Keysight Modular. Unrivaled Performance. Half the Time to Insight.

June 23, 2015

  1. Introduction
  2. Establishing a future-ready architecture
  3. Bringing greater choice to software and I/O
  4. Adding system-level tools
  5. Addressing a range of applications
  6. Achieving Lower Cost of Ownership
  7. Conclusion
  8. Related Information

A fresh perspective brings new possibilities to the toughest test scenarios. Keysight’s innovative PXI and AXIe products include features that support our goals to provide high quality products as well as to help customers accelerate time-to-market and achieve a lower cost of test. We’re providing unrivaled modular performance and consistent measurement science in the wireless, RF, microwave, and high-speed digital PXI and AXIe instruments. As we continue to grow our broad range of modular products, our measurement expertise contributes to breakthrough capabilities in network analyzers, digitizers, signal analyzers, signal generators, DMMs, and arbitrary waveform generators to address those challenging test scenarios.

Keysight’s modular hardware and software products address test system demands for greater measurements speed, data transfers and synchronization across instrument modules. Keysight ensures our modular products provide exceptional functionality, stimulus input and measurement outputs, and high-channel count in a small form factor. Whether modular test instruments are integrated into test systems for research, product verification or manufacturing, Keysight experts design in key features with the flexibility to meet the demanding needs for each application.

Our unique combination of proven measurement expertise and innovative capabilities in modular products provides a powerful range of alternatives for system developers, whether they are testing components, products, or subsystems. A greater range of choices— provided in hardware and software—will help them create the right system for today and tomorrow.

Establishing a future-ready architecture

PXI and AXIe platforms address engineers demand for greater test speed, including data transfers, synchronization across instrument modules, and measurement speed. The open architecture and latest PCI technology enable enormous flexibility and high speed data transfers for test system configurations. Keysight modular products continue to provide expert, high–quality instrument functionality in the desirable smaller PXI and AXIe form factors.

Ongoing development of the Keysight modular portfolio is based on four key system architectural areas:

  • Small footprint: Supports multiple channels in compact space. No duplicate displays and front panels as found with bench instruments.
  • High throughput: Direct backplane speed. Speed optimized measurement software components.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: Assemble custom solutions – one to many. Easily integrated into test executives.
  • Latest Technology: Access to new technologies early by adding modules to test systems.

These ideas are reflected in our PXI and AXIe products.


PXI is based on the widely used and leading edge, high performance PCI architecture.  PXI provides a rugged Compact PCI mechanical form-factor with integrated timing and synchronization for routing synchronization clocks and triggers. PXI modules are installed into a multi-slot chassis and configured or controlled by either an embedded PXI controller or remote PC. PXI continues to use the most recent PCI technology available and has progressed from PCI with a shared bus technology to PCI Express (PCIe) using a point-to-point bus topology for double the per lane bandwidth from 250 to 500 MB/s per direction, at the same time maintaining backwards compatibility with older PCI modules.

New Keysight PXI products are designed with the highest PXI/PCI performance integrating wider buses, faster controller links, module-to-module synchronization and a flexible backplane.


AdvancedTCA® Extensions for Instrumentation and Test (AXIe) is a modular standard with 62 differential signal lines on an AXIe local bus providing extremely large data bandwidth for data-intensive applications such as streaming data from a digitizer to an FPGA or memory module. These dramatic speed capabilities are required to achieve the test speeds desired for applications in aerospace defense, high energy physics, semiconductor test and other industries.

AXIe is very similar to PXI, using the same PCIe fabric and programming but also provides these additional attributes:

  • High speed trigger, timing and local bus
  • Designed for high-performance instrumentation with a large board size providing highest rack and power densities per rack inch and module shielding.
  • Well suited to high-power applications with single rail power of up to 200 W per slot.
  • Flexible configurations and scalability with chassis ranging from one to 14 slots. Horizontal configurations require minimal rack space, and vertical configurations are available for large systems. Multiple chassis can be connected to create high channel-count systems.

AXIe integrates easily with PXI, and benchtop instruments and supports LXI and PCIe connectivity.

Bringing greater choice to software and I/O

Keysight's modular software applications, utilities and companion tools add compelling capability for avid test system programmers and non-programmers, alike. Test system design engineers benefit from ready to use software for design and simulation, measurement and analysis or they may choose to use instrument drivers to create specialized test execution and measurements. The many options of Keysight software and tools make it easy for test system developers to achieve first measurements and complete tests quickly.

Keysight application software such as X-Series Measurement applications for RF conformance measurements, or Signal Studio for signal simulation and creation, provide fast reliable methods for quickly establishing test system functions without the need to program. Other software tools such as 89600 VSA supports demodulation and vector signal analysis, or MATLAB from MathWorks, which supports a wide range of Keysight modular product, helps to accomplish test system goals and save test system developers time.

