Author Topic: How good are these PicoTech scopes?  (Read 15163 times)

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Offline iceisfun

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How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« on: July 05, 2013, 05:50:53 AM »
I am looking for a scope and have found these PicoScope things that also do logic, but its a lot of money for something with so few reviews. Does anyone have one of these things and how do they stack up?

PicoScope 3204 MSO 60 MHz mixed-signal oscilloscope with AWG

http://www.picotech.com/document/datasheets/PicoScope3200.pdf

 

Offline iceisfun

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2013, 05:54:38 AM »
I should mention what I want to do also, I'm pretty new to electronics stuff with a strong programmer background.


I mean to get into pics, logic and fpga stuff, also interested in memory buses and other logic stuff. It might even be fun to implement a 8088 family project or something similar

 

Offline Ziltoid

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2013, 06:28:57 AM »

 

Offline jpb

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2013, 07:06:38 AM »

That video is aimed at cheaper USB scopes. Picoscopes shouldn't be lumped in the same category.

I've not used one but I did investigate them before choosing to buy a different scope.

The pros are :

i.) small and portable.
ii.) generally lower cost for a given spec (though the cheap Chinese scopes perhaps are cheaper).
iii.) very good software support which doesn't cost extra and is upgraded (e.g. various serial decodes)
iv.) large display via a computer monitor

The cons are :
i.) low voltage (maximum is around 20V I think)
ii.) grounding depends on the grounding of your USB connection which might not be what you want
iii.) less convenient to use - people generally seem to find USB scopes a pain to use in terms of having to set things up with a keyboard and mouse rather
than twiddling knobs on a real scope
iv) the sampling rates are a little low on some of them (the headline rate is shared - check the specs carefully)

I've probably left a few out, but I'd say don't dismiss them out of hand but make sure you have looked properly at cheap DSO options such as Rigol or the option of an
analogue scope as Dave says in his video though if you're short of space (as I am) an analogue scope is quite large and takes up much more space than modern digital
devices.
 

Offline madshaman

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How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2013, 07:38:00 AM »
I'll stick in my standard: you don't want a usb scope as your first/only scope gripe.

You might have your heart set, but consider a cheap rigol or a used tek scope instead.
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Offline ddavidebor

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How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2013, 08:23:14 AM »
They're good for "home made automated" measurement... But a normal scope is much much much much much more handy
Davide Bortolami,
Fermium LABS srl
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2013, 09:02:57 AM »
I had a Picoscope available at my previous employer but I'm not impressed. I kept using a regular oscilloscope. In reality you can't have enough screens on a computer so an USB oscilloscope eats away precious screen space.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline G0HZU

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2013, 09:07:33 AM »
It depends on what you want to do.

About 10 yrs ago I can remember using Pico scopes with a PC to capture raw data to allow the PC to be used as an FFT based spectrum analyser with very narrow RBW. So we were able to use it for automated signal detection of tiny RF signals.

We could set a detection threshold and log data with the PC over several days.

At the time there were no low cost scopes that could offer this versatility.
 

Offline iceisfun

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2013, 01:21:56 PM »
I wonder if I bought one how long it would take Dave to do a review
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2013, 02:21:51 PM »


No. Do not confuse my opinion of toy-like cheap pocket and PC scopes, and serious ones from the established players like Pico.
I am always of the opinion that no PC based scope is a match for a proper a bench based scope for general use. Note how I highlighted those words.
If you have a specific need that a PC based scope fulfills, then a PC based scope will become the best choice for you.
Some of those needs might be unlimited memory depth, high resolution, or more channels.
If I was after a PC based scope, then Pico are one the major established players, so is a good place to start.
 

Offline iceisfun

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2013, 02:32:08 PM »
But would you do a review of it if I got one and sent it off to you?
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2013, 02:34:55 PM »
But would you do a review of it if I got one and sent it off to you?

It would have to join the long cue...
Pico are an advertiser on my site, I could probably get one for review if I wanted.
Problem is they have a host of different models intended for all sorts of markets, all the way up to insane 20GHz sampling models.
I could review half a dozen different models for different market needs, and still not cover them all.

Pico are one of the major players (if not the major player?) in the PC scope market. It would be like a reviewing an Agilent scope - you know it's going to work, work well, and you might find a few things to nit-pick about, but that's pretty much it.

Also, you cannot expect me to compare any PC based scope to a desktop scope, for the reasons I explained.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 02:43:19 PM by EEVblog »
 

Offline ddavidebor

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How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2013, 03:28:55 PM »
And your face is nicer than an hour of pc screen
Davide Bortolami,
Fermium LABS srl
 

Online Andreas

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2013, 04:11:45 PM »
Hello,

we have several PicoScope 4423 (automotive) at work.
They are 20 MHz BW 20-80Msps/sec 4 channel scopes with a true 12 bit ADC completely USB-powered.
Memory is 32Msamples shared between the active channels.

