What to look for when buying a Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

At oneSDR we spend a lot of time researching and working with different Software-defined Radios. Based on our extensive experience with SDRs here is what we recommend you should consider when buying one.

Specifications

Hardware specifications matter. They matter a lot! Specifications indicate the ability of SDR to successfully transmit and receive a signal. Here are some of the most important specifications and what they mean:

  • Frequency range represents the maximum and minimum signal frequencies that the SDR can process. Most SDRs are limited to a maximum frequency of 6 GHz.
Frequency range of SDR and some applications
  • Bandwidth indicates how far apart in frequency two or more signals can be before they can no longer be processed simultaneously. Alternatively it represents the maximum bandwidth of a signal that can be processed.
Bandwidth of SDR
  • Dynamic Range is the maximum difference in amplitude between two signals that can be processed.
Dynamic Range of SDR
  • Throughput is the effective maximum rate at which bits can be transferred to a host processor. The higher the better.
SDR interfaces and throughput

Community Support

The larger the community of people using a SDR the better. This results in better support for hardware, more use cases and definitely more collaboration.

Software Applications

Software makes SDR useful. There is a large ecosystem of SDR software applications and toolkits in areas such as Test & Measurement, Signal Monitoring and R&D. GNU Radio is one example. This is a free software development toolkit that provides signal processing blocks to implement SDRs. GNU Radio has an active community of developers and users. Applications include analog and digital signal processing. Mathworks also has good support for SDRs.

Summary

The three main considerations when buying a SDR are Specifications, Community Support and Software Applications. These are the criteria we use in our evaluation of different SDRs.

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