Building an embedded system requires multiple devices to communicate with the central processor, generally through an SPI or I2C bus. If your system is quite complex and things don’t work out as expected, then a Logic Analyzer might save your day. So, choosing the correct Logic Analyzer is critical to a successful project. This article gives a PC-based Logic Analyzers comparison, and we’ll compare products from three companies: Prodigy Technovations, Saleae, and Ikalogic.
Before we dive into the comparison part, we should be aware of a few points based on which we’ll compare them. Logic analyzers come with a certain number of channels. The higher the number of channels is, the costlier is the product. So, select the number of channels appropriately depending on the size of your project. Several other technical specifications should also be considered, which are listed below:
- Channel Bandwidth: This defines the maximum frequency which the logic analyzer can measure.
- Sample rate: The number of samples that a logic analyzer can acquire in one second. A high sample rate will help to catch glitches that occur for a very short time.
- Voltage Levels: Embedded systems usually work on multiple logic levels. So a logic analyzer should be flexible enough to support these logic levels.
- Trigger Capability: A good logic analyzer must be capable of setting complex and nested triggers.
- Capture Duration: For a large-scale project, a very long continuous stream of data is required for analysis. So the logic analyzer must be capable of working for a long time.
Prodigy Technovations has its Discovery series logic analyzer. This analyzer for embedded interfaces is also identified as PGY-LA-EMBD. It is a 16-channel logic analyzer that provides a timing speed of 1 GS/s. This enables the user to capture glitches of up to 1ns. It allows for 1 GS/s on all of its channels and supports simultaneous debugging of multiple protocols.
The PGY-LA-EMBD also features smart continuous streaming of data to the HDD /SSD of the host computer through a USB 3.0 interface. With this, the logic analyzer does not limit the amount of data captured and entirely depends on the external storage capacity.
Since its first release of a PC-based logic analyzer in 2008, Saleae has been famous for developing low-cost Logic Analyzers. They offer three models: Logic 8, Logic Pro 8, and Logic Pro 16. The digits indicate the number of input channels. All these devices come in a compact form factor and support digital and analog inputs. Logic Pro 16 can provide a sample rate of up to 500MS/s on 4 channels and 100MS/s on 16 channels.
Logic Pro 16 supports more than 20 communication protocols, some of which are Serial, SPI, I2C, Atmel SWI, Biss-C, CAN. This makes it a much more flexible logic analyzer compared to others. Together with extensive software support, the setup is quite simple and can be used with ease.
The SP209 series of logic analyzers by Ikalogic provides an in-depth analysis of logic signals and protocols with 200MHz (5ns) timing resolution. Ikalogic provides you with two models: SP209 and SP209i, with the latter being more oriented towards industrial use. Both the models offer 9-channels for input, with SP209i integrating industrial receivers for CAN, LIN, RS232, and RS485 buses. SP209 series provides Schmitt trigger input stages with adjustable thresholds.
The software for this is entirely free and can be used for configuring and displaying the signals. This analyzer also supports streaming through USB and features dedicated trigger-In and trigger-Out interfaces on SMA ports. Ikalogic offers micro-grabbers probes set in the box to ensure high-quality data capture.
|Parameters||PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer||Saleae Logic Series||SP209 Series Logic
|No. of channels||16||16||9|
|Protocols supported||I2C, SPI, UART, I3C, SPMI,|
|Serial, SPI, I2C, Atmel SWI, Biss-C, CAN, DMX-512, HD44780, HDLC, I2S, JTAG, LIN, MDIO, MIDI,||I2C, SPI, UART, USART,
1-Wire, CAN, LIN, RS485,
|Maximum sample rate||1 GS/s||500 MS/s||200 MS/s
|Simultaneous Protocol Decoding of I2C, SPI & UART||Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|Trigger Capabilities||● Auto|
● Pulse Width
● Protocol Aware
● Delay Trigger
|● Edge Trigger|
● Pulse width trigger
|● Edge Trigger
● Logic change on one or various channels
● Trigger on a sequence of timed logic signals.
● Trigger on a protocol word or event.
● External Trigger Input
● Trigger Output
● Dual Stage Trigger
|Offline decoding||Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|Input Buffer||4Gb||Not Available||2Gb|
|Report Generation||PDF and CSV||CSV, Binary, VCD, and MATLAB||CSV only|
|USB type||USB 3.0||USB 3.0||USB 2.0|
|Voltage Level Support||1.2V, 1.8V, 2.5V, 3.3V, 5V||1.2V, 1.8V, 2.5V, 3.3V, 5.0V||1.8V, 2.5V, 3.3V, 5V|
|Error Analysis of Protocol Packet||Available (Insufficient bit error display)||Not Available||Not Available|
|Supported Operating Systems||Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10||Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8,10, Linux, macOS||Windows 7, 8,10, Linux, macOS|
|Probe Set||Flying lead probe with female connectors||Micro-Gripper Hooks||Micro grabber probe set
|External Triggers||Trigger Out SMA connector||Not Available||Trigger Out, Trigger in SMA connectors|
|Dimensions||140 x 100 x 35 mm||92 x 92 x 15 mm||85 x 60 x 13 mm|
|Weight||200 g||220 g||105 g|
After making the PC-based Logic Analyzers comparison, the right product for your project ultimately depends on your budget and the scale at which you’ll use them.
If you are willing to go all-out or can stretch your budget a little, then the PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer from Prodigy Technovations will be the perfect one for you. PGY-LA-EMBD is field upgradable and supports a very high sample rate of 1 GS/s, which makes it a future-proof product and thus is worth investing in.
If you’re a bit tight on your budget and a fewer number of channels is sufficient for your project, you can go for the SP209 Series Logic Analyzer. This one provides a little low sample rate compared to others, but the features are justifiable for its price.
Otherwise, if you have a mid-range budget and require ease of setup and use, then the Saleae’s Logic Analyzers are suitable for you. Saleae is popular for developing PC-based Logic Analyzers due to its compact size and extensible client software.
Saumitra Jagdale is a Backend Developer, Freelance Technical Author, Global AI Ambassador (SwissCognitive), Open-source Contributor in Python projects, Leader of Tensorflow Community India and Passionate AI/ML Enthusiast