Author Topic: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?  (Read 12210 times)

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Online AndyC_772

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Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« on: August 27, 2012, 12:12:02 pm »
Hi all,

When I was learning electronics, having a scope at all was a luxury. They were expensive, and only really available if you had access to a professional lab. We had a couple of crappy ones at school, and my dad occasionally brought home a 20 MHz Hameg from work, but that was about it.

Not long after I graduated I ended up working for a major electronics company, where we had some properly decent Tektronix kit in the lab. We had a TDS3014 as the general 'every day' scope, and there was a 500 MHz TDS5xx in the lab which we used on memory interfaces and other fast stuff.

Both were great - easy to use, clear displays, flexible trigger options, and the whole 'digital phosphor' display mode gave a superb impression of the shape of the signal. (Yes, I'm a Tek fan, and no, I'm not going to apologise! I seem to remember we tried a LeCroy before buying the TDS, and we all hated it).

Last year I started doing some consulting work, and had to set myself up a proper lab. I needed a DSO for capturing one-off events, so out went my 100 MHz analogue Fluke scope (a nice enough piece of kit), and in came a Tek TDS754D. I like my Tek a lot; it's the updated, colour version of the "good" lab scope we had back in the day, and thanks to the passage of time and the arrival of Ebay, reasonably affordable. But I'm aware that it's on borrowed time; the date in the firmware says 1991-98, so it's 14 years old, and they're a total swine to fix when they do break.

Having used new, cheaper scopes, I'm still glad I bought the Tek, though. One place I work has a 150Mhz Iso-Tech, which is a ghastly device - very basic, smeary display with a dreadful viewing angle, no memory depth, poor resolution, and generally horrible to use. A cheap Owon I saw last year looked even worse.

So, my question is: are the 'budget' brands getting any better? Can I reasonably expect to buy a modern, relatively inexpensive scope that genuinely compares to my 14 yr old Tek in terms of quality, ease of use, bandwidth and other capabilities?

On the face of it, I ought to be able to. Nobody would ever claim that a 14 year old PC was a better bet than a modern one, however expensive it may have been in its day But apart from my laptop, most of my lab equipment is of a similar vintage, and I can't say I feel like I'm missing out. Any modern 4 channel 500 MHz scope is still well into four figures, but a Rigol DS4054 is less than half the price of a Tek TDS3054C. Are they seriously comparable, or would I just find myself sending it straight back and looking to Ebay for another used bargain?

Offline Psi

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2012, 12:32:26 pm »
So, my question is: are the 'budget' brands getting any better? Can I reasonably expect to buy a modern, relatively inexpensive scope that genuinely compares to my 14 yr old Tek in terms of quality, ease of use, bandwidth and other capabilities?

Quality = no

Ease of use = somewhat.
The Tek user interface will be more polished but the rigol (or whatever) has modern features which make tasks quicker/simpler to perform.

Bandwidth = yes, but common sense applies.  A 500mhz scope will always outperform a 100mhz scope on bandwidth.
The cheap scopes have enough bandwidth to be very useful. 100mhz etc.

Other capabilities = yes
Faster CPUs has allowed more advanced features to be added, FFT, filtering, triggering, measurement etc.
However there is always the analog vs digital argument.

Keep in mind there are budget scopes that are crap and budget scopes that are quite good and they're often priced the same.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 12:47:40 pm by Psi »
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Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2012, 12:52:09 pm »
Dave said about his new DG4062, the 4054 is in the same series but it's about the same quality as the DG4 i assume
"Basically, They feel like good, really good bits of kit" "It just feels solid" "And the quality of construction feels brilliant, it does inspire a lot of confidence"
 

Offline djsb

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2012, 12:59:03 pm »
I know you say you like Tektronix but have you considered Agilent. I have just bought a refurbished MSOX3054A scope off Ebay.
This was sold by agilentused which is Agilents name for their Remarketing Solutions Division. I bought it for $8K (normally around $12600 ) and it comes with full 3 year warranty and has been fully remanufactured in Agilents factory in Penang.
I was able to get a good price on a few of their options as well.
Worth considering if you can get the money together. I'm not sure if Tektronix do something similar.
I will have the scope around November so that also gives me time to spread out the import costs (this was easily arranged with Agilent).

