Here we have a look inside the Flightaware Prostick (Top) and the RTL-SDR.COM v3 (Bottom).
At first glance, these look very similar, both use the Rafael Micro R820T2 tuner IC and both use SMA antenna connections but each dongle has features that set them apart.
Here is a closer look of the two.
The Orange Prostick from Flightaware has an internal Low Noise Amplifier to boost incoming ADSB signals (Location a in the photo).
The amplifier component used is a SKY7150 made by Skyworks Inc of Woburn, Massachusetts.
I could not find a specific data sheet for the unit but I have a feeling its part of the SKY67150 range. Skyworks will adapt their device manufacture for a given frequency that a client requires. The device is an 8 pin flat no lead package measuring just 2mm x 2mm.
This dongle has a standard crystal seen in Generic usb TV tuner sticks. The bandwidth of adsb is quite wide so no problems.
The Prostick works very well indeed for those starting out in adsb monitoring. Using a simple set up you can get some planes on the screen very quickly with no fuss.
The RTL-SDR.com V3 dongle has been built with the sdr radio listener in mind.
There is a TXCO 1ppm crystal (Location b in the photo) which is very handy when monitoring HF signals using an upconverter . The v3 has a metal case which will please most listeners and an easy conversion to bias tee operation by soldering a link between 2 pads on the board (Location c in the photo). Although the v3 is very stable ,My RTL-SDR.com v3 version is a little deaf.
My generic R820T2 blue $10 usd dongle seems to perform better with weaker signals but its standard crystal results in frequency drift which is a bit of a pain. That said you cannot expect too much from any of these devices given the cost but both units above play to their strengths.
From the $5 TV/radio dongle a few years ago things have come a long way in a relatively short space of time. You can get a lot of fun with both of these dongles. They represent excellent value for money and a good starting point if you are thinking of buying a purpose made unit from sdr play, airspy etc.
As expected, The best performer for 1090mhz is the Prostick with its custom amplifier but when you try civil airband with the excellent sdr# software, a lot of unwanted noise is evident.
As said the RTL-SDR v3 is very stable for HF when teamed up with an up-converter, performance on its own tuned to VHF airband, it is very good, especially given the price. It is a little frustrating that just 2mhz bandwidth is visible in the waterfall of sdr#. Having said that, Its sometimes hard to get your head around the fact that this is a $21 usd piece of kit… There are scanners and radio kits around with much less in the way of performance at 3 times the price. Hook up a half decent antenna to the v3 and it will give you hours of happy listening/data crunching. So many brilliant plugins for sdr#, Great Fun.
Here is where I bought my RTL-SDR v3.
Both units will work with a plethora of software available on the internet and there are always new developments going on in sdr radio. The R820t2 tuner dongles seem to be the industry standard for linux /raspberry pi developers. Especially those on the Github pages. There is a lot of very impressive sdr radio work going on in the Github development community.
There is a new version of the Flightaware prostick plus which has a blue plastic casing.
This has a 1090mhz SAW filter incorporated in the design.
I spotted an interesting article from a radio related blog page regarding inflated pricing of the Prostick Plus…especially when sold with accessories.
Here in the UK ,If you want to buy a Prostick or Prostick Plus, they are priced at around £20 and £25 respectively from Flightaware UK reseller ModMyPi (Link Below)
This seller has just about every gizmo for the raspberry pi and arduino single board computers. They also sell the Excellent HabAmp adsb pre amplifier with 1090 SAW filter from Uputronics. This device works brilliantly with the RTL-SDR v3 and Generic R820t/t2 family dongles.