RTL-SDR and Computer Hardware Requirements

Firstly, and most importantly, you require an RTL-SDR receiver. You can source these directly from NooElec along with numerous other outlets such as Amazon; and the price you should be expecting to pay for it is around £15/ $20. NooElec have produced a number of these devices with different form factors and sizes (shown below), but all essentially have the same functionality and can be used in the same way. There are also some RTL-SDRs that use different RF tuners (notably the Elonics E4000 rather than the more common Rafael Micro R820T); again all are functional, and you will be able to use any to get you started on real world SDR designs.


This workbook has been developed based on a Windows 8.1, 64-bit edition computer. The necessary software is available for other Operating Systems (OSs) (Windows 7, 8 and 10 32- and 64-bit, OS X 10.7.4+ and numerous Linux distributions), and it should be possible to follow the exercises in this book using any of them with minor deviations.

laptop_rtlsdrIt is not appropriate to list detailed computer requirements (as so many variations are possible nowadays!), but we recommend you have a modern computer with a ‘good’ processor (such as a recent Intel i5, i7, AMD FX-8k series or similar core), at least 8GB of RAM, and 30GB of free hard drive space. You will also need at least one free USB2.0 (or higher) port, and we recommend a computer with a soundcard so that you can listen to any audio signals you demodulate. As long as your computer is fast enough, then for the most part, the SDR implementations with your RTL-SDR should be able to run in real-time (i.e. the processor will be able to process data as fast as it arrives). If your PC is not fast enough to run real-time, you can of course just record the signals to disk or cloud locations, and then process them offline.

The book also features use of the USRP® SDR transceiver, some custom circuits and FM radio transmitters. For more information on using and setting up these transmitters, please refer to the book directly.