Category: NanoVNA

Tech Minds: Testing Antennas with the VNA N1201SA / PS100

Over on his channel Tech Minds has uploaded a new video where he tests the N1201SA / PS100 vector impedance analyzer. This is a US$160 antenna analyzer from China that allows you to measure the VSWR of your antennas. In the video Tech Minds explains a bit about VSWR, and goes on to show the unit in action on several of his antennas.

Compared to the NanoVNA V2 these units seems less useful with a smaller frequency range, and are also more expensive. The unit is also only 1-port, meaning that it can only do S11 measurements and cannot analyze devices like filters. But on the other hand it does come in a metal case with a battery and has a fairly easy to understand and use interface.

Easily Check Your Antennas Tuning - VNA N1201SA / PS100

NanoVNA V2 Video Tutorials

The NanoVNA V2 (aka S-A-A-2) is a vector network analyzer (VNA) with 50 kHz to 3 GHz frequency range. Recently is has become readily available for around $60 + shipping from the Tindie store. We like this product a lot and are planning to get some for our store soon as well. (Update: A limited quantity of NanoVNA V2's are now available in our store)

A Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) is an extremely useful tool for radio hobbyists as it allows you to measure and tune antennas and filters, as well as measure cable loss among other applications. Until recently low cost VNA's cost hundreds of dollars. Then came along the original NanoVNA which brought expensive VNA capabilities to the masses with its low $40 pricing. But the original design is limited to a maximum frequency of only 900 MHz. The new V2 design pushes this maximum frequency up to 3 GHz officially, and unofficially up to 4.4 GHz with reduced performance. It also improves on overall dynamic range and maintains the affordable sub $100 price. We note that the NanoVNA V2 is unrelated to the original NanoVNA apart from being the inspiration, and sharing the same firmware base.

Over on YouTube Robert J. Meade has been uploading a series of videos demonstrating and teaching viewers how to use the NanoVNA V2 to measure various devices. For example in his videos he shows how to use the NanoVNA V2 to measure one of our RTL-SDR Blog Broadcast FM filters, how to measure a log spiral & clover antenna, use measurements to rebuild a variable attenuator, measure an active device (SAWbird+ NOAA), and how to measure a DIY microstrip L-band LNA. If you're just getting started with the NanoVNA V2, then these are some great videos to start with.

NanoVNA V2 First Measurements V2: Log Spiral & Clover Antennas (Above 900 MHz & up to 3GHz)

NanoVNA V2 Now Readily Available for $60 + US Stock Available at R&L

The much awaited NanoVNA V2 is now readily available for around $60 + shipping from the Tindie store. Shipping is noted to begin on June 30th due to a public holiday and you must agree to possible pandemic delays, although feedback from earlier customers indicates that most countries appear to be receiving the packages in good time. You can also add a calibration kit for $10 extra, or a calibration kit and acrylic enclosure for $14 extra.

For US customers R&L Electronics have them in stock in "high end" for $59.95 and "low end" for $54.95 options. The high end option appears to have higher quality cables included. UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that the stock at R&L is actually from a "clone" manufacturer and the clones do not support the original developer.

We note that the NanoVNA V2 is an open source project created by OwOComm, a research organization with a mission to further "intellectual communism". Therefore any factory is free to produce their own version from the designs, and hence several other versions have already been showing up on marketplaces like Aliexpress/eBay. However, for now it is probably safer to buy directly from the original manufacturers on the Tindie store. This is because according to the developer the quality of the "unofficial" clones that are showing up on Aliexpress and eBay is not yet known. The official version also supports the original developer and funds future software development.

NanoVNA V2 Available for Sale on Tindie
NanoVNA V2 Available for Sale on Tindie

A Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) is an extremely useful tool for radio hobbyists as it allows you to tune antennas, filters, and measure cable loss among other applications. Until recently a VNA would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. However, the original NanoVNA brought expensive VNA capabilities to the masses with its low $40 pricing. But the original design was limited to a maximum frequency of only 900 MHz. The new V2 design pushes this maximum frequency up to 3 GHz officially, and unofficially up to 4.4 GHz with reduced performance. It also improves on overall dynamic range and maintains the affordable price.

