PicoVNA Series

Low-cost, professional-grade 6 GHz and 8.5 GHz VNAs for both lab and field use

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PicoVNA 5: Game changer software for vector network analyzers

Pico's game-changing software for VNAs

PicoVNA 5 brings a new, crisp, clean focus to results, status, and graphical presentation, with minimal clutter over the maximum display area.  A ground-up architecture, PicoVNA 5 is a thoroughly modern and snappy ‘platform’ control software for the PicoVNA vector network analyzers. Designed on a Linux toolset, it is cross-platform, has a light footprint, and will run at pace on Linux, Microsoft Windows, and macOS (Intel / ARM); hosted on any device, down to a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and using locally or network connected human interface devices (HID); keyboard, mice, monitors and touch screens.

Download PicoVNA 5 software >>

Download PicoVNA 5 software >>

Upgrade your current PicoVNA instrument >>

Intuitive and direct user interface (UI)

Plotted parameters, sensitivities, offsets, reference positions and sweep or time domain parameters and plot type ( e.g. cartesian, Smith or polar; logarithmic, linear, delay or angle) are all directly editable within each displayed plot channel.

There are helpful on trace cursor readouts under mouse or touch hover and you can simply click-to-drop on trace marker and then drag it to the feature or position that you need.

There you are! Most of your frequent instrument operations fully covered without a need to find an off plot menu!

PicoVNA 5 multi-port domain plots

How many VNA views or traces do you need?

Store and display snapshot memory traces across all the plots with a single key press and single click hide/show toggle them within each viewport, or across all plots via the Display menu.

You can add a second cartesian axis to your plot, segment zoom or magnify your trace detail (yes, including Smith and Polar plots), or maximise your plot area; all via the bottom right ‘format’ key within each view.

As to viewport layout choose that from the standard multi-port layout templates. Alternatively, use PicoVNA 5’s innovative viewport grid to add and reshape as many individually sized and positioned plots as you wish.

At any display size and resolution keep an eye on all configured live and stored trace plots, which can even be an arbitrary mix of frequency and time domain views.

What measurement values does your application need to capture?

As each marker is dropped, its basic readout adds to a readout column to the right of the viewports. Simply click on one of those to edit its trace attach, its position, covert it to a delta reference marker, group it or trash it.

Alternatively, click its readout value to select many additional measurements that will be available for display under each marker. Also, similarly to the traces on each plot, you can hide/show toggle marker readouts to give focus to the view or screen grab of the moment.

Download PicoVNA 5 software >>

Download PicoVNA 5 software >>

Upgrade your current PicoVNA instrument >>

PicoVNA 5 multi-port domain plots

Multiple time domain views

Live update time domain plots and measurements can be defined across any number of view ports and s parameters.

These can be configured as Lowpass or Bandpass with user defined DC termination (short, open, resistance or automatic). The user can select Step or Impulse response with or without windowing, and with readouts that are time or distance related.

On plot controls allow display of any time span within the support of the underlying sweep span and time segment zoom and magnify are both available.

Independent workspaces

Unique to PicoVNA 5, the user can add and define multiple workspaces each with their own user settings, spans, views, measurements, de-embeds, and calibrations. This powerful feature allows instrument sharing across multiple users or applications, fast access to preset measurement setup (perhaps a sequenced procedure), preset demonstrations or rapid toggling of different perspectives on a given measurement.

PicoVNA 5  zoom configured readouts with markers

Save, Recall, Export, Import, and User Preferences

With PicoVNA 5 you can export uncalibrated data as raw a/b wave (.csv) or calibrated vector data as .csv or as MA, DB, RI Touchstone formats. Equally you can import, display, process and measure as a Memory dataset, TouchStone (V1/V2), saved from any VNA (vector network analyzer) and sweep span. PicoVNA 5 supports this as online or offline (i.e. no connected VNA) operation.

All instrument and UI settings can also be saved and the user can choose to reload as any combination of settings, calibration and s parameter data.

Magnify, Zoom Frequency or Time Segment plot detail

There are two powerful detailed views of your results implemented in PicoVNA 5, beneath each plot format key.

PicoVNA 5 magnify layout

Magnify: adds a scroll wheel magnified view centered or dragged to any point within your plot. The current plot areas divide horizontally or vertically to allow the live updating spy glass plot. Now you get to see just how good your matches, shorts or opens really are at the center, the bounds or in fact anywhere on your Smith; or any other plot!

PicoVNA 5 zoom segment layouts

Zoom Frequency or Time Segments: each selection of this tool adds a user draggable frequency or time span to the span axis of your plot (including Smith and Polar). Once set, add a new zoomed segment plot to the drag and snap viewport grid. Repeat to add further zoomed segments and plots if you wish, then re-arrange your display layout to suit.