Keysight's module instrument drivers are available in IVI-C, IVI-COM and G versions and include documentation with examples. Both application software and instrument drivers from Keysight are supported in a variety of popular development environments including Microsoft® VisualStudio® (VB.NET, C#, C/C++), Keysight VEE Pro, LabVIEW, LabVIEW windows/CVI and MATLAB.

The PXIe chassis backplane, which is based on the computer standard PCI Express (PCIe) architecture, takes advantage of embedding this widely used leading edge technology for fast data rates and throughput. Test system speed is also affected by engineer's choice of using a remote PC and I/O interface cards or embedded PXI controller, for test system control. For test systems that must execute very quickly or may include specialized configuration and measurement needs, the combination of PXI's PCIe backplane, a high-performance embedded controller, such as the Keysight M9037A, and instrument drivers achieves the fastest test throughput times.

Adding system-level tools

The Keysight IO Libraries, along with built in Connection Expert, enables instrument communication for a variety of development environments including Keysight VEE Pro, NI LabVIEW, MATLAB, Microsoft Visual Studio and more. Test system instruments can be connected using IO Libraries whether the interfaces are PXI, GPIB, USB, Ethernet/LAN, LXI, RS-232 or VXI and from a variety of vendors. You can add or change modules and IO Libraries remain flexible as the test systems changes or grows. A PXI/AXIe chassis view in Connection Expert shows the chassis with details of the module type and addresses in each slot. IO Libraries automatically configures the interfaces after detecting the chassis and instruments to accelerate the time from startup to first measurement.

While in Connection Expert, you can start soft front panels, a graphical user interface for any module or chassis in the test system. The soft front panel enables users to easily send commands to one or more modules and verify startup connections or measurement operations. The soft front panels are also very useful for troubleshooting a system since they do not require program development to send instrument commands.

Keysight Command Expert is the next step in instrument control following the initialization of the chassis and modules in I/O Libraries and with Connection Expert. Command Expert makes it easy to find, use, and view full documentation for SCPI, IVI-C and IVI-COM instrument commands. You can easily send commands to configure, make measurements and retrieve instrument measurement data. Command Expert integrates seamlessly with Excel, VEE, SystemVue, MATLAB, Visual Studio, Python, and LabVIEW. Keysight ensures interoperability in PXI systems making it truly an open standard.

Addressing a range of applications

Our goal is to deliver the measurements needed today and to enable new capabilities that weren't previously possible. Whether addressing analog, digital, RF, microwave or lightwave applications, we're creating modules in the format best suited to each technology.

Any type of module can become a component within a large, single-purpose solution. Examples include the use of speed-optimized signal generators in production testing of wireless devices, high-performance digitizer modules within research, and high-fidelity arbitrary waveform generator (AWG) modules in radar simulations.

  • Wireless communications and connectivity
    The latest WLAN technology, 802.11ac, builds on 802.11n with a wider RF bandwidth, MIMO, and high-density 256 QAM modulations. Keysight solutions cover all 802.11ac modulation formats, from BPSK to 256QAM, and all signal bandwidths from 20 to 160 MHz. Other wireless technologies where Keysight modular products are used include Bluetooth test, MIMO test, NFC & EMVCo & RFID.
  • Aerospace and defense
    Radar applications require continually increasing modulation bandwidths at higher frequencies. Keysight high-precision AWGs combined with vector PSGs can generate waveforms with up to 2 GHz of modulation bandwidth at carrier frequencies of up to 44 GHz. Analyzing wide bandwidth Radar signals with high performance oscilloscopes combined with Keysight 89600 VSA software achieves frequencies up to 62 GHz, or use an N9070A wideband signal analyzer for modulation bandwidths up to 1 GHz at carrier frequencies up to 50 GHz. Other aerospace and defense technologies where Keysight modular products are used include multi-emitter environment test signals, phased array T/R module networks, probability of intercept for intermittent signals, wideband satellite communications.
  • Advanced research
    Keysight digitizers implement innovative techniques that maximize data bandwidth and ensure rapid measurements—even at the extremes of science. These capabilities are providing superior throughput in applications such as the control and monitoring of particle and electron beams in physics research, and in real-time processing for microwave spectrometry in atmospheric research. Other research/educational technologies where Keysight modular products are used include digital signal processing, general analog, and RF circuit design.
  • Cellular
    LTE-Advanced increases capacity, with data rates to 1 GBs (downlink) and 500 MBs (uplink), higher spectral efficiency, more active subscribers, and improved cell-edge performance. Enhancements include carrier aggregation (CA), improved multi-antenna techniques, and heterogeneous networks. Keysight provides powerful design and test solutions to help customers win in the competitive wireless market. Other cellular technologies where Keysight modular products are used include 5G, GNASS and A-GNASS, HSPA Test & HSPA+ test, Long Term Evolution (LTE-Test), and small cell & wireless backhaul.
  • High Speed Digital
    Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe® or PCI Express®) is a computer expansion bus standard designed to replace the older standard PCI. PCIe 2.0 doubles the transfer rate of PCIe 1.0 to 5 GT/s. PCIe 3.0 has an 8 GT/s bit rate, and is still backward compatible with PCIe 2.0. Keysight offers a complete solution set from electrical to protocol for all PCIe generation design challenges.
Achieving Lower Cost of Ownership