In short: fantastic value for money (you get 2 scopes for the price of a CAN-decoding option on other scopes)

Of course there are pros and cons.
Generally we are using them together with a lap top. Either in lab or in a car.
Pros:
- documentation is easy, screen shots for word documents for the customer, storing complete buffers as .csv or raw data for later evaluation is in less or around 10 seconds. On other desktop oscilloscopes exporting .csv to a USB stick may take up to 20-30 minutes.
- zooming and evaluating of complex waveform trains is very quick against the scrolling and panning on other desktop oscilloscopes. In fact you can save up to a factor 3 in time for evaluating complex waveforms of e.g. peak and hold power stages.
- low noise: on other (usually higher bandwidth) oscilloscopes the zero line is nearly as thick as half a division of the screen. not so on the 12 bit ADC.
- low noise: no fan at all.
- serial decoding of signals is standard included in price
- support is better than with other manufacturers
edit: - you can define your own probes and display the current of your current clamp directly in amps

cons:
- if you are used to rely on the math evaluation (rise time, amplitude, duty cycle) of standard signals you may notice that this slows down the screen update. especially with high memory depth.

caution:
- the channels are not isolated against each other (like on some other portable devices) and the USB port.
  but this should be no issue since on Desktop oscilloscopes all inputs are connected to earth ground.

Finally: you can download the demo-software and play around with it for getting a first impression.
If you are searching the menue for the cursors: they are always there in a corner of the screen.

with best regards

Andreas

« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 05:00:45 PM by Andreas »
 

Offline Carrington

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2013, 04:57:35 PM »
The PicoScope 3207A / B, is not bad, IMHO.
My English can be pretty bad, so suggestions are welcome. ;)
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Offline tru

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2013, 05:09:48 PM »
Looking at the datasheet of PicoScope 4000 series:
http://www.picotech.com/document/datasheets/PicoScope4000Series.pdf

I see some cons:
- sensitivity is 10mV/div (could be factor for claimed low noise thin zero line)
- input range is only upto +-20V
- requires a PC or laptop to work (yeah I know most people know this, but it's still a con, unless you have a spare one already)
- bit pricey for a small box which requires a PC, compared to a bench scope which includes it's own system inside all ready to go
- some PC systems may have cheap chinese budget noisy USB ic

pros:
- long deep memory
- continuous gapless free sample captures to PC RAM or harddrive (speed dependent on PC)
- using a PC you can have nice large screen estate and easier panning and navigation
 

Online HKJ

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2013, 05:34:37 PM »
- input range is only upto +-20V

With a 10x probe you get +/-200 volt, i.e. not really a problem.

- requires a PC or laptop to work (yeah I know most people know this, but it's still a con, unless you have a spare one already)

Using a laptop on batteries, you can avoid the connection to earth that mains powered scopes has.



I have been using Pico scopes for a long time and like them, but they do have some limitations, one is the usb data transfer rate. Using a large buffer on the scope, means very slow frame capture rate, due to the "slow" data transfer to the pc. I could also use better sensitivity on the input sometimes.

One very nice advantage is the free software upgrades, even my oldest Pico scope has gotten better with time.

 

Offline nctnico

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #17 on: July 05, 2013, 05:47:41 PM »
- input range is only upto +-20V

With a 10x probe you get +/-200 volt, i.e. not really a problem.

- requires a PC or laptop to work (yeah I know most people know this, but it's still a con, unless you have a spare one already)

Using a laptop on batteries, you can avoid the connection to earth that mains powered scopes has.
+/-20V is way too limited. Any reasonably oscilloscope allows for a couple of hundred volts at the input (without 1:10 probe) so you can connect a 1:1 probe to mains by accident without ruining the oscilloscope. And even with a laptop on batteries you can still have noise injected from the laptop. Oscilloscope designers go through great lengths to avoid noise coming from the oscilloscope. OTOH consumer equipment is aimed to barely meet the emission specs and preferably cut some corners. Although there are USB isolators...
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online HKJ

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2013, 07:16:12 PM »
+/-20V is way too limited. Any reasonably oscilloscope allows for a couple of hundred volts at the input (without 1:10 probe) so you can connect a 1:1 probe to mains by accident without ruining the oscilloscope.

Looking at the date for the Pico scope, it is 20 volt/div and overload protection to 200 volt on the 4224 (The model I currently is using).
Getting mains into a Picoscope is a bad idea, because that means mains directly on you PC.

