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Old 23rd May 2007, 03:20 PM   #1
anatech is offline anatech  Canada
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Default New DSO oscilloscopes - which one?

It's time to replace my oscilloscope (Philips PM3070) with a new model. The Philips has had more failures during it's lifetime than I can tolerate. It has failed yet again (variable channel B vertical gain is not working). Service costs are far too high to justify a repair. This is a 100 MHz dual channel 'scope with cursors and readouts. I did like the display and it's still very good. I also have a Tek 2235 and 2213A. The 2235 has broken knobs (during a move ).

I recently had the opportunity to have three 'scope for demos. They were the DPO4032 Tektronix and two from Agilent, the MSO6104A and DSO5032. I'll talk about my impressions in the following posts. Please feel free to ask any questions or add your own experiences with these models.

I will say that I didn't get as much time with any of these 'scopes as I would have liked to due to some medical issues I'm dealing with. I also approached each one without reading the operation manuals. Partly due to time issues, and partly due to the fact that I wanted to see how intuitive the operation was for each.

The common features these 'scope all share is the ease with which they can be added to your ethernet (love this!!!). These will all use DHCP to discover and set themselves up to your network. They can be set up or modified easily manually. I recommend this approach. They all share very similar rubber buttons and LCD screens and auto detecting probes. Each also has some FFT ability, I particularly am interested in this feature.

I am hoping this may help some of you when it comes time to purchase one of these, new or used.

I would like to thank Anwer Sagher of Electro Rent and Phil and Rob from Electrosonic for their assistance in obtaining these products for review. I'd also like to thank Barnie Floto of Agilent Technologies for his help in this.

-Chris
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Old 23rd May 2007, 03:26 PM   #2
Giaime is offline Giaime  Italy
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Default Re: New DSO oscilloscopes - which one?

Quote:
Originally posted by anatech
I will say that I didn't get as much time with any of these 'scopes as I would have liked to due to some medical issues I'm dealing with.
-Chris
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Old 23rd May 2007, 03:35 PM   #3
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My experience with early lower end Tek scopes having FFT was pretty dismal, and I had such high hopes. The problem was signal to noise ratio and lack of a log display. If the newer scopes can overcome that, they might be far more useful, though maybe aliasing makes it an unreasonable request. You also need a sharp display with more than 8 bits of vertical resolution for audio work, to see clues about misbehavior. This statement sounds like the many tube-transistor arguments: The digital scopes give me a cold clinical test bench experience, which though very efficient for certain tasks, never provides me the tactile sense and enjoyment that a good old tube scope offers!
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Old 23rd May 2007, 03:40 PM   #4
anatech is offline anatech  Canada
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Default The MSO6104A

This was the first victim. Agilent and Tektronix both send lot's of information out. I was lucky enough to attend a DSO workshop with Agilent. They didn't compare to other brands, but rather showed the class how to use the different features of their products. We did use the MSO6104A for the day. If you can get into one of these workshops, do it if you will be buying soon.

This 'scope is a little shorter than the average oscilloscope, but longer than the others tested. It's also a little heavier (yahoo!). The screen is very high quality, images had much more detail when I wore my glasses. In common with the other 'scopes, it has a video connector so you can attach a large monitor.

I found this scope better than I expected when it came to viewing analog signals. Even the eye pattern from a CD was pretty clear, but not as good as an analog 'scope. I'm going to keep an analog around for situations like this. This unit has the ability to vary it's acquisition method to suit the situation. It has a high resolution mode (greater than the 8 bit standard), averaging, normal and (I forgot, didn't use it). This was very useful in FFT mode. The FFT window type is variable as well. It has some automatic measurement modes that also make life easier. Connecting probes and cables was easy on this one because it didn't skid away from you as you tried to do this. Fan noise was pretty low as well. There is also a very handy probe storage compartment on top.

Connecting this to my network allowed me to both control the 'scope from any computer and also download waveforms very easily. The software is a free download, but a simple web browser is what I used the most. I can't tell you how valuable this feature is! Also, software upgrades are extremely simple to accomplish on the network. There is also a USB port on the front for file storage or upgrades. All these 'scopes share this feature. This 'scope will also connect to your PC via a USB port on the back, it also has another USB port (host) where it can control a printer connected directly to it for hard copies.

In all, I found this and the DSO5032 far easier to get useful information from. All these 'scopes have a screen saver built in. Cool.

Personally, I much prefer this 'scope over the others tested. You can also start with a standard 1 Mb model and expand it to 2 or 8 Mb of memory. The DSO 6xxx models can be retrofitted with the MSO option later also (making it an MSO 6xxx). That allows you to protect your investment.

-Chris
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Old 23rd May 2007, 03:52 PM   #5
anatech is offline anatech  Canada
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Default The DSO5032A

This little fella was next on the hit list. Using was a snap since it is almost identical to the MSO6xxx series. This is a really nice, powerful little 'scope. I believe it comes with 1 Mb of ram. I don't think it is as upgradeable as the DSO/MSO 6xxx series.

