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Are 'premium' scope brands still justified?

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Hi all,

For the last 10 years or so, my everyday workhorse has been an Agilent MSO-X 3000A - first a 3054, then a couple of years later, a 3104A with some active probes.

It's one of those tools that 'just works'. I don't think about it, just switch on, connect probes, and get on with my job. Information is gained, progress made, invoice sent.

Recently, though, I've been starting to wonder if I perhaps should think about it. There's now a whole generation of newer scopes with 12 bit front ends and massive memory depth, both of which would be useful for the type of work I do now (but didn't when I bought my scope). I do a lot of work on sensors, which means I rarely need the bandwidth, but low noise and the ability to see and measure tiny signals would be much more useful.

Crucially, these newer scopes from the likes of Siglent and Rigol are affordable. The most entry-level models almost absurdly so. And so I'm left wondering, am I missing a trick by sticking with my tried-and-tested, utterly reliable and incredibly usable Agilent, when for a modest outlay I could have a newer scope that would do useful things to make my life easier and more productive?

It's easy to be dismissive of these lower cost brands. I still remember the Rigol that I bought at a previous company, which was great on paper but often painful to use in practice, with stupid and obvious firmware bugs that were never fixed. Reading around the forum over the last couple of days, it seems as though they may still not have improved, and that would be a total show-stopper in terms of replacing my Agilent on a day-to-day basis. But maybe it would still make sense to spend a few beer tokens on a DHO804 to pull out when I need to probe a small signal?

Then there's Siglent, who in my heart I've never quite forgiven for the shamelessly unimaginitive SDM30x5 family of DVMs. But nevertheless the SDS804X-HD has that same 12-bit for beer money appeal, and I believe, a slightly better reputation for firmware quality.

Or do I go upmarket a bit, enjoy a new bigger screen and huge memory, and look to relegate my Agilent for the rare occasions when I need 1GHz? An SDS2354X-HD with the options bundle offer looks very appealing at £2711 all in - but only if it's actually as effortlessly reliable and usable as my current scope. If it isn't, then it'll end up on the shelf, an expensive mistake.

For comparison, the nearest current Keysight would be the MSOX3034G - a whopping £11,595 for an 8 bit front end, 4M memory, and a hardware platform over 10 yrs old. It's clearly irrelevant to me as I already have the 3104A, but they must be selling them to somebody at that price. OK, usual arguments may apply about brand, quality, traceability, support etc, but I've not heard too many positive comments about Keysight support lately, and they certainly weren't much help when the PSU in my 3054A went bang a couple of years back. It's right to question the value of the brand when the gap in price, and spec, is so enormous.

I'm interested to learn from anyone else making their day-to-day living with a scope. Are these newer models still just plasticky junk, and a "real" scope is still a 5 figure investment? Or have the 'big boys' been caught napping, and are now about to find you can't charge £10k+ for obsolete hardware any more?

I can't comment specifically, but generally, "the big boys" have always been forced to go further up the food chain, with higher specs and extras such as better support and software, as the low end became easier to enter. I've heard the reason they can sell some of the lower end stuff at high prices is that it's been written into procedures and there are organisations that are not cost sensitive, which really don't want to rewrite new procedures or approve new equipment.

I have the SDS2504X Plus, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy one of the HD models if I had the money. Buy from a reputable dealer, and there's very little risk. If you play with it for a week and you don't like it, you can return it.

siglent sds2104HD (with bundled options) owner here, just subscribing to this thread !

As someone that has MSOX3104T (with full bundle) and now several Siglent scopes, I can directly compare for you.
I'm not going sing long praises either way.
For details, I would prefer if you would present usage scenarios where I can explain to you what you need.

In short:

Siglent scopes are nowadays not a B brand anymore. And SDS2354xHD is very much first scope I switch on these days. Dead quiet when on, large 10" screen, measurements/stats/histicons that are such time saver, better math, 12 bit/low noise F.E. (trace is as thin as on a good CRT scope) etc etc..
There is also new 3000xHD that is one step up from 2000xHD.

In reality I use any of my Siglents, or Picoscopes before MSOX3104T these days.
Keysight is mostly used for double checking, or for some specific stuff (it has some specific features in CAN decoding for instance), and very rarely.

You should really try to use Siglents. Could you test it somewhere?


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