. Complicating that decision is a litany of challenges, such as continuing time-to-market pressure, downward pressure on prices and increased global competition from nimble upstarts rapidly making inroads with emerging technology/standards. Some of the key technical challenges facing companies today include:

  • Rapid pace of technology change. Technology, especially wireless communications technology, changes at a rapid rate. Nowhere is this seen more clearly then in the cellular industry where new mobile phone standards continue to emerge and change (e.g., LTE, LTE FDD, TDD), some of which will fall only to see new versions or standards emerge. On top of this, different countries may opt to use their own unique variants of a specific standard. China, for example, employs TD-SCDMA instead of CDMA.
  • Multi-format devices. The wireless industry is continually moving toward multi-mode, multi-band and/or multi-functional wireless communications devices that can be enhanced using software upgrades to accommodate standard changes or market needs. Engineers therefore, require the ability to test a wider variety of functionality/standards that accommodate a wide range of cellular and wireless networking technologies. They need a signal analysis platform that not only has the performance and measurement features they need today, but the ability to add additional combinations of measurement applications as well in the future.
  • Technology refresh. Evolution of processor/connectivity technology/speed, measurement science and constantly evolving measurement standards conspire to force companies to refresh existing development and manufacturing environments. This places new demands on equipment specifiers to pick solutions with excellent reliability that allow a seamless migration path from legacy test systems to the newly refreshed systems through code compatibility. They must also ensure that the technology refresh can be done as quickly as possible to prevent any significant scheduling impact.

What exactly do these challenges mean for test equipment and, in particular, for signal analysis? Essentially, it requires that test assets be future-ready. Of course, finding a signal analyzer that delivers on this promise is the hard part and it demands a new approach to signal analysis--one that is evolutionary in nature and that successfully spans, instrumentation, measurements and software. The instrument must be flexible enough to satisfy a company's business and technical requirements across multiple products and programs in the lab and around the globe--both now and in the future, and provide a consistent framework that enables design teams to move at a faster pace.

Delivering Future-Ready Signal Analysis

Agilent Technologies' X-Series signal analyzers--born out of decades of amassed expertise in test and measurement and a rich legacy of industry-leading test equipment--represents an evolutionary approach to signal analysis that is future-ready. In contrast to the distinct individual signal-analysis products available today, Agilent's X-Series spans instrumentation, measurements and software. Its scalable hardware architecture and open Windows® XP Professional software platform evolves with changing customer requirements. As a result, companies can easily renew/upgrade their X-Series signal analyzer as the pace of PC technology (e.g., CPU, memory, connectivity, drive type/capacity) advances.

The X-Series approach to signal analysis covers signal analyzers, advanced measurement applications and Agilent's industry-leading 89600 Vector Signal Analysis (VSA) software. All X-Series signal analyzers run the same library of more than 20 advanced measurement applications (available soon across all four instrument price performance points), including the VXA vector signal analyzer measurement application that integrates VSA capability into the analyzer. Agilent's 89600 VSA software provides the broadest range of standards-based measurements for performing comprehensive signal visualization and analysis in the time, frequency and modulation domains (Figure 1). Together, the 89600 VSA software and advanced measurement applications support over 70 signal standards and modulation types, allowing customers to mix and match the X-Series signal analyzers with different measurement applications to fit their specific test and measurement needs. Other analysis capabilities can be accessed by running MATLAB®, Agilent Signal Studio or Agilent's Advanced Design System (ADS) within the X-Series' open Windows operating system. No external PC is required.

Figure 1: Running on the X-Series signal analyzers, Agilent's 89600 VSA software offers premier analysis and troubleshooting.

Figure 1: Running on the X-Series signal analyzers, Agilent's 89600 VSA software offers premier analysis and troubleshooting.

Agilent's X-Series is now comprised of four models spanning the new flagship PXA, the existing MXA and EXA solutions, and the new low-cost CXA.

  • PXA: The PXA is Agilent's new industry-leading, high-performance RF and microwave signal analyzer up to 26.5 GHz (Figure 2). As the X-Series flagship solution, the PXA helps enhance current designs and accelerate future innovations by delivering exceptional performance that reduces measurement uncertainty and reveals new levels of signal detail. It features super-wide IF technology and outstanding measurement accuracy, ±0.19-dB accuracy and a low noise floor DANL of -172 dBm with preamp (-160 dBm with no preamp) at 2 GHz for superior useable dynamic range. The analyzer also includes extensive code-compatibility features that make it easier to replace existing Agilent or HP high-performance signal analyzers.

Figure 2: The PXA is a high-performance signal analyzer designed to replace today's performance signal/spectrum analyzers.

Figure 2: The PXA is a high-performance signal analyzer designed to replace today's performance signal/spectrum analyzers.

