Back in 2016, we wrote one of our most popular posts covering 12 popular Software Defined Radios or SDRs. While the previous post still holds some extremely valuable information, a lot has changed in 2 years... especially the technology related to SDRs. So we thought it was time for an update.
A Berlin-based team known as PTScientists (Part Time Scientists) will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in high-style in 2019. The group was a participant in the private race to the moon, the Google Lunar X Prize, which will wrap up this year without a winner. Their mission for 2019? To bring a 4G wireless mobile network to the moon!
So much of what defines our modern lives is made possible through radio wave technology, which has changed the world in ways the first researchers could never have anticipated. But where did anyone get the idea that radio waves existed in the first place, and that they could be harnessed for wireless communication? It’s a fascinating story that continues to unfold to this day. Let’s go back to the beginning to understand how this technology has evolved.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broad term which encompasses the multitude to wirelessly connected devices that surround us. It applies not only to smartphones and tablets, but to millions of machines, devices, and new twists on traditional products which were previously not connected to the internet. But what makes it all possible? How do these devices connect to the internet and communicate with each other?
For the first 15 years or so of their existence, cell phones were clunky devices which could only be used to make voice calls - which were frequently dropped.
Remember these GIANT things?? ...The Model T of cell phones, The 1983 Motorola Dynatac:
If you'd like to go on a quick side tangent, check out The Evolution of Cell Phones.
Anyway, these first cell phones were considered first-generation or “1G” phones. Then came 2G, which brought us the wonders of text messaging. 3G was a huge leap forward, making internet access completely mobile, and now most of us living in industrialized nations using 4G phones, which bring us the speed we’ve grown accustomed to.
Fifth Generation Wireless is Right Around the Corner
Fifth generation wireless systems are not far from becoming a reality, thanks to recent research being done on the millimeter wave (mmW) radio spectrum. Experts agree the way forward is to manufacture mass deployable wireless devices across a range of markets and for different applications. Among other things, these applications include mobile computing and data processing over networks. The technology also has applications in the field of medicine and healthcare.
Software Defined Radios (SDRs) are constantly evolving. It seems like "the latest and greatest" SDRs are always popping up somewhere with today's rapidly growing technology. We thought it'd be helpful to provide you with some of the most popular and top rated SDRs in today's market.
We tried to include a wide variation of prices, applications, frequencies, and ease of use on the following list. This way, it'll be more likely that you'll find the best Software Defined Radio for your needs in the following list.
Without further ado, here are 12 great Software Defined Radios for you!
*Descriptions taken from product pages
**Disclosure: This post that contains affiliate links.
- What a great place to start! This RTL-SDR is cheap and great for beginners or those on a budget.
- Applications include general radio scanning, air traffic control, public safety radio, ADSB, AIS, ACARS, trunked radio, P25 digital voice, POCSAG, weather balloons, APRS, NOAA APT weather satellites, radio astronomy, meteor scatter monitorin, and more
- Frequency: 500 kHz to 1.7 GHz and has up to 3.2 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth
2. Red Pitaya
- Included: NooElec USB dongle, antenna, remote control
- RTL2832U interface IC & R820T tuner IC on USB dongle
- Full compatibility with a large array of software packages
- DRU-244A-1-1-PCI SDR hardware digitizer
- 1 ADC chip with 1 analog input
- 1 DDC chip with 4 radio channels
5. HackRF One
- Operating Frequency: 1 MHz to 6 GHz
- Matching male SMA ANT500 antenna & USB cable included
- Compatible with GNU Radio, SDR#, and more
- 6U Compact-PCI form factor hardware development platform that can be used for a variety of applications, such as Software Defined Radio.
- Optimized to provide high performance signal conversion using high speed ADC’s and DAC’s.
- Other applications: WiMAX, Satellite MODEM's, RFID, Wireless Communication Systems
- 2.4 GHz Transmit and Receive.
- Suitable for Bluetooth experimentation
- Can also operate in monitor mode, monitoring Bluetooth traffic in real-time.
- Frequency: 100KHz-1.7GHz
- Built-in 100Mhz upconverter combined with Built-in HD R820T allow better receiving of short wave than using direct SDR’s Q tunnel
- Easy to set-up, just connect it and you’re ready to go!
- Alternative to both cost sensitive and higher end scanners while featuring the "best radio browsing experience of the market" thanks to the tight integration with the de facto standard SDR# software.
- External GPS or Rubidium clocks supported for professional use
- Full HF Coverage
- Flexible and affordable transceiver that turns a standard PC into a powerful wireless prototyping system.
- Supports multirate DSP for physical layer communications and helps you integrate .m file scripts and C language algorithms.
- Large frequency range of 100 kHz up to 27 GHz and wide instantaneous bandwidth of up to 100 MHz.
- Supports 160 MHz instantaneous bandwidth
- SDR covers the 10 kHz to 30 MHz (VLF-HF) spectrum.
- Demodulation modes: AM, AMN, LSB, USB, CW, CWN, NBFM.
- RF antenna connector: SMA and terminal block.
- GPS receives the Navstar system on L1 frequency 1575.42 MHz.
Are You Experiencing Phase Noise in your Applications?
Full Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission in you click through and make a purchase.
In case you haven’t heard, Passive WiFi is an amazing innovation poised to revolutionize wireless communications, beginning with the internet of things (IoT) or industrial internet. It promises a future of WiFi communication that is 10,000 times more energy efficient.
Inside Frequency Control was able to get a back-stage pass to this exciting technology when we had a chat with one of the co-inventors, Shyam Gollakota. Check out the interview where we learned more about Passive Wi-Fi (you can read their research paper here) AND the process the researchers used to bring this innovation to life.