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Is This the Best Hobbyist O-scope?

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kjennejohn

New Member
I am always combing the web for "best" instruments, i.e., a test instrument that actually looks to deliver best-bang-for-the-buck. I tend to divide these into impromptu categories. This one would never get put in the "Bench Tech's Dream" category, but to my mind is easily a ready candidate for most any hobbyist. It is a USB-connected, USB-powered, one-channel 60MHz DSO (Digital Storage Oscilloscope) with independent 8-channel LA (Logic Analyzer) and 8-channel PG (Programmable Generator) for $250. No, that was not a typo, I mean $250. I cannot begin to believe all the firepower this thing brings to the user in the software. 100MHz FFT, spectrum analyzer, wizard for programming it, I2C and SPI triggering, with the results displayed as waveforms or state displays... the kinds of things others provide at three to four times the cost. Of course, you usually get another channel, but usually at a lower bandwidth than the 60MHz this offers. Start with the specs at:
USB based Oscilloscopes by Link Instruments for your Windows PC or Laptop.

There is one REALLY major downside: the 1Kpts (one thousand points) of storage RAM for holding the samples. My Tektronix has 2500Kpts per channel and is a constant pain to live with. Slow signals force the user to turn down the sweep speed to the point to where data you want to see long after the trigger point comes after the end of storage space. Bummer.

Then again, if what you want is signs-of-life monitoring and looking at edge characteristics on a pulse-by-pulse basis, you can relax. You can fix stereo amps with this during the day and study cell timing in your serial streams out of your microprocessor at night JUST FINE.
And despite it's "hobbyist" rating, if you're a technician or field engineer on the go, and you have a skinflint boss, this might get in under his radar and find itself in your field gear.

If you can recommend something like this close to this price range with more storage available *I'd* sure like to hear about it!
 
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smanches

New Member
Being a PC scope, the computer is going to do the bulk of the storage and analysis anyway. The 1K memory is just a buffer before it goes to the PC.

The only thing I would not like is it's only single channel. Dual channel is almost a must so you can compare a waveform before and after a component.
 

Arkham00

Member
I have an OWON scope (owon specs) and I like it. Quite cheap and useful for simple electronics.


 

kjennejohn

New Member
One channel is better than none. Compare this to a (pitiful) Parallax o-scope at $140 and a 20KHz bandwidth. I spend most of my time at home with a development board looking at signals coming out of a 20MHz PIC. These signals are CMOS square waves. The eight channel logic analyzer would cover signal sequencing and timing. The single-channel o-scope allows edge study for signals with slow rise and fall times and analog signals at the ADC inputs.

The real beauty is, the 100 MHz logic analyzer signals and the o-scope trace ARE IN SYNCH! This is because the two run off a common sampling clock. Read the sales blurb. This allows you to truly study the relationship between an analog input to an ADC input and the processor's reaction time until an digital output appears. Or study the processor's serial stream into a MAX232 level-translator IC and it's corresponding output. Of course you can do the same thing on a dual-channel o-scope, but with this you can monitor seven other logic levels at the same time. I have found many instances in my thirty years as a bench tech where I wished the logic analyzer I was using had a 'scope built in, or at least a trigger output for an oscilloscope like this one does. Or times where I found myself triggering off a common signal and then making crude diagrams as I moved the probes to other signals and prayed they were all in synch. There are other units that can do this, but they are much more expensive, or less capable or lacking in other features, when compared to this.

Enough of the push. I don't work for these guys. I'd like to think I am providing a service here by pointing out these gems as I find them. My latest acquisition, when I had a job, is a Hantek DSO1060. This is another such-a-deal. This is closer to the "bench-tech" category I mentioned earlier. It too is 60MHz, but it is a standalone unit (no PC needed, though you can make the USB connection), two-channel color LCD, with multi-function DMM, has two channels and a battery good for several hours, making it truly portable. The battery also means it has truly isolated channels with no connections to the mains ground. I am SO tired of changing blown FETs. And at $550 (free gift! Get the handheld DMM!) it too quickly comes into the realm of the affordable. The only reason this isn't fully in my "bench-tech" category is the low 60MHz bandwidth. I think of 100 MHz as the working low end. Ehh! You can see this at:
Circuit Specialists Inc. - 60MHz Hand Held Scopemeter with Oscilloscope & DMM Functions (DSO1060).

Later!
 

Dean Huster

Well-Known Member
Myself, I don't like PC-based instrumentation. To me, it's like owning nothing but 12v instruments where you have to drag a car around with you everywhere. I just don't like the tether to the PC. I much prefer stand-alone test equipment.

That USB scope looks like it has neat specs, but anytime you have a multi-multi-function instrument (PC-based or stand-alone), there's going to be compromises and operational complexity increases dramatically. Just look at the remote for my CD player, a 375-function scientific calculator, MS Windows, etc.

The real question for ANY DSO is its sampling rate. If it isn't at least 2GS/s, it won't be much good for transients.

Dean
 

Warpspeed

Member
I am with Dean on this.
I don't like PC based instruments either.

It is usually a LOT more convenient to take your portable stand alone oscilloscope over to what you want to measure, than to bring some large piece of equipment, (and all its accessories) and set it all up right next to your PC.

While PC based test instruments are fun, and definitely have their uses, a proper portable digital or analog scope will be far more versatile in practical every day usage.
 

BrownOut

Banned
I have a soft spot for self-contained o-scopes. But I can think if alot of advantaged of a PC based one on the bench, although I don't own one myself.
 

Warpspeed

Member
I have both, and use my Tektronix 475A analog scope all the time.
My PC based system very very rarely. It is much less convenient.
 

tunedwolf

Well-Known Member
I use my Tek mainly when I need to see what's going on with stuff, but I do have a 32 channel USB based Logic Analyser from Intronix which I use quite a bit when working on Micro based projects. The LA gets used on-site with a laptop and has proved to be a great diagnostic tool in the field.

I generally don't like PC based test instruments, but I think it's more of a state of mind now. I am old enough to still have fond memories of the old Gould scope we had in the workshop.

I think times really have moved on...I'm just stuck in the 70's :)
I'm certain that the PC based test instruments will eventually include the PC or some variant thereof. Their specifications are improving at a pace now.

What I find strange is that the big manufacturers like Tek, Hitachi and Philips etc haven't put their experience in stand alone test instruments into the mix by producing affordable PC based equipment directed at the little guy.

rgds
 

BrownOut

Banned
I like it! Not much bandwidth, but a clever design. You could use it to spurce up some projects with their own signal display!
 

Hero999

Banned
Add three Li cells, a charger and a rugged case and you have a nice portable 'scope.

The problem with USB 'scopes is they're all single channel and there's no external trigger so I'd need at least two to be semi-happy.

My criticism of all digital 'scopes I've seen is that they all have a fairly low number of bits per sample, 8-bits isn't really good enough.
 

flurng

New Member
I have an OWON scope (owon specs) and I like it. Quite cheap and useful for simple electronics.



I just picked up the exact same scope & I love it! The only ( minor ) drawback is the way-too-short ground leads on the test probes. Fortunately, I found a simple solution: carefully remove the ground leads from the probes, then attach a jumper cable to the ground lead of the probe compensator on the front panel. Now, just attach the other end of the jumper to your circuit ground, and you're ready to go! Hope this helps!
 
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