As the number of people developing interest in circuitry rises dramatically, oscilloscopes are the new now. This device, formerly having an abstruse image, is now found even at places a far cry from laboratories.
Despite increased demand and supply, choosing a new oscilloscope remains one of the most daunting tasks. With hundreds of different models to choose from that have varying costs and specs, even the best minds can get baffled.
No matter how confusing a maze seems, there’s always a way out. To help you avert from what could have been a costly misstep, we tried to create a clear path. Keys to find the best oscilloscope are closer than you think, more precisely, a quick read away.
Best Oscilloscopes in Town
With a rise in the number of customers, the market is flooded with tons of different manufacturers. According to the basic supply and demand chain, that’s justifiable too. However, such a plethora of options does no better than puzzling our already baffled circuit-solving brains.
1. Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E
There’s been some real buzz about the 200MHz SDS1202X-E, as it’s an ideal combo of cool features and affordability. Due to its Gate and Zoom measurement, you can specify an arbitrary interval of the waveform data analysis. Hence, you’ll notice a significant decrease in the error rate caused by any extraneous data.
Moreover, it features a hardware-based function for taking up to 40,000 pass-fail decisions per second. And it can quickly generate test templates defined by you and provide trace mask comparison. Therefore, you’ll find it suitable for long-term signal monitoring or testing an automated production line.
It has this new math co-processor that allows FFT analysis of incoming signals with up to 1M samples per waveform! So, you’ll get a high-frequency resolution with a much faster refresh rate. While this will take care of speed, accuracy will be ensured by a 14M point measurement of all data points.
Guess what? You can now playback the latest triggered events as well. Because there’s a history function that uses segmented memory to store the trigger events. Besides, you can get an intuitive display of the bus protocol information in a tabular format.
You can also control the USB AWG module or scan the amplitude and phase-frequency of an independent SIGLENT device. Its embedded web server will help you troubleshoot remotely by controlling the USB WIFI from a simple web page.
- Has some issues with input calibration.
2. Rigol DS1054Z
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly Oscilloscope, DS1054Z deserves your attention for sure. The specifications it offers for the money are too good to be true. Innovative technologies, powerful trigger functions, broad analysis capabilities, the list goes on and on.
Rigol DS1054Z is a benchtop body style digital oscilloscope that weighs no more than 6.6 pounds. However, it’s not the well-constructed body that brings in all of the convenience. You’ll also receive two of the RP2200 double passive probes with it for a more convenient user interface.
Compared to the price tag it has, a bandwidth of 50 MHz across four channels is indeed quite impressive. This economic device also offers a waveform capture rate of up to 30,000 waveforms per second. Pretty swift, eh? On top of that, it features a real-time sample rate of 1G Sa/s as well.
As for storage memory, you get a 12 Mpt memory pre-equipped with this one. However, it also offers a USB connectivity and an optional 24Mpts memory depth in case you need additional storage.
Apart from that, Rigol has implemented innovative ultra-vision technology for the screen. Thanks to this enhancement, the display can show multiple intensity levels of waveforms. Only because of that, the slightly lower resolution becomes justifiable.
- Low resolution.
- A bit noisy.
3. YEAPOOK ADS5012h
Unlike the previous two, this one’s rather a mini device that will do pretty much all you need from an oscilloscope. It’s the ultra-small form factor that sets ADS5012h apart from the rest. Thanks to such a size, it’s quite easy to hold in hand and carry along.
However, its smaller appearance comes by no means at the cost of cutting down the specs. This 115mm device comes with a 2.4 inches high definition TFT-LCD display. We don’t often bet ourselves, but the waveforms display on this compact screen will make you fall in love.
With that said, it also features an analog bandwidth of 100 MHz, which makes it worthy of competing in the race. Moreover, the real-time sampling rate of this device is up to 500MSa/s, enhancing efficiency.
Other than that, there’s a built-in 64M massive storage space with the capacity of storing up to 2000 waveform pictures. Not only can you save the trigger events but also manage them with the utmost ease. Whether it is thumbnail browsing, viewing in detail, or flipping the waveforms, all these will be plain sailing for you.