Both forms of added viewport fully support fine position cursor readouts and drag-and-drop markers. By providing the two mechanisms PicoVNA 5 releases you from the confines of a single detail inspection mechanism!

PicoVNA 5  data preferences interpolation

User-defined interpolations

An advanced provision, closely associated with Magnify and Zoom, using PicoVNA 5 you can set the preference for interpolation mechanism on a per plot type basis. Select from several vector or scalar interpolations and apply them to real, imaginary, magnitude, or angle data. Usefully, this will apply for either Live, Memory, or Imported data in an online or offline (no connected VNA) applications. Additionally, you can choose to export data with or without processing.

Multiple and fast remote access paths

PicoVNA 5 software mirroring

The PicoVNA 5 design team had the flexible programmers and OEM embed / test system integration designers front of mind!

Via multiple access points, PicoVNA 5 supports both remote program command and retrieve (SCPI compliant) via the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and a separate advanced user API (Application Programming Interface). Both paths are optimized for fast data transfer, for example into imaging / radar / dielectric analysis and test applications. While also presenting a familiar SCPI path for those needing to integrate or replace a VNA within a larger product, test system, or remote location. Local and network remote UIs then sit on further access points, allowing a local and/or remote operator to interact with each other or a SCPI-sourced test sequence. Network / Internet mirrored training or support sessions can therefore be supported under the PicoVNA 5 UI.

As ever, via our GitHub organization page, a programmer can access a comprehensive set of SCPI and API SDK examples for MathWorks MATLAB, National Instruments LabVIEW, Python, C, C#, and C++.

PicoVNA 5 remote command and retrieve benefits from punishing Alpha and Beta test within advanced and demanding remote applications.

Download PicoVNA 5 software >>

Download PicoVNA 5 software >>

Upgrade your current PicoVNA instrument >>

Reference plane extension

Reference plane extension (offset) allows you to shift the measurement reference plane away from the point established during calibration. This is useful in removing the path length of assumed ideal interconnecting , connectors cables or microstrip lines from measurements.

The PicoVNA software allows independent reference plane extensions on each of the measurement parameters (S11, S22, S12 or S21), either as an automatic re-reference or by manual entry. Independent extensions allow, for example, different extensions on the two ports for S11 and S22 and then thru-line normalization for S21 and S12 transmission comparison with equivalent length thru-line.

For PicoVNA 2 / 3 remote DLL users

PicoVNA 5 does not replicate the remote command and retrieve of the predecessor software or the DLL of PicoVNA 3. We encourage migration to the new platform and the extended functionality of PicoVNA 5, via SCPI or the API. The above SDK examples and Pico Technology’s Technical Support team can assist with the migration to PicoVNA 5 when you are ready to do so. Meanwhile, PicoVNA 3 and its control DLL remain available and fully supported.

E-Cal or fixed SOLT and TRL calibration

PicoVNA 5 software supports all the PicoVNA calibration methods, with an advanced step-by-step onscreen calibration wizard. As an assurance of calibration quality for the fixed SOLT and TRL / TRM calibrations, each calibration step presents as a live pre-scaled display trace until the next step of calibration is complete. You can choose to change or revisit any step of the calibration sequence until it is complete.

PicoVNA 5 reference plane extension

Reference plane extension

Reference plane extension (offset) allows you to shift the measurement reference plane away from the point established during calibration. This is useful in removing the path length of assumed ideal interconnecting connector's cables, or microstrip lines from measurements.

The PicoVNA 5 software allows independent reference plane extensions on each of the ports and these can be additional to de-embed (below).

PicoVNA 5 de-embed

De-embed port interfaces

When it is unsafe to assume the above ideal interconnecting connector's cables or microstrip lines; for example, to achieve greater accuracy or to remove known imperfections in a test setup we can choose instead to de-embed the interface networks on each measurement port. The PicoVNA 5 software simply requires a full Touchstone .s2p file or files for each of the embedded interfacing networks on the two ports. Unusual for some vector network analyzers, the PicoVNA 5 software will competently vector interpolate between calibration frequencies and de-embed file frequencies where necessary and possible.

PicoVNA 5 USB connect devices

Start-up connect options

PicoVNA 5 automatically scans for and connects to a USB-connected VNA. While it does, an opportunity to load files or connect a software emulated demo device are presented to the user.

These options are for those wishing to view or evaluate PicoVNA 5 software and for example students or hybrid and hardware share employees needing to process files later without a connected instrument. Networked or Internet remote instrument connections are also established from here.