NanoVNA V2’s Now for Sale on eBay and Tindie

We've received a few notices that the NanoVNA V2 design that we've been following since last year is now available for sale on eBay and Tindie (or Taobao if you live in China). The original official sales appear to have been from Tindie, where it is priced at $58.25 + shipping, although it is now out of stock. On eBay resellers are selling it for up to $150. If you're interested in purchasing the V2 we recommend entering your email into the Tindie form as they will notify you when it's back in stock. Initial reviews posted on the Tindie store indicate that the unit has excellent performance for the price so we expect that it will be popular enough to manufacture many more in the future.

The original NanoVNA brought expensive Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) capabilities to the masses with it's low $40 pricing. A VNA is an extremely useful tool for radio hobbyists as it allows you to tune antennas, filters and measure cable loss among other applications. However, the original design was limited to only a frequency of 900 MHz maximum. The new design pushes this up to 3 GHz official, and unofficially up to 4.4 GHz whilst also improving dynamic range and maintaining the low price point.

The description and specs of the NanoVNA V2 are shown below:

Measuring the Radiation Pattern of a Yagi Antenna with a NanoVNA

On Hackaday we've seen an interesting post about Jephthai who has used a NanoVNA to measure the radiation pattern of a home made Yagi antenna. He began by initially modelling the Yagi using the MMANA software package, then building the antenna and measuring the SWR.

However, SWR is only partial information and tells us nothing about the actual gain and directivity / radiation pattern of the antenna. The radiation pattern tells us in which direction the antenna receives and radiates power best from. For a Yagi, we would expect the best reception gain to come from the front, with much less gain on the sides and rear.

To set up the radiation pattern measurement, Jephthai connected the Yagi to the TX port of the NanoVNA via a long coax cable, and connected an omnidirectional whip antenna to the RX port of the NanoVNA. The NanoVNA and Yagi are separated by a reasonable distance of 18' to ensure that the far-field radiation pattern is measured instead of the near-field pattern. He then measures and collects the S21 reading over multiple rotations of the Yagi.

The data is then plotted revealing a two dimensional radiation pattern for the Yagi. As expected gain is highest in the front, and weaker on the sides and rear. Jephthai notes that the radiation pattern mostly matches what the MMANA antenna modelling software predicted too.

Jephthai's NanoVNA Radiation Pattern Measurement Setup
Jephthai's NanoVNA Radiation Pattern Measurement Setup

A Guide to the NanoVNA: Kindle eBook for $2.99

With the NanoVNA (and upcoming NanoVNA 2.0) being so affordable and readily available many budget focused RF enthusiasts and hams are now adding a tool to their arsenal that used to only be for the wealthy and commercial users. Vector Network Analyzers (VNAs) allow you to do things like make SWR measurements on antennas, characterize RF filters and detect coax cable faults, among other applications.

However, much like the RTL-SDR there is no one company or entity controlling the NanoVNA concept or development. The NanoVNA name now encompasses a mishmash of similar but slightly different hardware created by multiple manufacturers/community members, and multiple firmware and software developed by the community. This can be frustrating for some people as community developed products typically do not have full manuals and support that you would find in products from a larger commercial company. Instead some time to research and understand the product may be required.

Whilst almost plug and play, to use the NanoVNA you still need to understand what a VNA is, how to calibrate it, and how to read it's measurements. And in addition, for the NanoVNA in particular you'll want to know the differences in NanoVNA versions, how to update the firmware and where to find optional PC programs for it.

In order to help people new to VNAs and the NanoVNA, Christoph Schwarzler (OE1CGS) and Maximilian Schwarzler (OE1SML) have written a Kindle eBook called "A guide to the NanoVNA". The guide goes over what a VNA is and how it works, NanoVNA hardware versions and what to avoid, what accessories you might need, how to update the firmware, how to read the various charts, how to navigate the menus, how to calibrate and how to use NanoVNA PC software. The book also goes over some use cases for the NanoVNA, including creating a loading coil for a 40m short vertical antenna, creating a band pass filter, and checking for coax short circuit defects. At only US$2.99 it's a good way to get started with the NanoVNA.

