Review of Agilent 33522B 30MHz 2-Channel Waveform Generator with Arbitrary Waveform Generation

Table of contents

RoadTest: Agilent 33522B 30MHz 2-Channel Waveform Generator with Arbitrary Waveform Generation

Author: migration.user

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?:

Detailed Review:

This will be a two part review of the Agilent 3522B. The first is intruducing my slecf to the instument , the second I will look at the insturment in use.

 

Disclosure

I should perhaps declare a small personal bias here and very likely show my age.

My first experience of Agilent ( HP as it was then ) was a HP32E calculator while studying which I still own and is working however I fell for  the LCD charms of a HP11C a few years later. We are still happily married after more than 20 years. 

I also spent a number of years maintaining HP medical monitoring and resuscitation (defibrillators   etc). I have a soft spot for Agilent ( then HP) quality, support and documentation.

 

Unboxing;

Yes, it came in a box. The box was brown and had Agilent printed on the side. There was adequate styrofoam protecting the instrument and it crossed the pacific undamaged. The box has been recycled.

Ok that’s over. This is my concession to the silly ”unboxing” descriptions and videos that have become more elaborate than a Japanese tea ceremony.

Now on to what matters, to me at least and I hope many readers of this review.

The AWG arrived with the base unit, several power cords two CD’s of software and documentation. The power cord required for use here in Australia was an omission, but as the review unit was shipped from the U.S, totally understandable.

It is a standard IEC cable and I had a couple of spares, but this process did remind me to check that the unit was configured for the local mains power (240v 50 HZ).

First brownie point for Agilent – a universal power supply no configuration required. I guess this is good business sense to have only one model to support but there are a surprising number of manufacturers that make a region specific or models with manually switched input power ranges. All too easy in the excitement of a new arrival to forget this and the joy disappears in a puff of magic smoke issuing forth from the shiny new box.

While inspecting the back panel ticks off all the connectors external 10 Mhz reference in and out, trigger,modulation, LAN , GPIB  & USB.

 

 

Figure 1  Agilent 3522B rear panel.

 

 

I also found a sticker that indicated the unit used embedded Windows CE, bit of a red flag for me as in my experience it’s usually awful.We'll see in use later

Before powering up.

The front panel is dominated by a large LCD screen with software function buttons below. To the right of the screen there are the function selection key, a numeric pad and encoder knob.

Below these are the outputs for both channels and trigger input.

Overall the unit feels very solid and well manufactured with a sturdy tilting bail / handle and impact absorbent rubber like surrounds at both ends.

 

Powering up and playing around with (ahmm – Testing) the user interface.

The unit powered up in reasonable time I guess about 20-30 seconds showing a flash screen and then entering the default menu ( after exploration did also find an option to allow the unit to boot into the state before previous power down, a useful feature)

I rarely read manuals other than the warnings on the first few pages before using an instrument, well actually anything. 

My theory is that a well-designed user interface should be intuitive and the manual (or help screen) used for advanced functionality etc. and read at leisure to find the hidden gems or traps.

In this case I decided to make a point of this practice so I could access the usability of the user interface.

The front panel layout (figure 1) is very clean and well organized. Setting up a basic signal involves moving down the buttons to the left of the screen in order to select first wave form, then adjusting parameters and optionally parameter units. These basic setup buttons are in grey below these are a further three buttons, modulate, sweep and burst.

This setup is identical for both channels, each being selected via the channel setups buttons just above the out BNC connectors.

The adjustment of waveform parameters is accomplished but selection of the parameter using the software defined buttons at the bottom of the screen and varying the selection using either the keypad or the encoded wheel/ left right cursor buttons.

This is where my minor (very minor) gripe lies. This process doesn’t feel intuitive as it could be. I found myself looking for enter button to confirm setting and move on to the next parameter. Rather than this confirmation was by selection of parameter range on the soft buttons. However after using the instrument for a day or two it all became automatic.

 

 

 

Figure 2.  Agilent 3522B front panel.

 

Product support.

When purchasing a product my personal habit in the selection process is to visit the product web site to look at the support offered.

Things I look for are availability of documentation including manuals, application notes and errata , software/ firmware updates with attention to release notes and lastly support forums.

I find that support forums (when the lunatic filter is applied) are often valuable as real-world feedback of the use and support of a product. This is especially the case is a company is honest enough not to censor negative comment or even better address these issues in a constructive manner. 

I was happy to find that Agilent’s support site for the instrument meets and in most exceeds what I would expect . I was unable to see if the forum was censored  and a few of the comments felt a little “planted” however the over content is up-to-date and appears to be actively maintained. There was even quite a few how-to type videos. Obviously these are marketing tools as well as tutorials however the marketing hype is kept to a minimum and I found them to be quite informative, especially for a manual phoebe like myself.

Even better I noted that the last revision of firmware not only included bug fixes but offers several minor enhancements to usability of the instrument.

The site can be found at :

http://www.home.agilent.com/en/pc-2153501/33500b-series-waveform-generators-20-30-mhz

 

more to follow.............

Anonymous