Powerful education and training alliance

Can there be any more effective and rewarding learning experience than completing the whole design cycle? Unfortunately, the high costs of microwave network measurement have for many compromised that experience in the classroom. We believe that the more affordable PicoVNA 106 6 GHz full-function, professional-grade vector network analyzer, partnered with Microwave Office, changes the game.

Designed within Microwave Office, the PCB project design file is available to download. Students and trainers can engage at any point in the design cycle, compare simulation with real measurement, and experiment within the simulated and real environments.

PicoVNA 5 instrument upgrade

Existing PicoVNA instrument upgrade

The PicoVNA 5 software unlocks and will continue to unlock new instrument communications and capabilities. Pre-existing instruments will therefore require an embedded software upgrade. The need to upgrade will be identified by the PicoVNA 5 application during the USB instrument connection process and it will seamlessly handle the whole boot loader process.

A small charge of $359, €329, £279 is made for this upgrade via an in-application purchase. PicoVNA 5 and its instrument communication are developed in the UK by A.A.I. Robotics Ltd of Cambridge. This is a direct payment to A.A.I.Robotics Ltd., made via Stripe (www.stripe.com) global card or e-payments system.

GDPR: No payment-related information is provided to, or gathered at download by, A.A.I or Pico Technology Ltd. Given names and addresses of purchasers can be viewed but these are not stored outside the Stripe payment system.
Features Hardware

Comparison of software features PicoVNA 5 to 3

PicoVNA 5 software will be preferred by most users. There will however be a brief period for which certain PicoVNA features are not yet addressed in the new software.
PicoVNA 3 software therefore remains available and fully supported. Click the feature category indexed on the left to see comparison for each software version below.

PicoVNA 5 software will be preferred by most users. There will however be a brief period for which certain PicoVNA features are not yet addressed in the new software.
PicoVNA 3 software therefore remains available and fully supported. Select the feature category from the drop-down field to see comparison for each software version below.

