Several of this week's stories address lower-level (as chips or modules) integration that is intended to make a system designer's job easier. In one, phase-locked-loop (PLL) synthesizers and their components are joined on chip with low-phase-noise voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs) to speed the implementation of a complete frequency synthesizer (see the Cover Features in the September and October 2009 issues of Microwaves & RF). In another, GPS circuitry is combined with passive antennas and dynamic matching circuitry to simplify the creation of compact GPS receivers within wrist watches and other portable products.
This component level of integration saves the steps of selecting and matching components such as mixers, filters, amplifiers, oscillators, and bias circuitry when assembling a system. Of course, it also takes away the opportunity of selecting optimum individual components for those functions but, with the improved performance of multifunction integrated modules and ICs from a variety of suppliers, the gap between hand-selected and optimized individual components and integrated modules or ICs appears to be shrinking quickly with time.