When it was launched in 2013, the BladeRF was one of the most powerful of the new generation of Software Defined Radios. Now, Nuand, the producers of the BladeRF are looking to up the ante again with the BladeRF 2.0 Micro. This new version has a huge list of changes and improvements, including a more bad-ass FPGA processor and support for receiving and transmitting from 47 MHz all the way up to 6 GHz, with 2x MIMO support and an impressive 56 Mhz of bandwidth. It also retains backwards compatibility with the original BladeRF, meaning that any software written to support it (which most SDR packages do) will just work with the new device.
At the heart of the BladeRF 2.0 Micro is an Altera Cyclone V FPGA. Nuand are producing two versions of the Micro: the $480 xA4 uses the 49KLE Cyclone V FPGA, while the $720 XA9 is built around the 301KLE Cyclone V FPGA. The extra power of the xA9 lies in the larger amount of logic gates and elements on the FPGA, which means that the card can do more signal processing itself. That should make it easier to create stand-alone devices that process a signal and output the results. Nuand demonstrated this on the BladeRF by creating an ADS-B receiver that ran on the card itself, outputting the decoded airplane data to the USB port. The xA9 could do significantly more than this, and the possibilities are intriguing.
The new card is also, as the name suggests, smaller, measuring 2.5 by 4 inches, which would make it easier to integrate with devices like the Raspberry Pi, although it is still a little larger than the Pi.
The SDR marketplaces has changed a lot since 2013, with a profusion of cheap, open-source SDR receivers and transceivers like the LimeSDR and SDRPlay. These devices are cheaper than the BladeRF, and offer most of the same features. So, is there still a place in the market for a more powerful, more expensive device like the BladeRF 2.0 Micro? That, as they say, is up in the air.