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Detector(scalar) versus thermistor sensor/meter for production testing

Question asked by eirp_inc on Sep 24, 2014
Im gathering information to understand the tradeoffs between making production RF amp measurements to verify performance using a signal generator and thermistor power meter sensor versus swept measurements using a detector/analyzer.  The sig gen with the power sensor method is run by an ATE program that step point by point, waits for settling of sensor at each point, then records data and increments. This all takes time has been same for years as it was created when HP437s and 83711 sig gens were the latest.  The time waiting for all the power measurement to be gathered can be significant with 10 Mhz increments and 2 GHz of bandwidth with lost of guys testing. The scalar method and much faster realtime, but he argument has always been that the calibration is tough.  
Lately lots of power measurement and test equipment manufacturers have been touting very fast power sensor with the ability to capture 1k points/sec. The test equipment has also advanced over the years. I know many organizations use the 8757 scalar to gather the gain and power trace with ATE programs with decently accurate results. 

IF there are any suggestions or case scenarios people are willing to share Im all ears! It seems like there has got to be a way to use a reasonable powerful pc and a fast usb sensor and have the PC replace the 8757 basic functionality, right? Other must have done a business case to compare these scenarios. 

None of the measurement in my application are huge dynamic power ranges that always seem to be the issue when comparing the power measurement measurement method. The range for this scenario is all in the -15 to +15 dBm range. 

Thank for any responses.