Kindle Book "A Guide to the NanoVNA"
Kindle Book "A Guide to the NanoVNA"

A Simple Step by Step Guide to Updating the NanoVNA Firmware

Thank you to RJ Juneau (ylabrj / VA3YLB) for sharing with us his NanoVNA firmware update guide for idiots. NanoVNA firmware is updated fairly often, so this is a good reference guide for those who want to test the latest code as updating the firmware is a multi-step process. He writes

I've put together a "for idiots" document (I'm both  the writer and the target audience) that holds your hand through the process of upgrading from Windows, and covers some important issues like:

  •  Are you using a nanoVNA or an updated nanoVNA-H? 
  • Where to pick up the right software for the board
  • Do you want the VNA or the antenna analyzer version?
  • The software you need to load it, drivers, etc.
The NanoVNA: A $50 Vector Network Analyzer
The NanoVNA-H: A $50 Vector Network Analyzer

NanoVNA Version 2.0 First PCB Pictures Released + NanoVNA Naming & Credit Clarifications

Back in October 2019 we posted about the upcoming NanoVNA version 2.0 which back then was still being designed with a predicted release date of January 2020. Recently some photos of the NanoVNA 2.0 prototype have been uploaded to the NanoVNA groups.io forum.

The NanoVNA 2.0 is expected to retail at around US$60 which is around the same price as the current NanoVNA. The current NanoVNA is limited in that it can only measure from 50 kHz to 900 MHz, with performance being reduced above 300 MHz. It can be extended to 1.5 GHz, but with severely reduced performance. The NanoVNA 2.0 will be able to measure from 50 kHz to 3 GHz, and possibly up to 3.5 GHz. Version 2.0 will also have improved dynamic range.

The NanoVNA (v1.0) is a versatile Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) that was originally designed by @edy555 / ttrftech. What makes it so special is it's extremely low cost as it can be found on eBay & Aliexpress for under US$40 and on Amazon for around US$50-US$70. A VNA is an extremely useful tool in any ham or RF enthusiasts tool belt as it can be used to measure RF filters, tune antennas, measure coax cable loss, and find cable faults.

NanoVNA V2.0 PCB Photos
NanoVNA V2.0 PCB Photos

NanoVNA Version, Model, Naming and Credit Confusion

Eddy555's original NanoVNA design has already been released for several years prior to the current NanoVNA popularity boom, but during those years eddy555 was only selling the product in small quantities as a DIY kitset.

The current low cost NanoVNA's available on the market now are mostly the "hugen" version known as the NanoVNA-H. Hugen is a ham who innovated on eddy555's original open source design, adding features like battery management, improved PCB layout, PC software and extending the frequency range from 300 MHz to 900 MHz.

Hugen began by making 50 units of his design to sell to some hams who had been following his design improvements online. However, hugen's design was soon cloned by other Chinese factories and this is when the NanoVNA product took off and became a well known name for an affordable VNA. The "real" NanoVNA-H is now being sold at nanovna.com, and there are several clones available on Aliexpress that are both black and white in color. Some of the clones omit the shielding which can cause issues in some RF environments. As far as we know, the only NanoVNA-H distributor that decided to pay royalties to back eddy555 (after this exchange [part 2 resolution] on Twitter) is NooElec who sell a full NanoVNA bundle for US$109.

There is now also the "NanoVNA-F" version available which is a clone of the "NanoVNA-H" but with a larger 4.3" screen, larger battery, range extended to 1 GHz, and firmware based on a RToS. It sells at a much higher price of US$110 - US$129.

Finally, we note that the NanoVNA 2.0 project described in the first part of this post does not appear to be affiliated with eddy555 or hugen in any way. Development of the NanoVNA 2.0 is apparently based on completely original design work, and only shares similarity to the original NanoVNA in terms of pricing, name, and firmware compatibility. NanoVNA 2.0 is being developed by OwOComm which is a Japanese research unit that aims to promote "intellectual communism".

OwOComm note that they will release the designs as open source without actually manufacturing the product. It's then up to any factory to manufacture and sell the design as they please. OwOComm themselves appear to be sponsored by an unnamed customer of theirs who wanted an "improved NanoVNA" to be designed. It's not clear what the goals of OwOComm or their unnamed sponsor is, other than perhaps philanthropic.

At the same time we note that eddy555 appears to be designing his own NanoVNA 2.0 version which is not affiliated with the NanoVNA 2.0 described in this post. In the forum thread eddy555 has urged OwOComm to rename their project to avoid confusion, but it is unclear if they will do so.

The story of an open source project running away from the original developer seems to be a fairly common one these days. While eddy555's original open source design has started something truly great, it is at the same time sad that he won't see much credit or profit from future designs.

All NanoVNA versions that we are currently aware of
All NanoVNA versions that we are currently aware of