Getting Started with the NanoVNA -Part 3 – PC Software

VNA Saver – PC Software

There is now a variety of PC based software that is available to use with your nanoVNA. In this post, I will be demonstrating NanoVNASaver(version 0.0.9). This is developed by Rune Broberg and is fully open source. Rune originally developed the software as a way to save Touchstone files from the NanoVNA to use in other programs, but couldn’t resist expanding it’s functionality into what is now a fairly complete PC app to run the NanoVNA. If you want to participate in conversations with Rune, He is active on the groups.io nanoVNA group which is an excellent place to find all the latest tips and experimental firmware builds etc. https://groups.io/g/nanovna-users

The software is written is compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac, but I will only show Windows in this guide.

Step 1 – Download and run software(Windows users)

Follow this link to download the latest release of NanoVNA Saver.

https://github.com/mihtjel/nanovna-saver/releases

vnaSaverDownload

For Windows you can download the pre-compiled .exe file

Once downloaded you can copy the executable to a suitable location on your computer. In m case I just dropped it onto the desktop. When you first run the application Windows will ask if you trust it. CLick the ‘Run anyway’ option and your away. Dead easy!!

Step 2 – Connect to your NanoVNA

If your NanoVNA was connected to your computer via USB before opening the software, the serial port control, may already be populated with the correct serial port number. If not, or if you have multiple serial ports you may need to find the com port number manually. You can fire up Device Manager to see a list of installed com ports.

VNASaver main screen

NanoVNA Saver. Enter the correct com port name into this box. In my case ‘COM4’

In my case the NanoVNA connected as ‘COM4’. Enter this in the serial port box and click ‘Connect to NanoVNA’. Other than the connect button being relabelled ‘Disconnect’ not a lot will happen yet.

Step 3 – Setup your sweep

Most of this is fairly self explanatory. The frequency units are Hz, which is a bit of a pain when typing large numbers.

SweepControl

Sweep Control

My top tip here is to use scientific E-notation.

So for 50KHz you can type 50e3, for 300MHz you can type 300e6. All you need to know is ‘e3’ multiplies you number by 1000 and ‘e6’ multiplies by 1,000,000.

1segment vs 10 segments

Left = 1 segment, Right = 10 segments.

Setting ‘Segments’ to greater than 1 will divide your sweep into a number of smaller 101 sample blocks. This will be at the expense of sweep time, but gets around one of the biggest drawbacks of the standard NanoVNA.

Now click ‘Sweep’ to run the VNA once. Alternatively, check the ‘Continuous sweep’ box to set automatically repeat the sweep.

Step 4 – Calibration

First disable ‘Continuous sweep’ and click the ‘Calibration’ button on the lower left of the GUI. This will bring up the calibration window. It’s worth noting that the calibration here is separate to the internal calibration of the NanoVNA so calibrations in this software will not have an effect on the nanoVNA display.

The basic calibration routine is similar to that outlined in part 1 of this blog series. The only difference is that you need to click sweep on the mainscreen before pressing each Open, Short, Load, Through and Isolation buttons.

vnasaverCAL

Calibration Window

Once all standards have been used, click apply to activate this calibration. You can also click save to store the cal for later use.

It is possible to use non-ideal standards here, so if you do happen to have an expensive cal kit that is provided with all this data, then fill your boots and add this in to get more accurate results. In theory, I could have changed my Load from 50Ω to 51Ω to compensate for my cheap load standard, but I am lazy and when measuring many things it’s not really important.

myCal

My calibration. With Load connected to port 1.

Changing your display.

For my next blog post, I want to measure one of my Ultra-Wideband Spiral Antennas. For this, I am only interested in S11 measurements for the time being, but it would be nice to show SWR also.

Click ‘Display Setup …’

Display setup

Display setup

I will choose VSWR for the lower left plot.

SPI300 S11

HexAndFlex 300MHZ+ Circularly Polarised Spiral Antenna.

Now lets have a quick look at how this compares to a professional grade VNA. I initially tried using the NanoVNA saver to import a Touchstone S2P file from a proffesional grade VNA, but i didn’t trust the results, so I used QUCSstudio to import them both.

QUCSnanoVNAcompare

Using QUCS studio to compare touchstone files

Top Tip – QUCS studio can read your touchstone files and make them part of an electronic simulation. It can also automatically calculate a matching network for any given frequency.

nanoVNAcompare

QUCStudio comparison

This was a quick test and I really didn’t take too much care to isolate the cable from the antenna. At lower frequencies(below the 300MHz design frequency) the cable is not as well isolated from the antenna. To make better measurements of this I would want to add a balun, or some ferrites to the cable to help isolate the DUT(Device Under Test) from the cable.

Conclusion

VNASaver is a great tool. Much better than the basic software that was originally available for the NanoVNA. The author, Rune is regularly updating it with new features and UI improvements. I will need to do further work to fully explore its features, but for now I can highly recommend it.

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12 comments on “Getting Started with the NanoVNA -Part 3 – PC Software
  1. Barry G. Kery says:

    The NanoVNA list the sampling points at 101. Your software, for OSL calibration list it as 1010 sampling points. Is this a typo or by using the software to drive the NanoVNA is does in fact do OSL calibration at one thousand and one sampling points?
    Barry,KU3X

    • hexandflex says:

      Hi Barry, no typo it runs 10 consecutive 101point sweeps so you end up with 1010 rather than the more common 1001. The calibration is calculated and stored in the PC software rather than on the device so its not limited to 101points.

  2. Silvio Barletta says:

    A not gentelman OM of ARI has SIGNED your article WITHOUT TELL YOUR NAME at:http://www.aricuneo.it/AREA%20TECNICA/apparati-misura/Manuale%20in%20italiano%20VNA%20Saver.pdf

  3. Werner E. Juengst says:

    Hello hexandflex,
    I wonder if your software could be extended to provide the option of a log(magnitude) vs. log(frequency) scaling? A further improvement would be the ability to set the scan frequencies at a constant number of points per decade, so that the curves be evenly populated. Can that be achieved with the NanoVNA?

  4. azbearhuntr says:

    Awesome series of articles and very helpful. When you state that the cable is not well isolated, especially at 300 and below. Is that the USB cable you’re referring to? Thanks!!

    • hexandflex says:

      No, I was referring to the coax cable. Unless extra care is taken to isolate this(say with ferrites) then it can form part of the antenna. In this case the feed cable and VNA(including USB cable) can form part of the antenna. You can easily check if the coax is ‘hot’ by moving your and across it. If the VNA trace changes dramatically then you have RF currents on the outside of the coax. Any radiation from the cable will change the radiation pattern.

      • azbearhuntr says:

        Thank you so much! Now if you are testing a vehicle antenna and install then maybe it’s beneficial to leave ferrites off the existing coax? Because in my newer ham brain that will always be part of the equation anyway?

      • hexandflex says:

        It depends. But probably you will be ok. But remember the golden rule. “Good SWR does not always equal an efficient antenna”. Depending on frequency you may need to account for cable loss also.

  5. azbearhuntr says:

    Awesome articles! Are you referring to the USB cable when you say the cable isn’t well isolated? Thanks!

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