Phabrix reaches Sx milestone

Phabrix has announced that the 8,000th Sx handheld unit is about to roll off its production line.

The first SxA prototype was unveiled at IBC2007, with the product launching the following July as interest in 3G-SDI began to accelerate. Phabrix had access to early silicon from FPGA inventor Xilinx and it was able to leverage the new chipset to produce a model that featured all the functionality of its rivals at a lower price. What’s more, via a teardown of a PlayStation Portable gaming device, the new company was able to source a screen that meant it could pack all these features into a handheld unit.

“Our product was a signal generator and analyser, whereas most competitors’ products were just analysers,” said company founder and now CEO Phillip Adams. “Companies had to buy a separate generator and a separate analyser that would have to be moved around on a trolley. Our product was both portable and a third of the price, so companies could afford to have more of them. There was a real need, we knew that because we’d been developing broadcast products for years, and it also rode a technology wave. And, since then, we’ve innovated a lot.”

Thirteen years later, the company is still making SxAs and is still supplying them with free software updates. The range of devices it offers has expanded considerably as the industry has evolved, adding models and capabilities to accommodate the shift towards both new broadcast formats and the migration towards IP.

The use cases for Phabrix handheld devices have expanded as well, with units in operation in environments as diverse as the Sydney Opera House, the Japanese police force, the Paris Metro, NASA and SpaceX. The company has been equally successful and, despite the pandemic, has just recorded its most successful year to date.

“We have several companies with 80 or 100 units and they’re using them everywhere, and we had more than 100 units in use at the Tokyo Olympics last year,” added Adams. “As for the future, the broadcast industry is difficult to predict. At the moment the momentum is with 25G-IP, 12G-SDI, 4K and 8K, but there is a whole load of detail within that – for example, different files and formats to allow for – and we’re seeing new challenges to address with HDR, with audio and with ensuring remote operations are all smoothly connected. Then you have to ask how long will a handheld unit actually remain a handheld, as everything goes virtual.”

For now, though, the 8,000th physical Phabrix unit is about to be made. Every 1,000th machine is made from a different material – a gold one is locked in a special cabinet at the company HQ – and there are two main candidates for unit 8,000.

“I’d like to do a Perspex one so everyone can see the workings as there’s a lot going on in a very small box,” said Adams. “Bamboo would be a good choice too, as it’s recyclable and sustainable, and these are going to be key considerations over the lifetime of the sales of the next 8,000 devices.”

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