Though it may look fragile, it comes with a non-toxic, anti-slip, and durable silicone protective cover. Finally, comes the battery life that puts the cherry on top. When fully charged, its 3000mAh large battery will keep you backed up for 8 hours straight.
- Only one channel available.
4. Tektronix TBS1032B
Tektronix believes a clear view of signals is the mantra for successful waveform analysis. Thus, a 7-inch high-resolution TFT display with ten times powerful Pan & Zoom function is right on top of their spec list. Besides, it also has an easy to use interface, giving you quick access to all the functions.
With a 200 MHz bandwidth, TBS1032B is already way ahead in the game. However, that isn’t the only deciding factor. You’ll get a sky-high sampling rate of 2 GS/s, even while changing horizontal settings or using multiple channels. Observing the true characteristics of your signals has never been this easy.
Although it offers high vertical measurement accuracy of up to 3 percent, you’ll find advanced troubleshooting options. You can either add, subtract, and multiply waveforms, or use any one of 34 automated measurements. The motive here is to reliably calculate characteristics like frequency, rise time, or overshoot.
Moreover, it has this limit test feature that automatically monitors a source signal and outputs pass or fails results. Once you predefine the boundaries, it will evaluate for you. You can also view both frequency and time domain waveforms simultaneously, thanks to its FFT function.
Additionally, TBS1032B features some extensive analysis tools to help you out with intermittent faults. Data transferring is quite flexible as well, since it has dedicated USB host ports on the front panel.
- Min/max voltage display issues.
5. Hantek DSO5102P
For an entry-level oscilloscope, Hantek DSO5102P is a fairly good deal thanks to a number of high-end specs it offers. A bandwidth of 100MHz, a sample rate of 1GSa/s, and a recording length of up to 40K are only a few of its several mind-blowing features.
Each function you can possibly think of is packed within this scope. To start with, it has a front panel consisting of several useful buttons. You can use these for both vertical and horizontal alignment, or even scale adjustment.
Despite the long list of functions, setting up this device is quite a child’s play. Not to mention how intuitive the menu options are. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’re bound to fall for its almost effortless user interface.
Other than that, the tiniest of issues regarding signal property measurements will stay out of your sight. For instance, you can check things like frequency, period, mean, and peak to peak voltage with a single click of a button. Besides that, you’ll find cursors to measure voltage intervals and specific time.
Apart from that, it comes with a 1KHz square wave probe for quicker testing and calibration. You can not only read two different channels at the same time but also perform math calculations with the signals. All these, what’s more, you can even apply the fast Fourier transform (FFT) algorithm.
- Only two channels available.
6. Hantek 2D72
As days pass, the typical benchtop style devices are losing the charm due to their lack of portability. Keeping that in mind, Hantek brings us a rather portable option, the 2D72. One we’re talking about is more of a multipurpose device, consisting of functions from three universal test instruments.
With that said, you can use this one as a 70MHz oscilloscope with a speed of 250Msa/s. For a three-in-one device, these figures are way more than expected. On top of that, you get a waveform generator function to output waves of pretty much every shape you need.
Furthermore, the device can work pretty well as a multimeter. It will automatically measure frequency as well as amplitude for you with quite the accuracy. There’s a self-calibration function as well that makes it look even more effortless.
Since you’ll be carrying it along, Hantek has made the charging system quite intelligent. You can charge the lithium battery by either a high current of 5V/2A or even a conventional USB interface. Besides, a type C interface makes it even more convenient for both charging and data transferring.
- Only two channels available.
- Screen is a bit too small.
7. SainSmart DSO213
If you’re a hobbyist who’s always on the go, DSO213 will definitely be the game-changer for you. Whereas most oscilloscopes are quite a pain in the neck for their bulky size, this one fits in your pocket.
DSO213 is an upgrade of the previous model DS203 with a much wider bandwidth of 15MHz. For a device this small, there really isn’t much to complain about this figure. The sampling rate is high as well. With a 100MSa/s rate, it will capture and provide you with more waveform detail than most rivals.
Not only does it offer a fair deal in terms of bandwidth, but also it features a total of four channels. This aspect alone is enough to set this device apart since there are plenty of deals with fewer channels but a bigger size.
