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PXI vs. MXI Controllers

· test,test system,PXI

I'm working on another proposal and the system will have a PXI system that will go into a rack. I'm going to present two options for a controller: PXI or MXI.

I'm going to recommend a PXI controller as I think there's general price insensitivity here (the controller is a small part of the cost). In general though I like the small size. If I need a full size desktop PC along with my PXI chassis, then I'm likely using over 10U in my rack. (This doesn't count other things like a keyboard tray, maybe a rackmount surge protector or UPS.) My preference is to keep test systems as small (and as mobile) as possible which will increase flexibility. I'd rather not require a full size rack unless I really do have a lot instrumentation.

I think one undervalued aspect of PXI controllers is that their product lifetime is higher than a standard PC. For instance, I can buy a PXI-8101 controller, which was released in 2009. This comes in handy in regulated environments where duplicating a system means duplicating everything exactly. If I want to still use a Celeron processor, I can (though the PXI-8101 specifically is in last time buy.)

But maybe you don't want your system tied to yesterday's processor. Having a separate PC with MXI is a much better choice. You can update the PC or any of its components without touching the PXI chassis. It is also much cheaper. For example, the PXIe-8840 controller is $4599 for a dual core and $5599 for a quad core. The PXIe-PCIe8361 controller is $1199. Estimating a PC at $1000 means that the MXI option is roughly half price.

One other advantage for the standard PC route is that PCI/PCIe peripherals are much cheaper than PXI. And while in most cases there are equivalent USB peripherals, it's nice to have them in your PC. For instance, if I need a few extra Serial ports, USB ports, and/or Ethernet ports, PCI is a much more cost effective choice.

So we'll have to see which option is preferred (or if the system is build at all.)

Disclosure: I own shares of National Instruments stock.

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