P.S For Balance here are some reviews of the Rigol scope mentioned

https://www.youtube.com/user/rbola35618/videos

As mentioned below Hameg are very nice as well and are somewhere in between the Rigol and Agilent in price range. I was going to buy a Hameg before I found the Agilent on Ebay.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 01:15:00 pm by djsb »
David
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Offline madires

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2012, 01:05:30 pm »
Hameg offers some very nice DSOs too, fair price and nice decoding features.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2012, 01:31:18 pm »
Dave said about his new DG4062, the 4054 is in the same series but it's about the same quality as the DG4 i assume
"Basically, They feel like good, really good bits of kit" "It just feels solid" "And the quality of construction feels brilliant, it does inspire a lot of confidence"

Yes, the new models Rigol really do seem to be pretty darn good for the money and decent quality. They have almost stepped up (or are already there depending upon your POV) into being considered one of the "big players" in scopes. Agilent, Tek, Lecroy, R&S/Hameg, and now Rigol.
Get one for demo from a local dealer and I suspect that you will be fairly impressed on how it compares with a name brand scope. Let us know what you think.
If you haven't been following recent discussions in other threads, then Tek are really lagging behind these days in terms of having a modern fast scope at a decent price, and it's quite sad to see.

Dave.
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2012, 01:48:04 pm »
Thankfully my old Tek is still soldiering on, so no need to go hassling dealers for new ones just yet. I'm just curious about where I should set my expectations, and it's the discussions in other threads that prompted me to ask. Given the budget scopes I've actually seen with my own eyes - all awful - I wouldn't even have bothered asking if it weren't for the fact that every photo of every lab bench seems to have a Rigol sitting on it!

I definitely agree with you about Tek prices. The last new scope I bought - thankfully not with my own money - was a TDS3034B. It came from the US, because UK prices were taking the p*ss, but at the time (about 8 years ago) it didn't represent bad value. Now the newer DPO3034 is about £5k, and the all but obsolete TDS3034C is actually more expensive. (WTF?).

That said, I had a loan of a DPO3034 last year and was actually quite disappointed. Apart from the long memory, which isn't a feature I really need anyway, it really didn't feel like an upgrade from the TDS3034B.

I've used Agilent scopes occasionally and always considered them OK, but second best in terms of UI. I actually rented one last week - quite a high end 2.5 GHz "digital signal analyser" - and really didn't like it much, though to be fair, that goes for most Windows based scopes. I'd certainly consider one, but I'd have to borrow it as a demo first.

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2012, 02:06:50 pm »
I'm just curious about where I should set my expectations, and it's the discussions in other threads that prompted me to ask. Given the budget scopes I've actually seen with my own eyes - all awful - I wouldn't even have bothered asking if it weren't for the fact that every photo of every lab bench seems to have a Rigol sitting on it!

The reason for that is the bang-per-buck is high. Rigol pioneered that field and made a name for themselves. The cloners and rebadgers followed in droves. Rigol used to be pretty ordinary at best, but they have evolved a lot.
Your expectations will depend entirely upon your budget...
You basically cannot get a crap quality scope in say the 300MHz+ category, the cheapies just can't do that, they top out at 200MHz max. Under that it's a huge minefield.

Dave.
 

Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2012, 03:03:11 pm »
Buying an unknown brand is like well

Just like budget lecroys ... which are attens
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2012, 03:56:03 pm »
Just like budget lecroys ... which are attens
...and that's quite scary. I'm sure I saw a video recently including a budget Agilent which looked like a rebrand too. Ugh!

I was really hoping the 2nd and 3rd tier manufacturers would be upping their game and providing the established brands some much needed competition - not the other way around!

Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2012, 04:51:02 pm »
Just like budget lecroys ... which are attens
...and that's quite scary. I'm sure I saw a video recently including a budget Agilent which looked like a rebrand too. Ugh!

I was really hoping the 2nd and 3rd tier manufacturers would be upping their game and providing the established brands some much needed competition - not the other way around!

The most budget agilents are indeed rigols but to be fair Agilent did some of the software for Rigol.
and FYI, rigol pulled some people from Tek over.

