Review: Total Phase Beagle USB 12 Analyzer

I obtained a Total Phase Beagle USB 12. This is an USB traffic analyzer that is capable of capturing USB traffic at full speed and low speed. It is a physical device that sits in between a host and a device, while the traffic between the two are sent to my computer so I can view every single event.

This one is a hardware analyzer, which is different from software analyzers. I tried various software analyzers before, there are some disadvantages of software based analyzers:

  • filter drivers make my laptop slower and sometimes unstable (sometimes my USB devices stop working, and sometimes I get a BSOD)
  • cannot capture data between a device and a seperate host that’s not the computer running the software
  • cannot let you unplug and replug and continue the capture (maybe this is not true for more expensive software)
  • cannot detect low level errors
I will be working on a embedded USB host project soon. Something to do with

the Playstation 3 and 4 as well, so a hardware USB traffic analyzer is a welcome addition to my tool set.

The Beagle USB 12 is a hardware analyzer but it does not capture waveforms. It does capture low level errors, but if you want to see analog waveforms, you can’t do it with this. However, it is supposed to be completely non-intrusive, the signals are isolated, so the analyzer will not degrade the signals at all.

The GUI is very nice, good graphical design combined with intuitive interativity. The information I need to see is presented in a useful manner.

It does a fair bit of decoding if the data is available. It can tell me the endpoint descriptors and such, but not HID report descriptors, which is disappointing. You must also pause the capture in order to decode the data, probably because it’s hard to live update the information as it is coming in.

Apparently, realtime class level decoding is available on the more expensive Beagle USB 480 model ($1500), which is kind of stupid because it should be a software only feature.

Physically, the case has 2 screws that goes into threaded metal inserts, which means you can take it apart as many times as you want and it won’t wear out. The PCB is not screwed down but it seems like it might be held down by either friction or adhesive on the back of the PCB. All the connectors seems to be through hole, which are stronger than SMD. The end of the box with the two USB connectors has a big cutout so that the LEDs inside are visible, this means dust and debris can get in more easily, but it does save them money on showing the LEDs. The way that the two USB connectors are right next to each other means that some wide devices won’t fit, but a simple extension cable will fix that.


click for bigger picture

There are some other features in the software that I probably didn’t get to use yet. There are also ways to interact with it without using Total Phase’s software.

If anybody is doing the kind of stuff I’m doing (cloning USB devices while implementing an embedded USB host), I think it’s a great tool. Not $500 great (maybe it was worth $500 when USB 2.0 was new), maybe worth $200 to me, but I got it for free.

5 thoughts on “Review: Total Phase Beagle USB 12 Analyzer

  1. Adriaan Knox

    Thanks!

    I am also working on a Playstation 3 & 4 peripheral, namely the Sony PULSE wireless headset.

    These are vibrating (“pulsing”) headphones which rumble when low frequencies are played through them. So during explosions and such.
    Additionally these headphones allow “sound profiles” to be downloaded to them through the PS3. So game developers can equalize the headphones to their game and one can download that setting to the headphones.

    So basically the headphones are unique because they rumble and they have a build in equalizer. However one needs a PS3 to get new settings and one is never able to adjust the sound like a real equalizer…

    That is why I want to snoop the traffic and eventually develop a windows program which could really let people get all of the control over this device.

    I am torn between the Beagle 12, Beagle 480, or the LeCroy Mercury T2…

    TotalPhase does 50% off for students with a school email address but LeCroy has not gotten back to me yet.

    What do you think?

    Reply
    1. Admin Post author

      I love my Beagle 12 at home, and I have a Beagle 480 at work, which has some more extra software features included, but I can live without the extra. Check if you actually need to decode high-speed in your particular situation.

      You’ve got a hard challenge ahead.

      Reply
  2. Abdulhadi Mohamed

    Hi, I’m new to USB protocol analyzer but if i understand correctly the Beagle 12 can only be used with USB 1.1 devices as it has a sample rate that is capped at 12 Mbps? USB 2.0 has a data rate of 480 Mbps. Hence, the more expensive Beagle 480 is required to analyze these signals. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I find this article misleading.

    Reply
    1. Admin Post author

      Oh sorry, if you run into a USB 2.0 device that defaults to high speed, you can simply plug it into a USB 1.1 hub first and the speed will automatically downgraded to full speed, don’t try it with something that actually needs high speeds though. This trick saved me a few hundred dollars back years ago.

      Reply

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