Portable handheld digital Oscilloscopes: Siglent, Fluke and Others
Bench oscilloscopes have been in use for quite a long time. At the beginning, these devices were very complex and expensive, and only big research institutions could afford them. The cost of oscilloscopes has gradually decreased and now they are among the most popular test & measurement devices.
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However, portable oscilloscopes were still not produced until recent time. The major obstacle to manufacturing portable devices was the challenge of creating a reliable and inexpensive display showing measurement results. Through the twentieth century CRT were used; they were rather large, heavy, fragile, and demanded high voltage power supply.
With the advance of new technologies such as TFT and LCD displays, compact high-capacity batteries and DSP, many companies have started manufacturing high-quality and low-cost portable oscilloscopes.
Portable Oscilloscopes: Pros and Cons
Like any other equipment, a portable oscilloscope has both advantages and disadvantages. From the user’s point of view, the main advantage of these devices is obviously their size. Manufacturers are trying to produce hand held devices or make it possible to easily place them on any available surface. It is really convenient for those who work under hard technical conditions.
In fact, manufactures started producing portable oscilloscopes because of a great demand for stand-alone testing equipment. A built-in battery and the possibility to be charged from batteries allows a portable oscilloscope not to rely on the presence/absence of mains voltage. In fact, you can work in any place or room, as well as outside.
However, the other side of the coin is that the device’s small size led to abandoning some handy options inherent in bench devices. In particular, portable oscilloscopes use push buttons instead of rotary encoders to reduce the overall size of a device. Therefore, if you are used to standard rotary controls, it will be a little inconvenient to change the device settings at first.
A vast majority of portable oscilloscopes have two operating modes: an oscilloscope mode and multimeter mode. On the one hand, it is very convenient, but in truth, it is surface or seeming multifunctionality: there is a lagging when operating in the multimeter mode and the working speed is much slower than that of any inexpensive multimeter. Therefore, if you often need to use a fast and reliable multimeter, you should purchase a separate device. A built-in multimeter can only be a partial replacement.
Using Portable Oscilloscopes
A portable oscilloscope should be purchased only when you are not able to use an ordinary device. Keep in mind that a portable oscilloscope always costs much more (30-50%) than a similar bench oscilloscope. If you always work in one work place and your professional activity does not require regular travel, it is better to buy a good desktop device.
A portable oscilloscope is critical for diagnosing and configuring various networks and equipment, for production, as well as for fieldwork where other equipment is useless.
Many models of portable oscilloscopes have the function of a data logger, which enables analyzing long processes and capturing important sensor / testing equipment values in automatic mode.
Main portable oscilloscope applications:
- automated production lines;
- radio communication and radio transmitters;
- diagnostics of security systems;
- recording telemetric data;
- primary and secondary power sources;
- testing electrical equipment of motor transport.
We can divide modern manufacturers of portable oscilloscope into two groups: European and US companies that have been developing test & measurement instruments for decades and relatively young Asian brands that are successfully occupying their segment of the world market of test & measurement equipment.
In the first group, the US Fluke company is one of undisputed leaders. It offers a wide selection of portable oscilloscopes and oscilloscopes with built-in multimeters. They are used for testing electrical machines, networks, and production lines, to perform research, etc. The company range of devices meets virtually all consumer requirements. However, Fluke portable oscilloscopes are quite expensive, so they are not always affordable for consumers with a limited budget.
Siglent, a Chinese manufacturer, offers one of the best price / quality ratios among all testing equipment manufacturers. This brand’s range of models is not as wide as that offered by Fluke, but its good technical characteristics, excellent quality and reasonable price make it possible for Siglent to compete with leading world vendors. For example, the features and performance of Siglent’s SDS1000X-E are outstanding for this price class.
Uni-Trend is also actively striving to occupy a leading position on the market of portable digital oscilloscopes. In a relatively short period, Uni-T has developed several extremely interesting devices unusually compact in size. Although Uni-Trend doesn’t yet have absolute top-sellers, all company’s products are extremely high-quality and have good technical characteristics.
Another promising manufacturer of portable oscilloscopes is Micsig. This brand has developed a series of innovating touch screen devices. This let them abandon rotary controllers and push buttons altogether. Although Micsig devices are similar in appearance to tablet PCs, they are reliable multi-channel instruments with good technical characteristics and a large battery life.