Keysight's Instrument Lifecycle Solutions are our commitment to address the service requirements that span your product lifecycle. Through these solutions, we provide a range of standard and tailored alternatives that ensure the longevity you need—from the date of purchase to the day you transition to new technology.

  • Three-year Standard Warranty -
    Keysight’s three-year standard warranty on all instruments—worldwide—is one more way our solutions help you achieve your business goals. Our combination of reliability and coverage delivers three key benefits: increased confidence in instrument uptime, reduced cost of ownership, and greater convenience if service is needed. Keysight’s three-year warranty is a sign of our commitment to quality and our Assurance Plans allow you to lock in ongoing performance by investing in guaranteed turnaround repair service for a specified time.
  • Confidence Through Calibration and Traceability
    The modular products are factory calibrated and shipped with an ISO-9002, NIST-traceable calibration certificate. Calibration cycles are specified for each modular instrument and are most often one year.

    Feel confident that Keysight’s metrology and calibration standards are behind every measurement you make. Every measurement is traceable to National Metrology Institutes (NMIs) through Keysight-engineered calibration procedures that verify instrument specifications. Keysight engineers work directly with NMIs to develop rigorous measurement techniques in existing and emerging technologies. Our Keysight metrologists collaborate with international standards organization to ensure up-to-date knowledge of changing compliance requirements and their practical applications.

    Calibration can be performed at Keysight Worldwide Service Centers, On-site, or by Self maintainer. The Keysight Calibration Status utility helps ensure your module is calibrated by managing the calibration interval and providing messages regarding instrument and module calibration status. Multi-Module Instrument level Calibration Certificates contain each individual module model & serial number.
  • Core Exchange Program for fast repair and turnaround time
    Keysight’s replacement Core Exchange program allows fast and easy module repairs. A replacement core assembly is a fully functioning pre-calibrated module replacement that is updated with the defective module serial number, allowing the replacement module to retain the original modules serial number.
  • Quickly Upgrade & Redeploy Equipment
    Purchase what you need now, and as your needs change, upgrade without changing the hardware. Select Keysight modules include utilities to upgrade the module options. See module datasheets for option upgrade details.
  • Self Test
    Each module type has a specifically designed self test that exercises and verifies key functionality. The module self test utility runs a set of internal tests which verifies the health of the module and reports its status.

Keysight Technologies, Inc. definitions for specifications and characteristics
Each module datasheet provides clear specifications for product performance. Definitions for expected performance types are described below Each module datasheet provides clear specifications for product performance. Definitions for expected performance types are described below:

  • Specifications: warranted performance, includes guardbands to account for the expected statistical performance distribution, measurement uncertainties, and changes in performance due to environmental conditions.
  • Characteristics: performance parameter that the product is expected to meet before it leaves the factory, but that is not verified in the field and is not covered by the product warranty. A characteristic includes the same guarbands as the specification.
  • Typical: expected performance of an average unit at a stable temperature between 20°C to 30°C for 30 minutes prior to turn-on and during operation: does not include guardbands. It is not covered by the product warranty. The instrument must be within its calibration cycle.
  • Nominal: a general, descriptive term or design parameter. It is not tested, and not covered by the product warranty. Data represented in the datasheet are nominal unless otherwise identified.

Keysight's product portfolio for automated testing includes more than traditional GPIB instruments. In recent years we've become a leading provider of LXI benchtop instruments. Today, our expanding offering of PXI and AXIe products provide the benefits of high-speed, flexibility, interoperability and small size of test systems and solutions. Additional information can be found at

About Keysight Technologies

Keysight Technologies (NYSE:KEYS) is a global electronic measurement technology and market leader helping to transform its customers' measurement experience through innovations in wireless, modular, and software solutions. Keysight's electronic measurement instruments, systems, software and services are used in the design, development, manufacture, installation, deployment and operation of electronic equipment. The business had revenues of $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2014. Information about Keysight is available at

Related Information

Janet Smith, Americas
+1 970 679 5397
Twitter: @KeysightJSmith

Sarah Calnan, Europe
+44 (118) 927 5101

Iris Ng, Asia
+852 31977979