Notice the omission of the budget Agilents
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2012, 05:00:07 pm »
aghp from Finland sells Atten/Siglent units and if you find his thread, he makes a good case that they've improved.  The widescreen models are the better bet.  It also seems like a good risk if you can get Atten/Siglent or its clones from a retailer near you so it can be returned if it fails your testing.  See aghp's post for pros and cons and potential fixes. 
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline PA4TIM

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2012, 09:09:25 pm »
The Rigols are populair because what Dave wrote. If you wanted a cheap scope this was the only option. Then shit like Owen,mAtten ect cme and they lowered prices. It became a price war.

Most people who have a Rigol are not spoiled with real scopes. It ill not me me populair, but I am sure most users do not even know how to really use a scope the right way, or do not have high accuracy demands.  Besides that, you do not have much choise. There is a rather big gap between cheap and good.

I made the mistake of buying a DS1102e when it was just on the market ( because Dave was enthousiast about the Rigol in the EEVBlog, thanks Dave, NOT  ;) ) payed around 900 euro. Never have hated an instrument before like this piece of junk. The noise was terrible, inaccurate as could be, jittering like hell, measurements changed as the trace moved. Probes lasted not a half year,  buttons started hesitating, at last even the trigger button broke off spontaniuos. The new owner I gave it, told me the powerbutton now also died.
But a friend just bought one, tested it and they told him buttons are not hollow anymore but massive, some even metal. Noise was lower ect. Or he has lower standards, or Rigol improved.

I bought a 350MHz Hameg, a few weeks ago Hameg picked it up ( free of charge) upgraded hardware and firmware, tested and calibrted they sended it back. I allready liked it very much but it is even become better. But I guess I'm not the average user.
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2012, 11:00:11 pm »
Just like budget lecroys ... which are attens
...and that's quite scary. I'm sure I saw a video recently including a budget Agilent which looked like a rebrand too. Ugh!

Yes, Agilent went back and did that again after their excellent in-house designed and made 2000X/3000X series.
Marketing sniffed an extra price-point hole in the market.

Dave.
 

Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2012, 03:02:39 am »
Owon and Rigols are much better these days.
 

Offline McPete

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2012, 03:20:11 am »
For what it's worth, I've had very good results with my GW-Instek 1062A. It's at the same price point as the Rigol, and much the same performance too, I gather. I went for Instek simply because I knew the brand had been around for yonks, and produced tough-as-nails gear.
 

Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2012, 03:45:18 am »
For what it's worth, I've had very good results with my GW-Instek 1062A. It's at the same price point as the Rigol, and much the same performance too, I gather. I went for Instek simply because I knew the brand had been around for yonks, and produced tough-as-nails gear.

Okay... the GDS-1062A is discontinued and the replacement is not cheap on my shores :(
900SGD for the 100MHz model vs 583SGD for the SDS7102 and the Rigol DS1102E
« Last Edit: August 28, 2012, 03:48:04 am by T4P »
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2012, 07:13:14 pm »
They have almost stepped up (or are already there depending upon your POV) into being considered one of the "big players" in scopes. Agilent, Tek, Lecroy, R&S/Hameg, and now Rigol.
Get one for demo from a local dealer and I suspect that you will be fairly impressed on how it compares with a name brand scope. Let us know what you think.

I had a demo today. Thanks to Dave Phillips at Telonic Instruments for taking the time to show me a DS4054 scope and a DG4102 function generator.

I won't do a full review because there are plenty of those out there anyway, but my firm impression was that both products are well up there with the established 'grown-up' brands in terms of build quality, features and performance. If the badges on the front had said (say) Fluke or LeCroy then I'd have believed it.

The UI on the scope was intuitive, and clearly drew inspiration from Tek and Agilent, though it would be unfair to say "copied". Buttons and knobs usually did what I expected - always a good sign - and there are some handy short cuts available which shows they've put some thought into how the scope will be used.

There were a couple of operating quirks: slightly dodgy measurement cursors, and rather slow access to a USB flash drive. Since the demo unit had early firmware I'm hoping they're resolved now. Any new product can have minor bugs in, but it will be interesting to see how Rigol responds to reports and whether they issue fixes promptly.