Apart from that, it has a 3-inch bright display that is more than what you pay for. Studying the information listed on the screen will, therefore, be plain sailing. Moreover, controls are easy as pie with a simple swipe and one-click operation. You can also save a number of images in its 8MB flash storage.
When it comes to the range of applications, DS213 offers versatility second to none. Besides its base functions of waveform analysis, it works as a diagnostic tool. It can be used simultaneously to detect malfunctions and measure current.
- Unsuitable for professional purpose.
Route to Best Oscilloscopes
Turns out, no matter how effective Kirchhoff’s circuit laws are, they come of no use while bagging an oscilloscope. Jokes apart, you actually do need to feed your brains with some new information. Factors worth considering are as follows.
So, if you really want to dig deep into this section, you’ll stumble upon words you probably never heard of. However, our motive here is to provide you with a rather simple and straightforward perception of the basic types.
Choosing an analog oscilloscope today is nothing less than stepping onto a journey to the past. An analog oscilloscope has few, if any, features that a DSO cannot surpass. Unless you’re really tempted by their good old look and feel, they shouldn’t be on your preferred list.
Digital Storage Oscilloscopes (DSO)
Unlike analog, DSO stores and analyzes signals digitally. The main advantage you get over analog is that the stored traces are bright, sharply defined, and written very quickly. You can store traces indefinitely and later reload them from external storage devices as well. Not to mention how convenient they are to use, making them superior to the analog devices.
Depending on the form factor, you will find three basic types of DSOs in the market today.
These are usually bulkier and prefer staying on tables rather than roaming around. Benchtop digital scopes will perform the best in terms of performance, obviously coming at a higher cost. With features like FFT spectrum analysis, disk drives, PC interfaces, and printing options, you can’t really complain about the price.
As the name goes, these will fit in your arms and are easy to carry around like most smartphones. Handheld DSOs have obvious benefits if you are always on the move. However, the convenience comes at a cost, as they tend to have a poor display and short battery life. They’re also a bit pricey compared to benchtops.
Despite being the newcomer, PC-based oscilloscopes are already outperforming their benchtop equivalents in popularity. And it looks like they’re here to stay, as you can use them on the PC right on your desk. That means you get a high-resolution display, a lightning-fast processor, and disk drives. All these for free!
Getting a scope with a bandwidth five times higher than the maximum frequency you want to measure is the general rule of thumb. For example, aim for a device with a bandwidth of 100MHz if around 20MHz is your measurement zone. If you input a signal of the same bandwidth as your scope, it will display an attenuated and distorted image.
For DSOs, the sampling rate is specified in mega samples per second (MS/s) or Giga samples per second (GS/s). This rate should be at least twice the maximum frequency you want to measure. But as you require at least five samples to reconstruct a waveform accurately, make sure this number is as high as possible.
Besides, you’ll get two different sampling rates: real-time sampling (RTS) and equivalent-time sampling (ETS). Now, ETS only works if the signal is stable and repetitive and is unlikely to work if it is a transient one. Don’t get attracted by a high rate and do check whether it applies to all signals or repetitive ones only.
Most digital engineers prefer comparing the rise time over bandwidth. The quicker the rise time, the more precise are the critical details of fast transitions. If not stated by the manufacturer, you can count the rise time with the formula k/bandwidth, where k is between 0.35 (if bandwidth < 1GHz).
The memory depth of a scope controls how long it can store a signal before it has to be dumped. A DSO with a high sample rate but low memory can use its full sample rate on the top few time-bases only.
Let’s assume that an oscilloscope is capable of sampling at 100 MS/s. Now, if it has a 1k buffer memory, the sampling rate will be limited to 5 MS/s (1 k / 200 µs) only. That becomes even clearer when you zoom in on a particular signal.
Resolution and Accuracy
Most digital oscilloscopes nowadays come with an 8-bit resolution. In order to view analog signals for audio, automotive, or environmental monitoring, go for a scope with 12-bit or 16-bit resolution. While most 8-bit scopes offer an accuracy between 3 to 5 percent, you can achieve up to 1 percent with higher resolution.
