The best oscilloscopes allow you to troubleshoot a lot of electronic equipment whenever it’s starting to malfunction. That’s the primary function of an oscilloscope, which enables it to expand its applications throughout the years.
The versatility of this device has developed thanks in large part to our ever growing reliance towards electronics. From our cell phones, vehicles, and to machines, oscilloscopes can contribute from almost any area in our lifestyle.
Last update on 2019-03-26 at 00:58 PST - Details
What is an Oscilloscope?
Oscilloscopes are not a familiar term to most people. However, you might be surprised on how often professionals and businesses use it. To explain this device better, we’ll have to focus on the importance of electronic signals.
Let’s take your car’s electrical circuit for example. A standard vehicle model would require electricity in many areas. Some of these examples are of your vehicle’s air conditioning, headlights, signal lights, dimmers, and radio.
Now, imagine your car’s manufacturer creating this web of complex electrical circuit throughout your vehicle. Admittedly, it sounds overwhelming to create an automobile that runs off of gas while also needing electricity.
Many things can go wrong. One poorly distributed voltage or a weak frequency can create a domino effect inside the vehicle. Thus, this is where the oscilloscope enters.
It prevents small problems from getting bigger over time. Remember, when you’re handling electronics, you’re also carrying an extremely fragile item. Electricity is difficult to contain, and it can cause havoc immediately if left unattended.
The oscilloscope prevents this by carefully monitoring the electricity. It’s similar to a multimeter, but instead, makes use of a graph. The figure composes two axes, mainly time and voltage.
Thus, depending on the scale and instructions of what you’re using, the oscilloscope will trace any abnormal electrical waves. You just simply need to know the electrical requirements of your vehicle or any electronic to measure it.
Other applications of an oscilloscope
As we previously said, oscilloscopes are versatile devices. Your car’s circuit is just one of the many examples out there. Another great application to this is on gadgets. Devices like cell phones and iPods have motherboards where all the signals run through.
One weak signal can cause so many problems, especially towards external accessories plugged into its jack. So what are these external accessories? Well, the two most famous ones are easily your portable charger and earphones.
That is why some have their newly bought earphones short-circuiting. Others have chargers who have burned wirings upon insertion. You can trace down all of these to the motherboard. That is why company giants like Apple and Microsoft use oscilloscopes regularly when developing the motherboard of their products.
How can you solve malfunctions in voltages?
It is also good to invest in knowing how to solve issues. Before anything else, it’s important to remember that many technologies require different means to address electrical distortions.
Just to give a good example, let’s use a motherboard as an example. Again, you may find these motherboards in almost all hand-held gadgets. Once you place the probes of the oscilloscope accordingly, look at the wavelength on the screen.
If you see a constant motion, then that means it’s ready to go. However, when you see the waves fluctuate, then it means the voltage is uneven. The best and simplest way to solve this is to add a capacitor near the circuit where you checked it.
Capacitors are little storage spaces which store electricity by conduction. That is why capacitors have either one or two conductors while separated by an insulator in between.
It might sound like a simple and quick fix. However, it’s hard to do without an oscilloscope. Keep in mind that motherboards are complex circuits that intersect a lot. Hence, not having a scope will be a dead end to solving this problem.
Types of Oscilloscopes: And other things you should consider
Oscilloscopes have developed throughout the years. That is why they now come in many shapes and sizes. Different oscilloscopes specialize in several applications, so it’s important to know what you need before buying one. Remember, oscilloscopes are pricey, so be sure to make a wise investment.
The digital oscilloscope is perhaps the most famous and ordinary one. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, though. It is because digital oscilloscopes are a high-tech twist to the previous one which is listed below.
It makes use of a raster-type screen, a significant improvement from previous models. Although it’s sleeker and more durable, the real value of it lies in information. With the digital oscilloscope, you can print, archive, and review previous readings.
It is beneficial if an anomaly happens. With a digital oscilloscope, you can easily capture, archive, and review or print for future study.
Analogs are one of the first modern oscilloscopes to be developed. The models of these types are typically older. The reason for this is because less and fewer companies are using analog circuits.
However, if you only need to examine a bunch of devices that have analog circuits, then this scope is good enough. Not to mention, it’s cheap compared to the digital. However, you won’t get some of the digital’s perks such as analysis, data storage, and advanced displays.
Cathode-ray scopes, or more commonly known as CRO, are the smallest oscilloscopes between the three. Unlike the previous two, cathode-ray oscilloscopes have a design like a gun or a flashlight.
