National Instruments VirtualBench Review, Teardown & Experiments

In this episode Shahriar gets a hold of a National Instruments VirtualBench! This instrument combines a mixed-signal oscilloscope, function generator, digital multimeter, programmable power supply and digital I/Os in one compact and portable unit. The teardown of the unit reveals a two-board construction with a core single processor which handles all instrument functionality simultaneously.

The unit software (which is embedded inside the instrument memory) is examined in detaile before performing any experiments. Using the VirtualBench, a Si5351 multi-synthesizer clock generator IC is characterized including output signal analyses and I2C decoding. Next by using the function generator and oscilloscope the response of a band-pass 15MHz filter is measured.

3 comments

  1. Mark Baker says:

    Hardware can be like writing software. You really do not know what you want/need until after a lot of money/time is spent. I cannot justify this instrument now so have brought an Analogue Discovery 2 but starting from scratch this would have been a good purchase. With this or my AD2 I can sit in the corner of the living room near the family with one box a breadboard and pc which does not upset the wife (She hates mess), is easy to tidy away, keeps the kids happy and I can still do what I want to do. A winner all round.

  2. Dane Wagner says:

    I actually worked on the original VB-8012. The unpopulated connector you’re referring to is indeed an RJ45 port that we used during development and initial bringup of the board.

    We’ve recently released a new version of VirtualBench that actually has Ethernet exposed to the user along with USB and WiFi. It’s also got four scope channels instead of two, higher bandwidth on those scope channels, and higher current on the power supply.

    You can find more info here:

    http://www.ni.com/virtualbench/what-is/

    and if you have any questions the official forums are here:

    http://forums.ni.com/t5/VirtualBench/bd-p/340

    We’ve also continued to add features to both the old and new hardware through software updates. Check it out if you get a chance!

  3. Frédéric Boivin says:

    The unknown unpopulated IC and connector is most likely an Ethernet PHY and a RJ45 port used during development as a provision in case there is problems with the wireless communication.

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