The R860 will replace the R820T2 – Same chip different name

We have recently received samples and tested the new R860 tuner chip from Rafael Micro. However, to be clear there is no change in terms of silicon or performance between the R820T2 and the R860. It is just a change in name signifying a minor change in the manufacturing chain which has allowed production of this chip to continue. In the future all R820T2 RTL-SDRs will transition to the R860 and we are just noting this now so that customers are not surprised if they see R860 markings on future dongles. We warn that some sellers of RTL-SDRs may attempt to market the R860 as an improvement, but we want to make clear that they are indeed identical to the R820T2.

Thank you to Rafael for continuing to support the SDR community, and thanks to all our customers!

The R860 tuner chip from Rafael

We note that Airspy will also be using the R860 in their products as per their latest tweet.


    • admin

      This is not related to the tuner, after all direct sampling mode completely disables and bypasses the tuner.

      What the Reddit OP is seeing is slightly adjusted attenuation curves in newer units. Due to the majority of direct sampling users having overload issues with broadcast AM, the attenuation in the BC AM band has been increased to increase performance in the other bands.

      He appears to be use an extremely poor MW antenna which can barely receive the signal so this change will impact him. But if he uses a better antenna the change will be more helpful.

  1. Coots

    I understand the difficulty in customize a
    monolithic ic for niche purposes, but I wonder
    if Rafael could offer a version exposing the
    local oscillator output
    Someone has connections with the company?

    • Bertie

      Typically for a silicon chip, you are talking about a million dollars to get it into full production. So unless there is a big enough market to recover the costs and turn a profit in under 5 years, I personally do not see that happening.

      The best you as an individual could hope for is to buy a bunch of them, decapping a few and searching for a test point where the output from the PLL may be accessible.

  2. Syed

    As the text in article states, the R860 *is* the R820T2. There is no chance to process/node/silicon. It’s a manufacturing change, which could mean that something other than silicon fabrication has changed. So no new registers.

    • Bertie

      Why re-brand away from R820T2 ? Was it a change in management decision to realign products and a marketing decision to remove any connection to Terrestrial (T) broadcasts and any history of product improvement (2). For the part number of an electronic component, it is just really odd to change the part number and leave everything exactly the same.

    • Truth

      Imagine re-branding other silicon:
      BC557 (PNP transistor)
      BC547 (NPN transistor)
      2N2222A (NPN transistor)
      2N3906 (PNP transistor)
      555 (timer IC)
      IC741 (Operational Amplifier)

      The usual rule is that part numbers only change with some kind of change to the part, be that to external or internal function. Changing a part number and keeping everything exactly the same, sounds like a sounds like poor decision that a bad Business Administration person would make to inadvertently loose sales.

    • Bertie

      And what is the cheap, high quality mass produced tuner for that ?

      What you are looking for is the equivalent RF tuner to the 608 steel bearing, which is an order of magnitude cheaper than all other steel bearings, at higher quality, because it is used in every skateboard worldwide.

      (keep in mind that “Rafael Micro has over 30% of the TV receiver world-wide market”, and because of that scale I’m sure that their tuner chips are very high quality at a very cheap price point).

    • Bertie

      My guess would be NO since the chips datasheet is under a NDA (non disclosure agreement). But I would guess that the R860 is a pin compatible drop in replacement for the R820 and R820T2, with probably all the same SPI registers and possibly a few new registers.

      I’m thinking of one lyric from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” track – “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss”.

      I suspect the real change was a migration to a different process node, and the improvement is lower power usage. But everything I said is only me guessing.

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