We report on the noise performance characteristics of magnetic sensors using both magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) and giant magnetoresistance (GMR) elements. Each sensor studied has a notably different noise and detectivity. Of the sensors we measured, those based on GMR multilayers have the lowest noise and detectivity. However, the GMR sensor also has a significantly smaller linear range. To make a direct comparison between sensors, we scale the linear operating ranges of each sensor to be the same. This is the phenomenological equivalent of modifying the flux concentration. Upon scaling, the low frequency detectivity of the tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) sensors becomes essentially equal to that of the GMR sensor. Using the scaling approach, we are able to place the detectivity in the context of other key parameters, namely, size and power consumption. Finally, we use this technique to examine the upper limit for magnetoresistive sensor performance based on a notional MTJ sensor using present record setting TMR values.

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