As for the function generator, I've not used one at this price or performance level before, but I was again pleasantly surprised. It's very solid, the display is excellent, and the quality of the waveforms that it produces looked excellent too. There were some slight amplitude variations at higher frequencies, but I can't be sure whether they were due to the generator or to the eight year old Tek TDS3034B scope that I was using to monitor the output. Either way, the errors were quite small and nothing that gave me any great cause for concern.

Dave, the reason the display might have looked a bit dim on the unit you showed in your mailbag video is because it's set to 50% brightness by default. Turn it up to 75% or more and it's much better :)

I ordered a DG4062 there and then :D
« Last Edit: September 19, 2012, 07:15:34 pm by AndyC_772 »
 

Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2012, 07:31:33 pm »
Well ... Rigol pulled people from Tek over ... i'm not surprised if it has a whiff of Tek
 

Offline jcb

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #19 on: September 21, 2012, 03:10:57 pm »
I bought a Rigol DS1102E for my home lab, and have been using it heavily while designing an SMPS. While it certainly has limitations compared to more expensive units, my overall impression is that for $US400 @100MHz, this is an impressive piece of kit.

Certain features are clumsy - shared knob for both vertical channels, inability to view stored and live waveforms simultaneously, no 'alt' trigger - but at this price I expected some inconvenience. And some of the features it does have are brilliant (FFT, variable digital HP/LP/BP filters). Accuracy is sufficient for my purposes.

At work I do need a scope with greater accuracy, more bandwidth, additional features, etc, etc. But for a beginner or a hobbyist or a home lab, or even as a cheapo 'disposable' scope on the production line, I think this is a worthy unit.
 

Offline rollatorwieltje

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2012, 04:15:52 pm »
I agree with jcb. I'm quite happy with my Rigol DS1052E, even with it's limitations.
At work I use a stupidly expensive Agilent. The probes alone cost more than the Rigol... At home I don't need to decode a CANbus or look at high speed data channels, I'm looking at linear power supplies and slow microcontroller circuits.
The only real alternative is a second hand model. If you're lucky you can find some very good stuff, but I feel it's a bit of a gamble really. I have seen too many 2nd hand scopes with dodgy switches etc. I bought my Rigol locally with 3 year warranty.
 

Offline Jimmy the Squid

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #21 on: September 21, 2012, 04:51:50 pm »
Hey, I don't want to hijack the thread, but since you may be buying a scope, it's worth a look at the Agilent give-away on Facebook. I don't want to presume, but the scope they are giving away is probably a darned sight better than most of us would be able to have in our hobby labs.

A 1 in 2500ish chance seems like good odds.

Here is the original post
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/index.php?topic=10835.msg147110.msg#147110
 

Offline T4P

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #22 on: September 22, 2012, 07:34:08 pm »
I agree with jcb. I'm quite happy with my Rigol DS1052E, even with it's limitations.
At work I use a stupidly expensive Agilent. The probes alone cost more than the Rigol... At home I don't need to decode a CANbus or look at high speed data channels, I'm looking at linear power supplies and slow microcontroller circuits.
The only real alternative is a second hand model. If you're lucky you can find some very good stuff, but I feel it's a bit of a gamble really. I have seen too many 2nd hand scopes with dodgy switches etc. I bought my Rigol locally with 3 year warranty.
Plus they definitely perform nowhere near as good as a DS1000 when talking about DSOs
 

Offline marshallh

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #23 on: September 23, 2012, 05:10:15 am »
Dunno why yall are buying new scopes.

If you are willing to put in some time researching and trolling ebay or the likes, you will come out with a MUCH more capable scope from yesteryear.

For my last fpga board where I needed to debug my DDR ram controller I needed at least 500mhz to get enough idea what was going on.

for $450 I snagged a Lecroy 9374C 1ghz 4 channel scope, circa 2000.



I have spent a couple hundred more buying 500mhz probes for it but it is a hell of a scope for the money, and the UI is very nice compared to the POS tektroniks nowadays. Spartan but functional.

Sure I had to replace the floppy drive and get a USB drive for my computer, but big deal.



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Offline EEVblog

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Re: Modern budget scopes, just how good are they?
« Reply #24 on: September 23, 2012, 05:30:29 am »
and the UI is very nice compared to the POS tektroniks nowadays. Spartan but functional.

You are probably the only person I've ever heard complement the Lecroy UI!  ;D

Dave.
 


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