And even with a laptop on batteries you can still have noise injected from the laptop. Oscilloscope designers go through great lengths to avoid noise coming from the oscilloscope. OTOH consumer equipment is aimed to barely meet the emission specs and preferably cut some corners.

You do also get a lot of noise from earth loops, it often depends on what you are measuring.

Although there are USB isolators...

The ones I have tried was not a good idea with the Pico scope.
 

Offline madshaman

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How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2013, 11:33:05 PM »
I have a usb isolator, it works well and there are many vendors to choose from.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that most usb scopes, even the pricey ones (paid around $2000 for mine) have piss poor sensitivity, that is, they can't visualise really really small signals well (whereas my old Tek analog scopes excel at this).  It's not *remotely* a deal breaker, but know what kind of signals you'll want to measure and make sure your scope is up to the job.

That being said, I mainly use mine as a logic analyser, although I still kick myself for not spending more at the time to get a stand-alone MSO.  :-(
« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 11:36:47 PM by madshaman »
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Online Smokey

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #20 on: July 06, 2013, 04:24:54 AM »
One place I've seen the picoscopes used a lot is in differential power analysis stuff.  That's some low level signals they are looking at and some of those projects have gotten really good results, so it can't be that bad.

(This is NOT the exact project I was looking for but it's still an example.  I know there are others.)
http://events.ccc.de/congress/2009/Fahrplan/attachments/1502_dpa_slides_26c3.pdf

edit... not the exact project.  I was looking for another one.. close enough...
« Last Edit: July 06, 2013, 08:19:26 PM by Smokey »
 

Offline Rick Law

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2013, 05:53:39 PM »
While this is not exactly "how good are these PicoTech scopes"...

One  possible advantage of USB scope is...  You may be able to share your display remotely using RDC (remote desk top).

I use a cheap Hantek 6022BE USB scope.  I can RDC into my laptop, see the scope display and control the scope from anywhere with an internet connection.  More useful than I originally imagine: I was able to check if it triggered and captured the wave form (for the voltage drop below X event I was trying to catch) while I was eating in the kitchen.  Since it is RDC compatible,likely I can also share the display to multiple RDC terminals using terminal server, or possibly using Web-meeting type tools to show something to others if needed.

I don't know if PicoTech's software is RDC compatible.  I can only say that the Hantek 6022BE's software (V1.0.3) is RDC compatible.

Either way, good luck with your choice.

Rick
 

Online Andreas

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2013, 07:25:18 PM »

I don't know if PicoTech's software is RDC compatible. 


We are using this on a regularly basis. USB-Scope in lab remotely evaluated from Desk where it is cooler.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #23 on: July 07, 2013, 06:24:11 AM »
+/-20V is way too limited. Any reasonably oscilloscope allows for a couple of hundred volts at the input (without 1:10 probe) so you can connect a 1:1 probe to mains by accident without ruining the oscilloscope.

Looking at the date for the Pico scope, it is 20 volt/div and overload protection to 200 volt on the 4224 (The model I currently is using).
Getting mains into a Picoscope is a bad idea, because that means mains directly on you PC.
Thats another nuissance of the Picoscope (and gets even you confused). It shows the full scale voltage by default (is there a setting to switch to volts/div?) which is quite confusing. The odd choice of full scale voltages makes it even worse to convert to volts/div quickly.

Whether you like it or not every scope gets mains on its inputs at least once in its lifetime so the inputs better be capable of handling that. Mains may sound scary but with properly designed inputs it shouldn't be a problem at all.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online HKJ

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Re: How good are these PicoTech scopes?
« Reply #24 on: July 07, 2013, 05:53:11 PM »
+/-20V is way too limited. Any reasonably oscilloscope allows for a couple of hundred volts at the input (without 1:10 probe) so you can connect a 1:1 probe to mains by accident without ruining the oscilloscope.

Looking at the date for the Pico scope, it is 20 volt/div and overload protection to 200 volt on the 4224 (The model I currently is using).
Getting mains into a Picoscope is a bad idea, because that means mains directly on you PC.
Thats another nuissance of the Picoscope (and gets even you confused). It shows the full scale voltage by default (is there a setting to switch to volts/div?) which is quite confusing. The odd choice of full scale voltages makes it even worse to convert to volts/div quickly.

You are misunderstanding, in use there is absolute no confusing about scale. Look at the screen shoot below, it is very easy to see what the voltages are:



Whether you like it or not every scope gets mains on its inputs at least once in its lifetime so the inputs better be capable of handling that.

Not in my lab.
 


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