Thus, it looks much more portable compared to its other counterparts. However, it’s also important to note that some cathode-ray oscilloscopes are designed similarly to the digital and analog versions.
This oscilloscope got its flashlight design out of the very definition of a cathode-ray. Simply put, cathode-rays are electron beams which a tube-like vacuum releases, similar to how this oscilloscope works.
Our Top 5 Picks
Last update on 2019-03-26 at 00:58 PST - Details
Tektronix’s 1052 50 MHz 2 Channel Digital Oscilloscope features an active TFT color display. Compared to analog oscilloscopes, Tektronix can provide you with limit testing, data logging, frequency counter and TrendPlot among all others without compromising the acquisition rate.
Also, its probe head is just 3.8mm making it an ideal and useful tool for hard to reach places, unlike oscilloscopes with bulky probes. But most importantly, Tektronix offers a five-year warranty.
- Tektronix provides a guarantee of five years.
- It is a substantial offer, especially for expensive equipment like the oscilloscope (even if the brand is actually of high-quality).
- Unlike other brands, this particular unit comes with a certificate of calibration.
- The product is quite lightweight even though the built and structure is heavy duty.
- It does what it says it does and is very user-friendly even for beginners.
- After much use, the display refreshes at quite a slow rate.
- The print screen images seem to have a white cast in the middle.
On the other hand, the Professional Handheld LED Scopemeter Oscilloscope boasts of its high-tech chip. The product’s high-tech chip is what delivers a faster sampling speed, a more robust detection range and a more accurate measurement and calibration.
Moreover, it also has several unique features (and safety features) such as its explosion proof fuse and automatic shutdown function when not in use to avoid busting any circuits. It is perfect for use at school, at home or at even at work due to its portability, unlike full sized oscilloscopes.
- It is highly portable and is good for basic/simple circuit check ups.
- It comes with a two-year warranty.
- The instruction guide that came along with the product, as well as the product itself, is straightforward to understand even for beginners.
- Though stated in the label, you would find that this product claims to be “untested.”
- You might find some screen which you won’t be able to read about in the manual.
As for Rigol’s DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope, it comes with four analog channels and a 50 MHz capacity. It has a large 7” display and a good memory capacity as well which you can upgrade to 24 Mpts.
But aside from its remarkable capture rate and low noise floor USB host, Rigol’s digital oscilloscope is baked with a 30-day money back guarantee. It is another plus, especially for a unit as cheap as this digital oscilloscope.
- It is very cheap compared to other brands out there.
- It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
- It is perfect for those who are unsure of their oscilloscope purchase.
- The display is bright, and the build of the product is very sturdy for its price.
- You might be able to encounter some minor errors in the English language program of the equipment.
- You have to be a bit careful with the all purpose rotary knob as it is effortless to slip to the next menu item when selecting.
SainSmart’s DSO Note II Nano ARM DIgital Storage Oscilloscope is a new updated version of its predecessor. With that said, SainSmart now offers all the essential and necessary features of an oscilloscope but in a more portable size with a mini handheld touch screen feature.
It has an 8MB storage, two channel, 2 MHz and 10Mps specifications. With its rechargeable lithium batteries, SainSmart’s digital oscilloscope is a good portable unit which you can take with you on the go.
- The unit is highly portable and can perform light to everyday tasks.
- It supports different storage and charging methods such as SD card USB flash disk storage and USB charging.
- Aside from academic experiment, electronics maintenance, and electronic engineering tasks, it can also work as a multimeter.
- It does not come with a warranty and only uses a particular power cord.
- For people who have been used to large screen displays, this oscilloscope might be a bit too small.
Finally, Hantek’s DSO5072P Digital Oscilloscope features a 70MHz bandwidth and 7-inch screen display. Hantek boasts of its 1 GSa/s real time sample rate, color display, recording length up to 40K and trigger mode.
The trigger mode has a lot more functions such as the edge or pulse width, line selectable video, slop, and over time.
- It is very cheap compared to other high-end oscilloscopes yet still does the job.
- It is a digital oscilloscope that is very easy to use even for those who have been used to operating analog oscilloscopes.
- The software has a hard time recognizing the connected scope.
- The unit comes with a 220V cord only.
If you’re just a hobbyist, it is important to consider that you don’t have to buy the one with the most channels or higher MHz. You can even opt to purchase an analog or second-hand oscilloscope if you know what you want or need from your equipment. However, based on several reviews, Tektronix might be a good option to begin the whole process.
Still, buying the best oscilloscope will boil down to its precision and added features. Good luck with your electronics and be sure to keep your scope well-calibrated!