No circuit design is complete without an oscilloscope. For engineers, using an oscilloscope for testing and debugging their circuits is essential, and buying the right oscilloscope is equally crucial. However, choosing the right one can be overwhelming with the different varieties of oscilloscopes available. Which model to purchase? What are the required specifications? Does the oscilloscope fit your budget? If these questions confuse you, this guide will help you make an informed decision.
Why is Choosing the Right Oscilloscope Important?
Electronic gadgets use waves to generate electronic signals. An oscilloscope observes and displays electronic waves to verify and debug circuits. Like digital multimeters, oscilloscopes ensure appliances and equipment run smoothly and perfectly. Purchasing the right oscilloscope is vital, as it performs tests with accuracy. It makes notes and fixes potential and identified issues in circuit designs.
Types of Oscilloscopes
Oscilloscopes differ in models and specifications, depending on their usage and role. Some commonly used oscilloscopes are:
- Analog oscilloscopes
- Digital oscilloscopes (storage, sampling, and phosphor)
- Computer oscilloscopes
- Handheld oscilloscopes
- Mixed oscilloscopes (domain and signal)
Things to Remember
Since oscilloscopes come in various forms, you must buy one that fits your purpose. Choose an oscilloscope with the required sampling rate, bandwidth, display, memory depth, probing, channels, and flexibility, depending on its function. Purchase an oscilloscope that fits you best for smooth operations, efficient performance, and desirable results.
The first factor to consider when buying an oscilloscope is its usage. Ask yourself the following questions to narrow down the options:
- What is the oscilloscope’s scope?
- What is the required sampling rate for your project?
- What is the measurement range of the signals?
- Is your equipment analog or digital-based?
- Is the bandwidth enough to support the signal’s highest frequency?
Analog or Digital Oscilloscope?
Analog and digital oscilloscopes are two of the most popular oscilloscopes. The former has an exceptional dynamic range, whereas digital oscilloscopes provide better bandwidth. The digital oscilloscope also displays a more accurate sampling rate required to measure data for analytical functions.
Even digital oscilloscopes have sub-categories and models. For instance, a digital phosphor oscilloscope quickly captures signals and analyses. Alternatively, a digital sampling oscilloscope is best known for its high-frequency functions. As the name suggests, mixed-domain oscilloscopes merge different digital oscilloscopes and analyzers into a single piece of equipment.
New or Refurbished?
Sometimes, manufacturers discontinue electronic appliances. If you require a discontinued oscilloscope, you can find them at stores that keep used test equipment in their inventory for tests, selling, or renting.
Since purchasing original oscilloscopes can strain a tight budget, second-hand oscilloscopes are tested, certified, and more affordable than original or new models. Purchasing used equipment is excellent for financial constraints. However, when buying one, check its condition, functionality, certificate, and performance with your OS.
The Bandwidth of the Oscilloscope
A crucial thing to remember when checking an oscilloscope’s bandwidth is its ability to capture high-frequency signals correctly. Different models require different bandwidths. For example, analog oscilloscopes should have a capacity thrice as much as the highest waveform needed for measurement. On the other hand, digital oscilloscopes work best on a bandwidth that surpasses the clock rate by five times.
Sampling Rate of the Oscilloscope
Purchase an oscilloscope whose maximum mentioned sample rate quickly delivers its intended bandwidth. When determining the sample rate, ensure the maximum mentioned sample rate is at least four times more than the oscilloscope’s real-time bandwidth.
Probing of the Oscilloscope
Choose an oscilloscope that offers you various probes compatible with your objectives. An oscilloscope’s probe determines its measurement. When a probe inputs the correct information, an oscilloscope will analyze it accurately to generate measurement reports. If your equipment requires high-frequency measurements, choose active probes. Alternatively, use probes with support frequencies lower than ten if you need balanced frequencies.
Number of Channels
When purchasing an oscilloscope, ensure it has adequate channels to help you conduct priority tasks smoothly and quickly. Additionally, the higher the number of channels, the better the performance of time-sensitive measurements for different waveforms.
Functioning User Interface
Choose an oscilloscope that offers an easy-to-navigate and user-friendly interface. User-friendly and responsive interfaces allow you to perform simple operations. Furthermore, ensure the oscilloscope is compatible with other gadgets that support advanced operations, document reports, and display results.
An oscilloscope’s rise time monitors its waveforms. Its measurement and rise time are directly proportional. Therefore, quick rise times provide a more accurate measurement. When choosing an oscilloscope based on its rise time, ensure it displays a rise time of less than one-fifth of your signal’s fastest recorded time.
When purchasing an oscilloscope, ensure it has enough memory storage to record and save measurements and high signal resolutions.
The right oscilloscope ensures your circuit runs on correct waveforms and accurate measurements. It tests and verifies circuit designs. When choosing one for your project, check its bandwidth, sampling rate, probes, memory depth, resolution, display, and the number of channels.