A Review of the miniVNA Pro Vector Network Analyzer
Over on YouTube Kevin Loughin has reviewed the miniVNA Pro Vector Network Analyzer (VNA). A VNA is a tool that can be used to measure antenna or coax parameters such as SWR, impedance, loss as well as characterize filters. It is a very useful tool to have if you are building antennas, filters or RF circuits. The RTL-SDR with a noise source can somewhat be used as a network analyzer, but a fully functional VNA will be a lot more accurate and easier to use. The miniVNA costs US$490 and is significantly cheaper compared to desktop based VNAs.
In the video Kevin explains what a VNA is and that the miniVNA Pro is, shows how to calibrate the unit, shows some measurements on his roof mounted dipole, measures a home made filter, and then demonstrates portable operation of the device on an Android phone. The miniVNA Pro has a built in battery so it can be used portably in the field together with an Android phone and bluetooth.
We ourselves have the miniVNA tiny which operates in frequency from 1 MHz all the way up to 3 GHz, whereas the miniVNA Pro operates from 0.1 MHz to 200 MHz. However the tiny does not have portable operation. The miniVNA tiny is excellent for building things like ADS-B and Inmarsat antennas.
The miniVNA Pro and Tiny can both be found for sale on Ham Radio Outlet.
Still way to much out of my budget although I do understand the price for tools like this continue to decrease, it will be a very long time until it gets cheap enough for me. Until then, I will use “old school” methods and either software calculators or pen and paper to get the measurement data I need. If I was a professional, rather than a passionate hobbyist ham homebrewer / wannabe real rf engineer, then I could see the expense of the Tiny ($560) being worth the extra time needed to use the good ol’ ghetto hombre setup.
‘To measure is to know’ and strangely enough, I prefer measuring over operating. 🙂 Thanks for the info about this product. I have yet to try measuring with an RTL-SDR + noise source but may have to give that a shot. The ~$50 24Mhz Chinese Signal Generators from ebay are capable of doing sweeps!!! Using this with a simple AD8307 circuit (see W7ZOI and Pops AKA PopcornQRP’s QRPHomeBuilder.pdf design) is an excellent and affordable way for the budget minded, RF Curious individual to make accurate measurements of filters, etc. I also recommend the sweep systems designed by K3NHI. It takes a fair amount of components but if you have a decent junk box but not enough to afford a $50 signal / sweep generator from ebay, it may be a very viable option for you (I have built one, it’s a lot of fun to use but a lot of work to build — took me a year).
All the best to everyone.