Recently we’ve heard about the ADALM-PLUTO (a.k.a PlutoSDR) which is an up and coming RX/TX capable SDR that covers 325 – 3800 MHz, has a 12-bit ADC and a 61.44 MSPS sampling rate. All this and it is currently priced at only $149 USD on Digikey (but note that it is not shipping yet). This makes it the lowest price general purpose TX capable SDR that we’ve seen so far.
Regarding the features and specs they write:
ADI’s ADALM-PLUTO is the ideal learning tool/module for radio frequency (RF), software defined radio (SDR), and wireless communications. Each ADALM-PLUTO comes with two antennas, one for frequencies of 824 HMz to 894 HMz and the other for 1710 MHz to 2.170 GHz. Each unit comes with one 15 cm SMA cable with both transmitter and receiver capabilities and is powered via USB. The self-contained RF learning module supports both half and full duplex communications and uses MATBAB and GNU Radio sink source blocks, Libiio, A C, C++, C#, and Python API.
The internal components of ADALM-PLUTO include, AD936x RF Agile Transceiver™ and Power, Micron DDR3L and QSPI Flash, Xilinx® Zqynq® programmable SoC and USB 2.0 PHY. The firmware PlutoSDR is open source and comprises technology from Das U-Boat, the Linux Kernal and Buildroot. The ADALM-PLUTO is the ideal wireless, SDR learning tool for students, hobbyists, and educators.
- Portable self-contained RF learning module
- Cost-effective experimentation platform
- RF coverage from 325 MHz to 3.8 GHz
- Flexible rate, 12-bit ADC and DAC
- One transmitter and one receiver (female SMA, 50 Ω)
- Half or full duplex
- MATLAB, Simulink support
- GNU radio sink and source blocks
- Libiio, a C, C++, C#, and Python API
- USB 2.0 interface
- Plastic enclosure
- USB powered
- Up to 20 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth (complex I/Q)
The PlutoSDR appears to be mainly advertised as a learning module for electrical engineering students (see the promotional PDF pamphlet here), but it there seems to be no reason why it could not be used as a general purpose SDR. In fact it seems that @csete the author of GQRX has already made his PlutoSDR work in GQRX
Looks like I got the plutosdr working in gqrx 😊 pic.twitter.com/jaGDcxoWp2— Alexandru Csete (@csete) February 12, 2017
The PlutoSDR is also more than just an SDR. On board is a full SoC (‘System on Chip’) which includes an FPGA and ARM processor that allows Linux to run directly on the device. The processor and Linux can access the SDR and run applications on the device itself. Over on the PlutoSDR wiki there are already a few tutorials that show how to use the SDR with MATLAB, Simulink and GNU Radio.
From the specs of this SDR the main limitation seems to be the tuning range with the lowest frequency tunable being only 325 MHz. But a simple upconverter could easily solve this limitation. As it is designed to be a learning tool for University students we also expect that there will be a lot of documentation and applications eventually built for it.
At the moment the PlutoSDR does not appear to be for sale. It only seems that several early model units have been sent out to developers. But it looks like the PlutoSDR will be available on Digikey for $149 USD. We’re not sure if this is the exact pricing, as a few days earlier a lower price was shown, but even at $149 USD it seems to be a good deal.