Author Topic: Software, headless, USB and compact Oscilloscopes - need some advice  (Read 2633 times)

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Offline SolderSucker

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In an attempt to free up some workbench space I'm pondering whether it's worth replacing my large old CRT-based oscilloscope with some oscilloscope software to run under Windows on my workbench PC. I don't need anything with a huge number of bells and whistles, just basic functionality is good enough for my scope work. Also interested in headless and USB scopes and even very compact desktop LCD scopes.

Any thoughts please?
« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 09:08:37 am by SolderSucker »
 

Online CatalinaWOW

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2017, 05:11:50 pm »
The "pure software" oscilloscopes - those that use the sound card are fine if you can live with the limitations.  Two channel.  Low bandwidth - at best 40-50 kHz.  No DC response.  Poor or no amplitude calibration.  But they do show the wiggles well, and really tell about all you need to know for audio work.  Also can do spectrum analysis - within the above limits.

The ones which have some form of digitizing dongle have performance limits that are primarily determined by your pocketbook.  The best ones are far above entry level performance.  Those who grew up on big iron crt scopes will often find the user interface strange or difficult.  Even when the screen display shows knobs just like you are used to, you can't just twist them.  Others find sharing screen space between the oscilloscope and other applications tedious.  Finally, if you don't already have a PC on your lab bench you are giving up more space for the display, keyboard and mouse than most oscilloscopes take, particularly the modern ones. 

All that said, they are useful for many purposes and many like them.
 

Online rstofer

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Offline SolderSucker

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2017, 05:38:43 pm »
Thanks for the advice and I'll take a look at the Digilent Analog Discovery 2. :)
« Last Edit: September 16, 2017, 05:41:51 pm by SolderSucker »
 

Offline Gyro

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2017, 05:45:45 pm »
If you're starting to talk USB devices rather than just Windows s/w and the soundcard then the questions of required performance (bandwidth, sample rate, channels etc) and budget rear their heads. Answering those will help focus the responses.
Chris

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Offline SolderSucker

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2017, 05:53:08 pm »
USB devices are what I was after - sorry, should have mentioned that.
 

Offline Gyro

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2017, 05:57:57 pm »
Ah, ok.

You do need to feed us a bit more about what you're going to use it for, analogue stuff, audio, digital (a cheap USB Logic analyser might help). Maximum frequency... and cost limit. The more background the better the answers.
Chris

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Offline DaJMasta

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2017, 05:58:35 pm »
I think the go-to for a lot of USB scopes on the forum are Picoscopes, there should be a lot of information around.




There are definitely potential limitations because of the architecture, but at the same time, performance on many of the well put together scopes seems to be quite good.  A lot of times you can get more memory depth or vertical resolution bits than standard bench scopes, though there are a few options in standalone scopes too.
 

Offline MrW0lf

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2017, 09:56:42 pm »
Have quite wide array of USB gear. Suppose best swiss knife type tool is indeed Analog Discovery 2. But as scope it is inferior to modern desktop ones in both bandwidth (around 25MHz) and memory depth (16k shared). So I use it for non-scope functionality or when need 14bit resolution on low freq. As scope I use Pico 2408B (100MHz, 128M shared), lots of data about it here:
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/picoscope-2000/msg1148685/#msg1148685
Even more functionality still to cover.
Only thing that it cannot do is triggering on serial protocol compared to desktop scopes. Everything else it does. Some stuff does better than most (advanced math, over 1M wfm/s in segmented memory mode, 20GSa/s ETS, 2Mpts FFT). Its all on large PC monitor. I work a lot with PC so minimizing eye strain is very important.
As for cons - DPO mode (digital phosphor) is there but limited in functionality. Normal mode I call "analytical" and this where most is done, but no DPO effect there. So for simple glitch hunting desktop scope may be better. But I use it mainly as learning tool, real time logic analyzer, signal analysis, "dashboard" for my custom electric motors etc so no problem.
As for software - better to try than comment. Both AD2 WaveForms and PicoScope 6 can be downloaded and tried out with demo devices. Quite different. Both have pros and cons. If try hard can crash both and find bugs and weirdess. In "normal usage" probably will not notice much issues. PS6 more normal scope user oriented while WF for programmer types.
 


« Last Edit: September 16, 2017, 10:10:31 pm by MrW0lf »
 

Offline AllTheGearNoIdea

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2017, 11:03:24 pm »
There are lots of scope experts on here that will quite rightly talk in depth about performance. I have some Hantek scopes and cheaper range PICOSCOPE and very good they are to. The Picoscope have some powerful software even if the GUI is a bit dated. However they don't come onto the bench unless I have a particular requirement to use them.  It's all about the feel and you will be disappointed to loose your conventional scope. I would swap out the CRT for a modern low cost scope with a more convenient form factor.

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Offline Fungus

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2017, 11:18:33 pm »
I would swap out the CRT for a modern low cost scope with a more convenient form factor.

Yep. Modern DSOs have a small footprint compared to an old CRO.

One possible issue might be noise. DSOs have fans in them.
 

Offline alank2

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2017, 01:32:24 am »
I've been very impressed with the Picoscope 2000 series, I've got a 2 channel and 4 channel one.  I've got a review thread around here about it.
 

Offline nidlaX

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Re: Software oscilloscopes - any good?
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2017, 01:43:55 am »
You should really edit your thread title to say something along the lines of "headless" or USB oscilloscopes. It's confusing and nonsensical as-is.
 


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