Trigger controls come handy for stabilizing the repetitive waveforms and capturing the single-shot ones. Most DSOs offer pretty much the same basic trigger options. You can look for more advanced functions depending on the type of signals you measure. Such as pulse triggers are likely to prove useful for digital signals.
You will get selectable full-scale input ranges from ±50 mV to ±50 V in today’s scopes. However, make sure the scope has a small enough voltage range for the signals you want to measure. A scope with a resolution of 12 to 16 bits should do fairly well if you typically measure small signals (less than 50 mV).
Typical probes allow switching between 1:1 and 10:1 attenuation. Always use the 10:1 setting for overload protection. Passive probes are a laugh when used for fast signals above 200 MHz. Active FET probes perform better with signals like these. For high and 3 phase voltages, a differential isolating probe is an optimal solution.
Conventional oscilloscopes with four or fewer channels may not be enough to view all the signals. Hence, you may look for a mixed-signal oscilloscope (MSO). These provide 2 to 4 analog channels with up to 16 digital channels for logic timing. With these, you can forget about any combined logic analyzers or special software.
Today’s oscilloscopes will allow you to select the record length for optimizing the detail level. You can expect a basic oscilloscope to store over 2000 points, where a stable sine-wave signal needs around 500. To search for infrequent transients like jitter, select at least a mid-end scope with a long record length.
Make sure the scope provides math stuff like mean and RMS calculations and duty cycles for instant results. You can also find more advanced math functions such as FFT, integrate, differentiate, square root, scalars, and even user-defined variables in some models. If you’re willing to spend, these are definitely worth it.
Navigation and Analysis
Try to confirm highly effective tools for quick navigation and analysis of recorded traces. These tools include zooming in on an event, panning the areas, play-pause, search and mark, and more. Other than that, it will be easy for you to define various criteria that are similar to trigger conditions.
Check if the scope supports advanced applications. For example, apps that give you insights into signal integrity, related problems, causes, and effects. Other applications like RF will allow you to view signals in the frequency domain and analyze using spectrograms. There’s a ton of other applications available as well.
Connectivity and Expansion
Consider a scope that allows you to access network printing and file-sharing resources. Look for universal USB ports or type C ports for easy data transferring or charging purposes. For handheld or portable devices, make sure battery backup is adequate and can be charged from anywhere.
For the best coordination of features, the device must offer a convenient and responsive interface. Dedicated knobs for frequently used adjustments, default buttons for instant setup, and language support are some requirements for that purpose.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which mode should I use for extremely slow signals?
Ans: You may use the Roll mode to view a slow signal. It will help the waveform data to show up immediately. Therefore, you won’t have to wait for the full waveform records. For instance, you will have to wait ten seconds in case a sweep is ten divisions long, with a rate of one second per division.
Q: Is ground connection to an oscilloscope a must?
Ans: Yes, you do need to ground the oscilloscope for safety purposes. Your oscilloscope needs to share the same ground with any circuit that you are testing through it. However, you might find some oscilloscopes out there, in which a separate connection to the ground is unnecessary.
Q: Can I measure AC current with an oscilloscope?
Ans: Theoretically, you can. However, most oscilloscopes can only measure voltage instead of current. But you can measure the voltage dropped across a shunt resistor to calculate the amps. It’s actually a lot easier if you grab a device with a built-in ammeter or multimeter.
That’s it! We tried to cover pretty much something for every circuitry enthusiast out there. Whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist, you can’t think of circuitry without a top-notch oscilloscope. Hopefully, our efforts to niche down the worthy options helped you find the best oscilloscope.
Our experts found SDS1202X-E from Siglent Technologies to be a comparatively better choice among the benchtop devices. The excellent new features, along with wide bandwidth, keep it ahead of the competition. However, if you’re a bit low on budget, feel free to go for the Rigol DS1054Z instead.
Otherwise, if you’re more into the portable ones than the benchtops, YEAPOOK ADS5012h deserves your attention. With a whopping sampling rate and a wide bandwidth usually found in larger counterparts, it’s worth an investment.
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