Electronics > Beginners

Yet Another Oscilloscope Thread

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DarkPrince:
Hello! First I would like to say I am glad I ran into this place. I am enjoying watching the EEVblogs and currently have watched about 40 of them (started 2 days ago). So that is awesome. The reason I am here is because I see there are some people that know about oscilloscopes and I am in need of some opinions. I have followed the scope thread which is currently active, but it doesn't completely cover the devices I am interested in. Currently I am going between Rigol and Owon oscilloscopes, and I know there are short-comings on each of them. A lot of people pointed out all the limited specs of the Owon devices, but they have a set of "new" scopes which have some specs that look promising. Doing a search on these forums didn't really return anything about these 'new' scopes ('new' because I really don't know when they came out). I can't stress it enough on how many night so far I spent doing research, and honestly I am starting to loose myself with so many numbers, thus I ask for second opinions!

I am looking for a scope for various projects, and there is a limited budget. My main focus is digital circuits, but I also dabble in some analog such as audio or smps circuits, which even then most likely are controlled by a digital device. I am trying to get something which will serve its purpose without too many short comings such as sample-rate or bandwidth limitations. My budget limit is approximately $600 USD but I will allow for play, or even a significant play if such a device is select which is seen even more beneficial (MSO for example, though $1k is out of my range). This will be my first scope, hurray!

I do have previous experience with oscilloscopes, especially analog scopes from my EET courses, and utilizing the features on these devices for me should not be a problem. I am usually a self-taught kind of person. A challenge is usually welcome.

First, I really was focused on the Rigol DS1052E because of its ability to be modded into a 100MHz but I am concerned from a thread I was reading which mentioned the thought that Rigol is actually now trying to prevent this 50MHz->100MHz firmware mod, but I am unsure of the reliability of this. I am willing to put a few hundred more in for a device which doesn't rely on tricks, and naturally is fast without mod. Of course firmware only, as any hardware mod on these kinds of devices is a no-no for me. I have not tried there software but I hear it has a remote control ability. Not sure if I'd need that..

Rigol Specs (DS1052E, $400 USD):
  5.7" TFT @ 320x240
  100MHz* (modded, naturally 50MHz, maybe not supported anymore?)
  1Gsps/500Msps
  1M Point Memory Depth
  300V (DC / AC-PkPk)
  MSO Upgrade Not Available

The second device I am looking at is from Owon, and I am looking at this device for a couple of reasons. The first is because of the increased resolution of the LCD screen, not just for the increased size. Vertical resolution isn't as important as the 8-bit sample resolution is already limiting factor, but also the horizontal resolution is doubled, effectively doubling what I can see on screen, or double the details while viewing the same signal segment. Second, the device comes with 2M Point memory rather than Rigol's 1M, effectively doubling the length of record. I have heard that Owon uses STN lcd technology, but this device is the 8" rather than the former 7.8". This will put me with a TFT screen, as described on the site. I also hear that the plastic the device is made out of isn't as good as it should be, but there was no follow-up information on whether this would be a problem. A scope should be treated with care, and with that I don't see too much of a problem with the physical aspect. I know that Owon doesn't have as much of a community as Rigol, but they do have -some-.. and with these specs I almost feel that it may be worth the risk, if any. I do believe this scope only comes with a single probe. On the other hand, I did install there software and I was pleased with how it was setup. From all the IDE environments I have installed from various microcontroller companies, they have not kept up on operating systems (especially Windows 7), where as the Owon software installed (nearly) perfectly (didn't select proper install directory) and the interface looks very clean.

Owon Specs (PDS8102T, $620 USD):
  8" TFT @ 640x480
  100MHz
  1 Gsps/500Msps
  2M Point Memory Depth
  400V (DC / AC-PkPk)
  MSO Upgrade Available*

* Although it is available it seems not very well documented, but I have seen people mention the specific device which connects to the scope.

I know I forgot some brands, but I did look into Instek for example, but those prices don't seem justified. I understand this is a band-name vs not-brand-name war, but I am unable to afford a named product, and in the past I have had my luck with the cheaper stuff. I just don't want to go too cheap, but on the other hand, minimum wage and college kick my finances in the butt. Thanks for reading and hope to get some great feedback, as I have seen great threads with wonderful responses as I roam these forums. I am trying to do my homework before buying. It is a one-shot type of deal. Thanks!


PS: I really got ticked off when I was trying to filter a pwm signal with a low-pass r-c filter and it wasn't working properly. How nice would it have been to have a scope at that time! That is really when I had it, and decided I needed a scope.

