Best Scope Merges Style, Substance

Dec. 1, 2008
If looks were the only criterion for choosing the best test instrument of the year, the LeCroy WavePro 7 Zi oscilloscope line would win hands down. Its 15.3-in. WXGA LCD touchscreen can display all sorts of useful data simultaneously (se

If looks were the only criterion for choosing the best test instrument of the year, the LeCroy WavePro 7 Zi oscilloscope line would win hands down. Its 15.3-in. WXGA LCD touchscreen can display all sorts of useful data simultaneously (see the figure).

But the real breakthrough is what’s inside—its new hardware and software. The series includes five basic models with maximum bandwidths of 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, 4, and 6 GHz. Also available, the WavePro series serial data analyzers (SDAs) and disk drive analyzers (DDAs) are derived from the scope.

HARDWARE HIGHS The WavePro 7 Zi’s faster front end delivers 20 Gsamples/s on all four input channels and 40 Gsamples/s if interleaving is used. Thus, the rare event capture capability becomes second to none. Also, SRAM storage is faster—sample storage is 10 Mpoints/channel with up to 128 Mpoints/channel optional. Input impedances of both 50 Ω and 1 MΩ are provided on those four input channels.

While the sample rate is impressive, it’s all for naught if you can’t process the data fast enough for analysis and display. LeCroy solved the problem by adding an Intel Core 2 quad processor, a 64-bit bus and operating system, and up to 8 Gbytes of RAM.

Then there’s that screen again. You can display up to eight waveforms simultaneously or eight grids of other kinds of data depending on your testing project. You can also get a second external display of the same size to display other data while maintaining the standard scope outputs. Users can even remove the right-hand control panel and place it closer to the device under test.

The LeCroy Serial Interface Bus (LSIB) connects directly to the PCI Express x4 data bus inside the scope to provide the fastest data transfer rate of any scope—500 Mpoints/s. LSIB is much faster than GPIB, 100BaseT, or 1000BaseT Ethernet. Installation involves placing an LSIB card in the LXI-compliant scope and a compatible card in the remote computer.

Four new high-performance probes feature amplifiers with excellent noise performance that’s essential for making precise jitter and other signal-integrity measurements. The high dc and midband loading suit them for many serial data and memory applications, such as PCI Express, FireWire, and DDR. These probes also offer ±4-V offset capability and ±3-V common-mode control.

SCOPING OUT THE SOFTWARE While stellar hardware forms the necessary base of the WavePro 7 Zi series, the software really makes the measurements, performs the analysis, and creates the displays. LeCroy has a good track record when it comes to good software for design, debug, and validation, and it’s better than ever with this new scope.

The software offers a new and superior feature finder, rare event capture capability, and a seriously deep toolbox of analysis routines. Combine the software with the quad-core processor and deeper memory, and you get an exceptionally responsive scope that delivers 10 to 20 times the usual processing throughput thanks to more effective use of cache.

LeCroy’s X-Stream II architecture makes long acquisition memory a pleasure to use. This architecture uses variable waveform segment lengths to improve CPU cache memory efficiency, making the WavePro 7 Zi faster than other scopes when processing long records. With such super processing power, the display response is also much faster than that of other digital scopes.

Available software tools include TriggerScan, SMART trigger 200-ps pulsewidth triggering, and 80-bit/3.125- Gbit/s serial pattern triggers. All greatly shorten the time to make measurements and find anomalies. Other previously available software tools are included, such as WaveStream fast viewing mode, WaveScan advanced search and analysis, low-speed serial triggers, and MS-250 and MS-500 4+36 mixed signal options.

LeCroy’s TriggerScan can detect and capture more anomalies per second by using high-speed trigger hardware to detect undesired behaviors. It captures and displays glitches in a persistence mode for additional analysis and action. Also, it captures only the signals of interest and provides answers in minutes rather than hours. Users can set it up with pre-defined or user-defined sets of edge, SMART, or serial trigger setups.

A wide range of analysis tools and a huge library of measurement, math, graphing, statistical, frequency analysis, and mask testing help users get better answers faster. In addition, the software’s customization features permit specialized measurements and math operations not available on other scopes (like inverse fast Fourier transform). Third-party software tools are integratable, such as Matlab, Visual Basic, C++, and Excel.

The base WavePro 7 Zi 6-GHz model starts at $59,490. A fully loaded model will reach close to $100,000. Though both may seem expensive, you get features that significantly cut debugging and validating time and cost.

About the Author

Louis E. Frenzel

Click here to find more of Lou's articles on Electronic Design. 

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