Operating system, platform and display PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Supported operating systems Linux, Windows 7+, macOS 11 (Big Sur)+
(Linux test distributions Debian 8 "Jessie" , Ubuntu 18.04 (LTS), Mint Cinnamon "Vera", openSUSE Leap 15.0, Fedora 28, Arch Linux.  No problems anticipated on other distributions)
Windows 7+ only
Supported controllers PC, Mac (ARM or Intel), Raspberry Pi 4 and 5 PC only
Supported display resolution All Limited rescaling to monitor aspect and resolution
Development environment Generic, foundational and ground-up design. Built for speed, scalability and cross-platform compatibility. Maintains compatibility with older computer hardware while making efficient use of modern hardware to unlock new data processing possibilities. Designed to be capable of rapid expansion to meet ever evolving user requirements. Legacy MSWindows design environment and toolset, limited scope and design efficiency to rapidly meet ever increasing user needs.
Measurement viewports (channels) PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Live traces per viewport (plot channel) 2 4
Dual-axis plots Yes
Memory traces per viewport (plot channel) Unlimited* 4
No. of viewports (plot channels) 1 to unlimited* 1, 2 or 4
No. of live time domain viewports (plot channels) Unlimited*
(from any span setting)
(requires 2n measurement points)
User scaling and positioning of plots Drag position and shape with snap to infinite grid  No, three built in layouts only
Plot variants PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Plot types Cartesian (time and frequency), Polar, Smith
Plot formats Log mag, lin mag, phase, Re, Im, group delay, VSWR, TD
Plot interpolations User prefered linear, cubic spline or Akima spline applied to mag/angle or Re/Im, or dot join Linear dot join on frequency domain plots, cubic spline on TD plots
Time domain variants Low pass (step / impulse) and band pass (impulse)  with Hanning, rectangular and Kaiser Bessel windowing and auto/manual DC termination Low pass with Hanning, rectangular and Kaiser Bessel windowing and auto/manual DC termination
In viewport (channel) controls and readouts PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
On plot parameter edit Span (time or frequency), plot parameter / type / format, sensitivity, offset, ref position Sensitivity, offset, ref position
Hover on plot cursor readout Yes, all traces No
Click to drop and drag marker Yes, all traces No (menu apply + drag)
Markers count Unlimited independent or grouped to reference.  Note: readout display area scrolls 1 - 8 repeat across all plots and frequency locked together
Reference markers Unlimited 1
Auto markers Not in current release. Bandwidth, Q, peak search auto markers to follow. Search ±3dB and ±6dB
Multiple and delta readouts Yes user configurable per marker or group Yes, plot format dependent
Auto scaling of plot axis Not in current release Yes within Display menu
Magnify, zoom and processing features PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Zoom multiple span segments Yes, define frequency or time segments for a new display port. Multiple segments per plot supported. Supports cursor readout and fine marker drop and drag No
Magnify region of any plot Yes, choose to magnify any region of any plot. Includes any focal point on Smith Chart for example. Supports cursor readout and fine marker drop and drag No
Trace averaging, smoothing and peak hold Yes, averaging (unlimited), smoothing 0-10%. Peak / trough hold to come. Yes, averaging 1-255, smoothing 0-10% and peak/trough hold
Trace vector maths Not in current release Yes, vector math, live + memo, live - memo, live / memo
Interpolated re-sampling and re-format Touchstone Yes, reformat Touchstone as MA, DB, RI. Re-sample and more to come. No
User workspaces PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Multiple independent workspaces Yes, unlimited.
Independent settings, spans, displays, calibrations, de-embeds, preferences
Calibration Features PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Supported calibration methods Fixed SOLT, TRL/TRM (single or dual line) and e-cal
Supported calibrations S11, insertable and non-insertable, unknown thru with/without enhanced isolation S11, S21, S11+S21, insertable and non-insertable, known / unknown thru with / without enhanced isolation
Graphical calibration assist wizard Yes, with measurement plotting No (text user prompts)
Supported cal kit definition Pico.kit file, TouchStone, polynomial coefficients and TRL (1/2 frequency bands) and open or short reflect. Includes in-app kits editor Pico.kit file, TouchStone via external conversion to .kit, polynomial coefficients and TRL (1/2 frequency bands and open or short reflect. Includes in-app kits editor
Import/export, save/recall and offline working PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Save / recall session Yes, save all with selection at recall of calibration, settings, data. Yes, save settings or calibration and settings
Import / export Yes, .csv (comma or point separator), Touchstone V1/V2, MA,DB,RI, a-b wave.csv Yes .csv, Touchstone MA, a-b wave.csv
Standalone (off-line) operation Yes; load, process, display, measure and re-save your data without instrument connection. No
Save and print display, viewport and readouts graphics Not in current release - print screen or graphics grabbers available Yes, plots + readouts with user print title labelling
Remote Interfacing PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Remote control and retrieve SCPI compliant GUI control and retrieve with local / remote operator interaction.  Plus separate high performance API. Separate GUI-less DLL
Compatibile with PicoVNA 3 command set No, PicoVNA 3 control.dll remains supported and there are comprehensive SDK examples to assist migration. Yes
Network presence Network present application that allows fully remoted command and retrieve, GUI operation and display mirroring. No network remote support
Fixture or feed removal and Z0 conversion PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Reference plane shift Yes, manual in current release, independent on each port and can be combined with embed / de-embed networks as below Yes, manual or automatic, independent on each port
Normalisation No, not in current release. Yes, either via trace math or loss at 1 GHz.
Embed / de-embed Yes, embed or de-embed separate Touchstone defined networks, one or multiple on each port, which can be applied in addition to Ref Plane Shift from above. Yes, de-embed separate Touchstone defined networks, one on each port
System impedance adjust - Z0 conversion Not in current release Yes, 10Ω to 200Ω, purely resistive and applicable to live and memory traces
Features yet to be migrated and enhanced** PicoVNA 5 current release PicoVNA 3
Limits editor and test Not in current release.  Significant enhancements envisaged. Yes, upto six specified test limit bands with plot highlighted and audible fail.
Non-linear calibrations and measurements Not in current release.  Significant enhancements envisaged. Includes P1dB and AM-PM measurement and plot utilities that include necessary calibrations
Save on trigger rapid characterisation Not in current release Included for PicoVNA 108, allows rapid multiple stepped parameter network / device characterisations based on hardware trigger 
Offset frequency / mixer measurements
(conversion loss, port isolation, compression)
Not in current release Yes (for PicoVNA 108), supports fixed or tracking external L.O. Includes direct USB remote control of tracking L.O. signal generator, for example, PicoSource AS108.
Absolute port power calibration Not in current release Yes, in the context of above mixer measurements.  Includes direct control of external USB power sensors or other port receiver
Compare data with traceable uncertainties Not in current release.  Significant enhancements envisaged. Includes tabular comparison utility with combined instrument and reference uncertainties
CW sweep mode Not in current release Yes, allows timebased trending of a single frequency measurement down to sub millisecond time increment
Phase meter mode Not in current release Yes, phase meter utility allows port receivers to lock to two external signals at a known frequency.  The two are then compared for continuous measurement of their relative phase and amplitudes
Signal generator mode Not in current release Yes, allows for use as a sweeping (PicoVNA 108 only) or CW signal generator via either port.

* Actual practical limitation derives from display size and resolution and resulting plot scaling

** These features will be developed, along with new capabilities, according to user demand and priority expressed in user feedback