This one had the lower bandwidth probes that I found harder to use. The 'scope is so light that is tended to move anytime I attempted to make connections. You will either have to lash it down or hold it still with your other hand. I hate that. The fan noise was louder than the MSO 6104A. Probably due to the much shorter case. I was worried it may fall over, it's so short. The screen looks like the same high quality one the bigger brother uses. I didn't find any operational differences with this except for some menu features missing. I would probably be happy with this if 1.) It didn't move around so much and 2.) the fan wasn't quite as loud. It is much quieter than my Philips, so that is really a non-issue for me. I just want it to make less noise. I would want the better probes (like the ones supplied with the 500 MHz model).

Both of the Agilent products fit in my spot for a 'scope. The screen is larger than a standard analog 'scope. I really, really hated to pack these back up. Using them was enjoyable. Both these models reacted very quickly to front panel controls and updated the screen very quickly.

-Chris
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Old 23rd May 2007, 04:12 PM   #6
anatech is offline anatech  Canada
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Default The DPO4032

This was the last unit I evaluated. By now I was pretty good at getting around a digital scope (a little different than an analog unit).

This one I found more difficult to use. It has more controls, but is harder for me to use. I'll let others chime in here with their experiences.

When you first turn this guy on, it shows the Tektronix splash screen with the iP address, but unlike the Agilent, it will not go into a usable mode until you press the menu button. The fan roars to life, then slows down. This 'scope is noisier than the Agilent 6000 series and not as loud as the 5000 series. It does put out more heat. So much so that I measured the ambient air and exhaust air. This unit's exhaust temperature is 20 ° hotter that the inlet temperature! This is not trivial and I am uncomfortable with this. I wish I had measured the Agilent 'scopes, but the heat did not attract my attention.

Okay, onward. This 'scope has a giant screen. No way will it fit where any other 'scope fits on my bench. It is also very thin and tends to move when you are making connections. I didn't see where the acquisition could be changed. This may be possible, but it is buried somewhere in the menus if it is. Also, some menus covered up a portion of the screen on the right hand side. This was annoying. Manipulating the FFT was possibly easier than the Agilent. I'm not sure on that point. I did find the large screen not to helpful. If I want detail, I'll capture the waveform and view it on my computer. I would much rather have it fit where most 'scopes will fit.

I believe that this is a good 'scope, but it is priced in the Agilent 6000 series range. I think the Agilent offers more for the money and the Agilent is easier to use (for me).
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Old 23rd May 2007, 04:23 PM   #7
anatech is offline anatech  Canada
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Hi Conrad,
I am using a distortion analyzer and running the residual to the 'scope. This is far more sensitive as you are reducing the original signal by 50 ~ 80 dB (depending on your THD meter).

At some point I'd like to pick up a signal analyzer, but the 'scope is more important. The included FFT function is more than enough for most of my work when coupled with the THD meter.

-Chris
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Old 23rd May 2007, 05:02 PM   #8
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Hi anatech: I recently got a DPO4034. The acquisition options come up as soft buttons across the screen when you hit the Acquire button in the Horizontal controls group. The standard Tek Modes are available (Sample | Peak Detect | Hi Res | Envelope | Average) and the Record Lengths (1000 | 10k | 100k | 1M | 10M), but the options are quite dismal as far as persistence and colors go. The persistence functionality seems far less realistic than the TDS series of scopes. The real bummer for me is the COMPLETE lack of color options for waveform display. I’m OK with not being able to change the basic color of the traces since they are meant to match the color coding of the inputs, but what I really miss are things like 'temperature' where the color within a trace is a function of how often the periodic signal was at a particular level.

Also, I wish they’d quit "improving" the user interface! Fewer buttons and knobs means deeper and more confusing menus to traverse – but hey, I’m sure it saves a few pennies in parts costs…

Well, in a couple weeks I will hopefully be an Agilent employee, so I s'poze I should take a closer look at their scopes. I do love Agilent logic analyzers though.

Cheers, Casey
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Old 23rd May 2007, 05:42 PM   #9
anatech is offline anatech  Canada
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Hi Casey,
Good luck on the possible job!

The Agilent product does vary the trace intensity as more samples take the same route. I think you're really, really going to like the Agilent a little better. That's my opinion anyway. I think Agilent groups the functions better for the user interface, although I find using FFT that I can be going up and down the tree a little more.

-Chris

Edit: Hi Giaime! Thanks.
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Old 23rd May 2007, 06:53 PM   #10
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Before you go with either Tek or Agilent, ou might want to try a Yokogawa. They have a nice, intuitive user interface, small size, long standard momory, and lots of features. The newer models have a USB port, so you can save to a flash drive.They are the standard bench scope at my job.
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