A comparison of budget, compact oscilloscopes

Article By : Jean-Jaques (JJ) DeLisle

Here is a comparison of a few commonly available DSOs and MSOs that should cover the range for most budget/compact/portable oscilloscopes that makers, hobbyists, and professionals may use in a home lab or in the field.

Here is a comparison of a few commonly available digital storage oscilloscopes (DSOs) and mixed signal oscilloscopes (MSOs) that should cover the range for most budget/compact/portable oscilloscopes that makers, hobbyists, and professionals may use in a home lab or in the field. Some of the oscilloscopes in this list do include rebrands, some are PC-driven or headless units, and some are even portable battery-powered units.

The idea behind this blog isn’t necessarily to present apples-to-apples comparison, but to provide an easy lookup of the main DSO/MSO performance parameters and additional features to wade through the list of available instruments that are more accessible.

A comparison of budget, compact oscilloscopes

Oscilloscope highlights

The Digilent Analog Discovery series is somewhat different from the other DSO/MSOs on the list. The Analog Discovery series devices are compact, multi-functional electronics instruments that feature analog, digital, audio amplifiers, digital bus, voltmeter, and power channels. The included software also enables a variety of other features. These certainly aren’t the fastest instruments on the list, but they do have the highest bit resolution. Moreover, these units can also be linked with two I/O digital triggers at 3.3-V CMOS for increasing the number of channels and features.

The Seeed Technology devices are also noteworthy as they feature open-source firmware and schematic. Hence, it is possible that a user could modify the firmware to achieve specific goals with the instrument or add new features. That includes the AdaFruit Digital Pocket 1-CH scope.

The other DSO/MSO options are budget-friendly DSO/MSOs. The RIGOL MS05072 and MSO5074 both have a variety of optional upgrades, mostly software upgrades, that can extend the capability of the instruments. However, these upgrades do push the instrument past what many would consider budget-friendly for a small form factor desktop oscilloscope. These optional upgrades include 16 digital channels. These scopes also do have the largest integrated displays at 9-inch and feature multi-touch functions.

For most PC-driven scopes, remote control via Ethernet is sufficient to set up on the host PC. For dedicated scopes with their own displays, this is generally an optional feature or part of the package for higher-end scopes. This is the case for the RIGOL MSO5072 and MSO5074 scopes.

If the intended purpose of the DSO/MSO is to work with relatively high voltages, then the RIGOL, Teledyne, and B&K Precision scopes are the only options, as the other scopes, and especially the USB-powered and PC-driven scopes, have a more limited voltage range of operation.

In this list, the highest bandwidth scope is the RIGOL MSO5072, with 350 MHz of analog bandwidth and 8 GS/s resolution. It’s important to note that the sampling rate for most of these scopes is aggregate, meaning that the sampling rate is split among all of the channels. Hence, operating a single channel allows for higher sampling rates, while using multiple channels reduces the sampling rate for each channel.


This article was originally published on Planet Analog.

Jean-Jaques (JJ) DeLisle, an electrical engineering graduate (MS) from Rochester Institute of Technology, has a diverse background in analog and RF R&D, as well as technical writing/editing for design engineering publications. He writes about analog and RF for Planet Analog.


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