If you’re building an extensive digital system-based project or even a product, then some form of digital communications between various subsystems has to be there. The communications may be using UART, I2C, SPI, I3C, etc., but sometimes things might not work out as expected after connecting multiple devices on the same line. This is where a Logic Analyzer comes in to show you what’s happening on that communication line. With Prodigy Technovation’s PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer, the embedded system designers can even perform Protocol Analysis with up to 1GS/s sampling speed on all 16 channels.
As Prodigy Technovations, the leading provider of innovative protocol analysis solutions, put it in their blog post, a Logic Analyzer is used when we need to
- Debug and verify digital system operations
- Trace and correlate multiple digital signals simultaneously
- Detect and analyze timing violations and transients on buses
- Trace embedded software execution
The Discovery logic analyzer series, also identified as PGY-LA-EMBD, offers all of the above while providing several other heaps of features, including simultaneous protocol analysis of UART, I2C, and SPI. In this article, we’ll have a look at how easy it is to set up the PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer and test out some of its software features.
PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer hardware setup and specifications
Just like other USB-based Logic Analyzers, setting up PGY-LA-EMBD is also relatively easy. The device is powered with a 5V DC input from the given adapter, a USB Type-C port to connect it to the PC, and a flying lead probe cable connector for connecting the debugging interfaces. The flying lead cable combines 16 pairs of wires, each pair consisting of a ground and digital input. We have an ATmega2560 based dev board running an 8 bit counter program with a slight modification to generate inverted spikes for the test setup. Eight pins from the dev board are connected to the first eight channels of PGY-LA-EMBD. With this, our hardware setup is complete and ready to capture signals.
Coming to the specifications, the PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer offers 1GS/s (or 1GHZ) of Asynchronous speed and 100 MS/s of Synchronous speed. Unlike other Logic Analyzers, which provide high sampling speeds only on a few/limited channels, PGY-LA-EMBD provides 1GS/s on all channels, thus providing more flexibility to use. It also allows simultaneous debugging of I2C, SPI, UART, I3C, SPMI, and RFFE interfaces on all the 16-channels. There’s a 4GB DDR3 buffer to store the captured data on the device. It also supports the streaming of data to PC through the USB connection. There are also some advanced trigger capabilities, including Auto, Pattern, Protocol aware, and timing. PGY-LA-EMBD supports voltage thresholds of 1.2V, 1.8V, 2.5V, 3.3V, and 5V, which can be selected in the software tool.
Software setup and offline decoding capabilities
PGY-LA-EMBD comes bundled with its software which takes around 50MB of disk space after installation. At first glance, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) seems pretty simple and displays all the necessary information on a single page. Users are greeted with the “Configuration” page on opening the software where mode, sampling speed, and channels to be used are specified. For now, we’ll set the mode to Logic Analyzer only, sampling speed of 1GS/s and the first eight channels as inputs. Finally, the capture started after clicking the “Acquire” button. In the Logic Analyzer, Status LED 1 will start glowing, indicating that capturing is in process. At the same time, the data will be streaming to the PC and displayed in real-time. After collecting a sufficient amount of data, we can stop the capture. Finally, the data is represented in a friendly graphical format.
From the Timing plot view, we can observe that the number of spikes increases as we go down. CH1 is the clock input (here, we treat the clock as a standard signal) followed by the other digital inputs. After placing the vertical markers, the distance between the two spikes is found to be 100 milliseconds. This is exactly what we have programmed it to be. In some places, the spikes appear thicker, which can be termed a glitch in communication.
Furthermore, the users can also save the configuration parameters and the captured data for offline decoding. The files are saved in XML and DAT formats which can be imported later for decoding and analysis. There is also an option to export the report in PDF or CSV formats.
All in all, the PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer is very easy to set up, especially for those who are beginners. Small things like labeling on the flying lead probe wires added to the convenience. A sampling speed of 1GS/s is beneficial for catching minor glitches of up to 2ns, as claimed by the company. Python API support is also expected to come shortly, which will allow developers to automate the process.
The metallic outer body feels very solid, along with grill-like cutouts on the front and back for dissipating the heat. Additionally, there are two micro-USB ports and one 14-pin connector port, which are said to be reserved. Overall, the price tag of $1500 might seem a bit high, but it is worth investing in if you want a durable and future-proof product.
On its product page, you can learn more about the PGY-LA-EMBD Logic Analyzer or request a demo before buying one.
Harsh Chaudhary is an engineering student currently pursuing Electrical Engineering. He’s a robotics and tech enthusiast and likes to write about stuff related to IoT and embedded systems. His vision is to use Robotics to make the life of humans easier.