DJPhil:
I might be able to help some. I've learned a lot after about a year of watching the low end oscilloscope market agonizing over the same decision.

The Rigol DS1052E is a good baseline scope to compare to, as it's been tested, reviewed, disassembled, and seen thousands of hours of use in professional hands. I believe it is currently still possible to both hack it to at least 100MHz (search for the 150MHz hack info) and recover from a bricked scope (search for Drieg, thanks for all the hard work!). My opinion is that it remains a safe choice for the money even if you never mod it.

The Owon was just a slight bit cheaper than the Rigol and generally judged to be not worth the savings. The new scope shows some promise, but you'll probably have just as much trouble finding out good info on it as it has been to find out anything about their older scopes. I tend not to worry about some of the more subtle problems like plastic quality and UI navigability assuming that they're within reason, but there are factors I'd consider important, like noise for example, that are well known quantities with the Rigol but unknown with the Owon. Unless you really want to wait and see if people adopt the new Owon models and review the criteria that are important to you I'd pass them over. It really depends on your needs and what other equipment you have handy.

The Instek GDS-1062A is a solid competitor for the Rigol. The details are available in the specific Instek threads, but the two big factors are the improved memory depth and the limited lifetime warranty. Instek has a web page that sort of explains the memory thing, but I'm not sure if it's an improvement over other 2Mp systems or just an improvement over lower Mp systems. Instek has the benefit of reputation that the other two don't, though Rigol's made a lot of headway in the last few years.

Regarding logic analyzers, I'd consider a separate device, especially if you're only planning on needing it in a lab environment near a computer. There are a whole bunch of USB LAs out there (search for relevant threads) that are fairly inexpensive and open source, and I believe I've read that they do the job as well or better than the lower end oscilloscope plugins. I haven't looked over the low end MSOs and addons, but I believe they'd be fairly limited in their waveform resolution. If you need more waveform data you can always hook up a scope, and I'm pretty sure that getting single shot grade waveform data on a large number of channels is outside your budget. This is just a guess though, I'm reaching a bit off of what I've read.

I'm playing with mostly analog stuff now, but moving into digital. In your shoes I'd start with a DSO like the Rigol, pickup a good open source USB LA, and keep my eyes out for a used analog scope with the best bandwidth and the best noise performance I could afford. That should pretty much cover your bases unless you really need better than 100MHz single shot performance.

Just the opinions of a newb that reads a lot and has been too broke to buy much yet. Hope it helps. :)

slburris:
It's possible with some effort to get a 100Mhz Tektronix analog scope off
of Ebay for $150 or less, so maybe that's another way to go.  It depends
on what your needs are.  Analog scopes won't as easily mislead you about
certain waveforms, but they aren't useful for single shot events compared
to the digital scopes.

I have both an analog scope and a Rigol DS1052E (modded to 100Mhz).
Well, and a Hantek DSO-1060 portable, but I don't think you are asking about
portable battery powered scopes.  I really like my Rigol.  It's very handy to
feed it a signal, push the AUTO button, and have it do the right thing.

I haven't seen many reviews of the OWON scopes except to say they seem
to be lower quality and have passive displays instead of TFT, but I don't know
if those comments apply to their latest stuff.  If I didn't have the Rigol, I'd
probably get the Instek GDS-1062A (the "A" is important, don't look at the GDS-1062).

Now as for MSOs, that's a tougher question.  People seem to hate the Rigol
models with the Logic Analyzer.  I've got a Bitscope BS-50U, but it's pricey.
Don't have a good suggestion for you.

Scott

DarkPrince:
  Thank you very much for your feedback. Yeah that is exactly why I haven't gone for that Owon device is the lack of community, and I will have to admit I forgot about those additional specs such as noise. I believe the Rigol device is the best bet, but I am still concerned with the 50MHz bandwidth problem. I don't think it would be that hard to exceed that frequency, especially with how fast devices (like microcontrollers) are becoming today. But you are right, even without it, the device is a nice package with a nice community. I am really considering it! The Instek GDS-1062A looks interesting but the price seems a bit steep, but that could just be me.


Yes I am looking for a DSO, as single-shot mode would be very helpful in many situations. Also the logic analyzer was just an idea, and currently I may or may not really need it. I do a lot of digital setups but I am good at debugging with what I got.

slburris:
The GDS-1062A is $415 here, although I've seen it for
much more elsewhere:

http://www.tequipment.net/InstekGDS-1062A.html

The DS1052E seems to be about $400, although you can
get it a little cheaper ordering via Ebay direct from China.

Scott

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