One of the most common pieces of test equipment for any electronics lab are oscilloscopes. Oscilloscopes, or o-scopes for short, are versatile pieces of test equipment that can be used in a multitude of different critical measurements. While oscilloscopes are standard in almost every electronics lab, they come in many different shapes, sizes, and price points.
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When trying to select the best oscilloscope for your electronics lab, its important to understand which features drive the cost of the o-scope the most. For example, one of the biggest cost drivers for oscilloscopes is the device's measurement bandwidth. An o-scope that has a narrow bandwidth of 200 MHz can go for a few hundred dollars; however, a top of the line oscilloscope with a measurement bandwidth of 1 GHz ca go for almost $30,000!
We have done all the research and read all the reviews for more oscilloscopes than we'd be willing to admit. We've done all this leg-work so you don't have to. So without further ado, here is our list of the 3 best digital oscilloscopes for any budget.
3 Best Digital Oscilloscopes for the Engineering Design Lab
Siglent is relatively new and quickly growing in the test equipment market. Their products are feature rich and their pricing is substantially less than long-time trusted brands like Keysight or Agilent. The Siglent SDS1202X-E 200 MHz is no exception. This digital oscilloscope offers 200 MHz measurement bandwidth, real-time sampling at a rate of 1 GSa/sec, and can store 14 million measurement points. The SDS1202X-E includes all of the standard interfaces you'd expect: Standard serial bus Triggering and Decode, supports IIC, SPI, UART, RS232, CAN, and LIN.
The SDS-1202X-E has an intuitive interface, making it remarkably easy to use. The measurements that are performed most often are easy to accesses through their touchscreen interface. Unlike many other test equipment companies, Siglent unlocks the complete capability of the firmware at initial shipment. Some of Siglent's competitors' business model is one where the firmware disables many features of the devices until an extra fee is paid to enable it. All in all, this o-scope features serial decoding, FFT, enabling the full bandwidth, and a calibration certificate (among others). This is all included in the $379 price and would cost over $250.00 in “Options” from competitors, putting it that top of our list for best entry level oscilloscopes.
The Tektronix TBS1000B digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) has several convenient functions such as limit testing, data logging, a built-in frequency counter, and TrendPlot. The TBS1000B also has an intuitive interface with unique context-sensitive help menu. Another great feature of this o-scope is the lowest loading for passive probes in this class of digital oscilloscopes. Coupled with a small 3.8mm probe head, this scope can measure low power signals in very hard to reach places. The TBS1000B also sports an uncompromised acquisition rate of up to 2GS/s on all channels.
In addition to basic oscilloscope features, the TBS1000B offers three practical tools to facilitate your work of monitoring and signal capturing. By using the limit testing feature of TBS1000B, you can automate the detection and recording of signals falling out of pre-defined templates. If you are capturing intermittent faults, or monitoring power supply stability over time, then TrendPlot feature will help you plot the trends of any measurements over time. This very capable oscilloscopes comes at a reasonable cost and has features that make it suitable for both a research and develop environment as well as a production test environment.
While this oscilloscope by Tektronix is by far the most expensive on our list, it is the ultimate swiss army knife of electronics lab test equipment. Before you have sticker shock at the $20k price tag, realize that this is actually 6 different pieces of test equipment in one!
- Digital oscilloscope
- Spectrum analyzer
- Waveform generator
- Logic analyzer
- Protocol analyzer
- Digital voltmeter/counter
So while it commands a hefty price tag, this single piece of electronics test equipment can do the job of an entire bench full of equipment.
The Tekronix MDO3104 offers 1GHz measurement bandwidth, 4 analog channels, and works as a spectrum analyzer up to 1GHz too! The interface is intuitive and easy to use. Every once and a while you can catch someone selling them used for a steep discount. Tektronix is strong name in the test and measurement world... you really can't go wrong with one of these o-scopes, assuming you're electronics lab budget can cover it.
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