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Analog Discovery

[font=Georgia:]Analog Discovery ~ Review (Part One)

Digilent kindly allowed me to borrow one of their new Analog Discovery devices to review.

Product Rationale

The curriculum for electrical engineering students typically includes a laboratory component that consists of building actual circuits, performing experimental assignments, and obtaining measurement results. The objectives of this laboratory component include the following:
    to teach some practical skills for building circuitry
    to teach how to use measurement instruments such as oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and signal generators
    to teach the difference between theoretical and actual results
Traditionally this laboratory component uses relatively expensive measurement instruments bought from (or donated by) well-known instrument manufacturers and takes place in a specific laboratory environment. The measurement equipment and the laboratory environment are shared, so access is limited to specific times. At the end of the term, competition for scarce resources can be difficult.

Suppose that each student has their own oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and arbitrary waveform generator. Suppose that each student can perform their experimental assignments where (dorm room, library, study hall, laboratory, etc.) and when convenient. Suppose that each student doesn't have to compete with other students for scarce resources. Suppose that each student can take their measurement equipment with them at the end of the term.

Digilent (link) recently announced the Analog Discovery device (link) (designed in cooperation with  Analog Devices and Xilinx) that enables the electrical engineering educational model described above. The Analog Discovery device provides oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and arbitrary waveform generator functionality in the form of a USB 2.0 peripheral for your laptop that is supported by free WaveForms™ software. The cost of the Analog Discovery device ($99 for students) is less than the cost of a typical engineering text book.

    Comment: The Analog Discovery device has a big brother in the form of the Electronics Explorer board (link) which costs four times as much ($399 for students) as the Analog Discovery device. The Electronics Explorer board was designed in cooperation with Texas Instruments and is also supported by free WaveForms™ software. The Electronics Explorer board offers capabilities similar to the Analog Discovery device, but integrated with a breadboard interface, an external power supply, an analog parts kit, and more demonstration lessons.[/list]


    Two-Channel Oscilloscope (Analog Input)
    • AD9648 (link), 14-bit, 105 MSPS, 1.8 Volt supply, dual analog-to-digital converter
    • Fully differential inputs (1 MΩ, 24 pF), ±20 Volts max
    • Up to 100 MSPS, 5 MHz bandwidth, up to 16k samples/channel record length
    • 250 μV to 5 V/division with variable gain settings
    • Real-time FFTs, X-Y plots, complex math and measurements
    Two-Channel Waveform Generator (Analog Output)
    • AD9717 (link), 14-bit, 125 MSPS, 1.8 to 3.3 Volt supply, dual digital-to-analog converter
    • Single-ended outputs, up to ±4 Volts max
    • Up to 100 MSPS, 5 MHz bandwidth, up to 16k samples/channel record length
    • Standard and user-defined waveforms
    • Sweeps, envelopes, AM and FM modulation
    • Bode plot feature using standard, Nyquist, and Nichols coordinates
    Digital I/O
    • 16 signals shared between logic analyzer (input), pattern generator (output), and discrete I/O
    • 100 MSPS, buffer size is 4k transitions per pin
    • Supports cross-triggering with scope channels
    Power Supplies
    • Fixed +5 V @ 50 mA
    • Fixed –5 V @ 50 mA
    • Waveforms™ software: full-featured GUI for all instruments
    • Requires Windows® XP® or newer

    Kit Contents

    The Analog Discovery kit includes the following items:
    • Analog Discovery device ~ 84 mm by 68 mm by 20 mm ~ 3-5/16" by 2-5/8" by 3/4"
    • Signal cable ~ 30-pin (2x15) (0.1" grid) (25 mil) female connector (with tab) to 30 individual (25 mil) female connectors
      color-coded wires roughly 7" long (relatively short to improve signal integrity)
    • Five male headers ~ 6-pin (1x6) (0.1" grid) (25 mil)
    • USB 2.0 cable ~ "A" connector to "micro-B" connector ~ one meter long
    • Plastic product package carrying case ~ 7-3/8" by 6" by 1"
    The Analog Discovery kit digital interface doesn't include gripper probes (probably to save money), but the individual receptacle connectors mate with ordinary 25 mil square pins. The Analog Discovery kit analog interface doesn't use BNC connectors, include oscilloscope probes, or use 50 ohm connections (probably to save money). The Analog Discovery kit doesn't include a CD-ROM, but the latest Waveforms™ software can be downloaded directly from the Digilent website.

      Comment: Perhaps there should be an Analog Discovery-specific URL included with the product kit that points directly to an always up-to-date web page that explains how to setup and install the product. This would assure first time users that they are not overlooking something and alert experienced users about any new problems found. This minor change would greatly improve the initial product user experience. The current URL on the Analog Discovery product package points to the general Digilent analog products page.[/list]
      Product Installation

      The Waveforms™ software is required to use the Analog Discovery device.
      The Waveforms™ software unfortunately does not seem to support either Mac OS X or Linux.
      Assuming that you have Microsoft Windows XP or newer, Waveforms™ software installation is fairly straight forward.

        Download the
      Waveforms™ software from the Digilent website (link).
        This will leave a file
      Digilent.Waveforms_v2.0.19 (or whatever is the latest version) on your desktop.
        Double-click on the
      Digilent.Waveforms_v2.0.19 to install.
        User Account Control (System 7) => Yes
        Welcome to the Digilent WaveForms Setup Wizard => Next
        License Agreement => I Agree
        Choose Components => Next
        Short Cut Options => Next ~ {select options}
        Choose Install Location => Install
        Installing ... Installation Complete => Next ~ {check out "Show Details"}
        Completing the Digilent WaveForms Setup Wizard => Finish ~ {select options}
        Establish communications between
      WaveForms™ and the Analog Discovery device.
        The default for the last step of the Setup Wizard is to start the
      WaveForms™ Software (and to open the local Help web page). Several overlapping windows will appear. On top will be a "No supported device detected" window.
      Connect the Analog Discovery device to your laptop using the provided USB 2.0 cable.
      As the laptop loads FTDI drivers, it will respond with a "Installing device driver software" message and,
      after few moments, with a "USB serial converter" message .
      Click "OK" to dismiss the "No supported device detected" window.
      The Analog Discovery device with serial number will be highlighted in the "Device Manager" window.
      Click "Select" to select the Analog Discovery device and to dismiss the "Device Manager" window.
      The Digilent WaveForms™ Main Window will be shown.
        Comment: The installation and uninstall processes went very smoothly on my Dell XPS 15z laptop running Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit with Service Pack 1). But I wish the contents of the "Show Details" window during the Waveforms™ installation process had been captured in a log file somewhere in case there had been a problem.[/list]
          Comment: The local Waveforms™ Help web page would benefit from adding more Analog Discovery-specific information.[/list]
            Comment: Given the number of cross-platform electrical engineering tools and programs, one hopes that Waveforms™ will eventually be ported to run under Mac OS X and Linux.[/list]

            See (link) for Analog Discovery ~ Review (Part Two)

            Thanks for your time.



            Re: Analog Discovery

            Reply #1
            Great info, thank you.

            I think a lot of people may be missing a subscription to these new forums. I was not getting it in my feeds. Shall I post part 1 to the blog or wait for the complete series?
            Got a question? Please ask in the forum for the fastest answers.