feature article
Subscribe Now

Instruments for the Black-Turtleneck Crowd

Saleae Logic Analyzer is a New Take on Lab Equipment

“Oh, and one more thing…”

You can almost hear the ghost of Steve Jobs introducing the Saleae Logic Pro 16, gesturing to a rear-projection screen as he slips the device out of his pocket. It’s that kind of logic analyzer.

Huh, what? Trendy, stylish, desirable test instruments?

Believe it. The Logic Pro 16 is a hardware logic analyzer that even a design aesthete would love. It’s the lab instrument for the SoHo/Noe Valley/Pearl district crowd. And I have one. And no, you can’t borrow it.

Allow me to explain. Saleae (pronounced say-lee-ay) is a tiny, San Francisco–based firm that makes one thing: a miniature logic analyzer. It’s called simply Logic, in typical trendy south-of-Market style. It’s about the size of a hockey puck or the bottom half of an iPod. Like any good logic analyzer, it’s got a tangle of colored wires coming out of one end, but, unlike most other logic analyzers, it’s got a USB cable coming out of the other. And that’s it. There’s no display, no knobs, and only vestigial feet for resting on your lab bench. The thing weighs less than a 20-oz. latte and could easily hide in the palm of your hand. Is this a real test instrument?

You betcha. The Logic is basically a data-acquisition peripheral for your PC, Mac, or Linux box. It connects to said computer via USB and uses your keyboard and display as its user interface. Instead of twirling knobs on your Tektronix box, you mouse-click on your laptop (or whatever) and stare at the screen looking at waveforms. Acquired data is stored on your hard drive (or equivalent). It’s a 21st Century consumer electronics version of a logic analyzer.

Logic can capture analog waveforms, digital transitions, or both. In analog mode, you can capture up to 50 Msamples/sec, so the thing is no slouch. If you’re interested in digital signals only, it’ll do 500 Msamples/sec. Capture both simultaneously and you’ll have to choose how to trade off analog versus digital resolution. Of course, you can dial back the sampling rate for either or both if you don’t need that much detail.

Logic is also pretty smart about understanding buses and standard protocols. A simple mouse click tells it that you’re monitoring an I2C connection, HDLC, JTAG, CAN, Midi, SPI, Atmel’s SWI, or a bunch of other known interfaces, and it’ll happily decode the action for you. Can’t find your favorite protocol on the list? Saleae lets you define your own. In fact, the company positively encourages third-party software add-ons and plug-ins, treating Logic as a kind of Beagle Board for the gainfully employed.

It’s pretty, too. The software, that is. The box itself is pretty nondescript. Logic’s Windows/MacOS/Linux app is a free download that looks more like a software debugger than a hardware instrument. Rather than simulate the knobs and dials of conventional bench equipment, Logic jumps straight into the app gestalt of today. If you’ve never used a logic analyzer before, this one’s pretty easy to learn.

Cleverly, the software works even if you don’t have a Logic box connected via USB. Without missing a beat, it switches to “demo” mode, displaying made-up waveforms for you to pretend to analyze. That allows curious tire-kickers to play with the software before buying anything. Happily, Saleae doesn’t make you register, provide an e-mail address, or jump through other marketing hoops before downloading. You can try it out with complete anonymity.

Should you decide to take the plunge, a Logic won’t set your engineering budget back much. Prices start at $99 for the entry-level four-channel Logic 4, which you don’t really want. The Logic 8, Pro 8, and Pro 16 list for $200, $400, and $500, respectively. The difference is the number of channels (four, eight, or sixteen), and the sampling rate: Pro models are five times faster than non-Pro models. Everything comes with a three-year warranty and a six-month money-back return policy. You even get your choice of color. Ooooh, trendy.

For the price of pizzas at an all-hands meeting, or a new set of Dockers for every engineer on your project team, you can have a new logic analyzer. Heck, at $200 to $500 a pop, you might be able to afford a Logic for everyone. Spread ’em around. They’re cheaper than iPhones, more practical, and almost as stylish. 

3 thoughts on “Instruments for the Black-Turtleneck Crowd”

  1. Somewhat blinkered view of how great the software is though 🙁 Sadly the releases are generally only ever BETA releases with minor cosmetic changes and bug fixes, never any major feature implementations. The software is useless for reverse engineering unknown protocols as there is absolutely no way of comparing traces recorded at different times side by side to find the crucial changes needed when reverse engineering protocols. Saleae ignore customer requests for new features/fail to explain why they can’t be implemented. It’s a shame that they have a great, affordable product yet with absolutely dire software support :-((((It’s fine for simple jobs with known protocols but beyond that forget it.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
May 15, 2022
https://youtu.be/ur6dpXrELhg Made at Steve Brown's "moving to San Diego party" (camera Larry Lapides) Monday: no post Tuesday: TechInsights: Foundation for the Future Wednesday: Open... ...
May 12, 2022
Our PCIe 5.0 IP solutions, including digital controllers and PHYs, have passed PCI-SIG 5.0 compliance testing, becoming the first on the 5.0 integrators list. The post Synopsys IP Passes PCIe 5.0 Compliance and Makes Integrators List appeared first on From Silicon To Softwar...
May 12, 2022
By Shelly Stalnaker Every year, the editors of Elektronik in Germany compile a list of the most interesting and innovative… ...
Apr 29, 2022
What do you do if someone starts waving furiously at you, seemingly delighted to see you, but you fear they are being overenthusiastic?...

featured video

Building safer robots with computer vision & AI

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Watch TI's demo to see how Jacinto™ 7 processors fuse deep learning and traditional computer vision to enable safer autonomous mobile robots.

Watch demo

featured paper

5 common Hall-effect sensor myths

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Hall-effect sensors can be used in a variety of automotive and industrial systems. Higher system performance requirements created the need for improved accuracy and more integration – extending the use of Hall-effect sensors. Read this article to learn about common Hall-effect sensor misconceptions and see how these sensors can be used in real-world applications.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

Small Form Factor Industry Standards for Embedded Computing

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and Samtec

Trends in today’s embedded computing designs including smart sensors, autonomous vehicles, and edge computing are making embedded computing industry standards more important than ever before. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Matthew Burns from Samtec about how standards organizations like PC104, PICMG and VITA s are encouraging innovation in today’s embedded designs, how Samtec supports each one of these standards organizations and how you can utilize Samtec’s high performance interconnects for your next small-form factor embedded computing designs.

Click here for more information about Samtec Industry Standards Solution