  • MXA: Agilent's MXA offers the best performance in a mid-performance analyzer, allowing flexible analysis measurements of wireless communication devices to current and emerging standards. It features the industry's fastest speed--up to 300% faster than other spectrum and signal analyzers in its class, an all digital IF, 0.23-db absolute amplitude accuracy, and available multiple frequency range options up to 20 Hz to 26.5 GHz. Its fast speed dramatically accelerates a product's move from design to manufacturing to the marketplace. Its flexibility enables customers to quickly adapt it to their evolving test requirements.
  • EXA: The EXA is the industry's fastest economy-class signal analyzer. It provides development and manufacturing engineers with the capabilities to cost-effectively troubleshoot new designs or increase manufacturing throughput. The EXA delivers 25-MHz analysis bandwidth and supports multiple frequency range options up to 9 kHz to 26.5 GHz. Eliminating the compromise between speed and price, the EXA the fastest way to maximize throughput on the production line, and helps reduce the overall cost of test.
  • CXA: As the lowest cost member of the X-Series, the versatile CXA provides more than one might expect in this price class, including superior RF performance, measurement speed and a rich suite of general-purpose applications for essential signal creation (Figure 3). It supports a growing list of X-Series advanced measurement applications and VSA solutions making it both scalable and expandable. Given this functionality, the CXA helps accelerate product testing and development on multiple levels, including: cost reduction, throughput, design enhancement, and more.

Figure 3: The CXA's measurement configuration includes: 3.0- or 7.5-GHz frequency models, optional full range preamplifiers at 3.0 and 7.5 GHz, a fine step attenuator option, and basic EMC functionality.

Figure 3: The CXA's measurement configuration includes: 3.0- or 7.5-GHz frequency models, optional full range preamplifiers at 3.0 and 7.5 GHz, a fine step attenuator option, and basic EMC functionality.

Agilent's X-Series: Stay Ready, Stay in Sync and Arrive Ahead

The Agilent X-Series signal analyzers offer a number of key benefits for companies developing, integrating or manufacturing electronic products. Its scalability, for example, allows companies to protect their investment. Each X-Series signal analyzer features expansion slots that enable the addition of wider bandwidths and measurement hardware; upgradeable PC technology to keep test assets current. The software-implemented measurements applications and signal analysis intellectual property is also upgradeable.

Other key benefits provided by Agilent's X-Series include

  • The ability to satisfy business requirements now and in the future. The X-Series provides companies the flexibility to satisfy their business and technical requirements, regardless of the technology they are pursuing and the X-Series signal analyzer they choose to use (PXA, MXA, EXA, or CXA). They can optimize price, performance and functionality today and easily move up or down in price/performance tomorrow by interchanging the signal analyzers and without having to rewrite test code. In fact, test margins can be optimized at each test station in the lab, manufacturing line or in the field by simply choosing the required level of hardware performance.
  • The ability to accelerate projects with a consistent framework across performance. With the X-Series signal analyzers, time-to-productivity savings comes from the fact that each analyzer uses the same user interface, firmware and software; one button context-sensitive help system, and one button auto-tune setup. Each X-Series signal analyzer also shares the same library of more than 20 advanced measurement applications and therefore, a unified or familiar user interface. This saves money, and boosts efficiency and productivity when redeploying staff between projects and technologies, since learning one X-Series signal analyzer means the engineer has effectively learned all X-Series signal analyzers.

    Full code compatibility between X-Series analyzers allows the engineer to leverage test-system software from R&D to design verification to manufacturing. Common algorithms and available identical measurement applications across all signal analyzers ensure consistent, repeatable results across the X-Series and with legacy PSA and ESA spectrum analyzers. Available transportable and trial licensing enables the sharing of advanced measurement applications across the different members from EXA to PXA; ensuring that the engineer has access to first-to-market emerging standards-based applications as they are introduced.

  • The ability to exceed user's needs with a new level of flexible asset management. By utilizing the same signal analyzer software and robust, modular hardware/PC architecture, the X-Series realizes greater reliability, enhances analyzer longevity and ensures flexibility in moving test assets across the lab or around the world.


The global economic downturn has forced many companies to re-examine their current and long-term business strategies. It has also prompted added pressure to reduce cost of test and risk, and speed the time-to-market for new designs and products. The X-Series' evolutionary approach to signal analysis provides a unique means of addressing these challenges by providing four choices in signal analyzer performance, all sharing the same measurement applications and VSA software. Together this mix provides the flexibility companies need to satisfy their business and technical requirements both today and in the future, across multiple products and programs.

Rather than having to force fit test equipment into a specific test strategy, companies can now use the X-Series signal analyzers to power their individual test visions. The result is a powerful economic benefit for companies looking to reinvent and adapt their business. The bottom line with the X-Series signal analyzers is clear: the ability to select the right price/performance X-Series signal analyzer today, and into the future, allows companies to break down the barriers they face in trying to stay up to date and competitive. It enables them to gain the edge to arrive ahead.

About Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is the world's premier measurement company and a technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company's 18,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenues of $5.8 billion in fiscal 2008. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at


Windows is a U.S. registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. MATLAB is a U.S. registered trademark of The Math Works, Inc.


Press Release: Agilent Technologies Introduces EMI Receiver that Enhances Compliance Testing through Excellent Input Sensitivity
Press Release: Agilent Technologies Extends Leadership in LTE Test Capability with PXA Signal Analyzer

Janet Smith, Agilent
+1 970 679 5397

Sarah Calnan, Europe
+44 (118) 927 5101

Iris Ng, Asia
+852 31977979


> More Press Releases
> More Backgrounders