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Low cost scopes big on features

Posted: 27 Apr 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dsp3000? oscilloscope? agilent technologies?

These new DSO3000 series oscilloscopes from Agilent Technologies drop down a notch. They serve the so-called value user, much like value notebooks serve mainstream cost-sensitive PC users.

But, don't be misled. Regardless of the value moniker, these instruments are really quite advanced, and like today's notebook PCs, pack a lot of bang for the buck. Priced from less than $1,000 to about $1,900, with bandwidths of 60MHz, 100MHz, 150MHz and 200MHz, these dual channel instruments sit squarely in the domain of mainstream probing.

A perfect fit
Just think about how many systems designers and troubleshooters require scopes that can reveal waveforms of lower-speed logic, audio and lower frequency RF signals, motor control signals, and the like, and you can see where value scopes fit in.

It doesn't make economic sense to equip a field technician or an engineering lab bench (or even a school lab) with a higher speed (read more expensive) instrument when a 60MHz or 100MHz storage scope will fill the bill, right? Putting a 1GHz scope on the bench would simply be a waste of bandwidth.

If you think digital scopes in this price range lack sophisticated features, however, think again. Each of these DSO3000 Series oscilloscopes includes a 6-in. 320 x 240-pixel (VGA) color LCD, refined and advanced triggering, the ability to make automatic measurements, and the capacity to communicate in automated test suites with Pass/Fail testing. The latter is attributable to IEEE-488/GPIB, RS-232 and USB connectivity options.

You can use USB to talk to a PC for things like documentation or spreadsheet analysis, too. Moreover, these scopes support USBTMC-USB488 transfers at 10MBps. USBTMC-USB488 also lets you control a 3000 series oscilloscope, too, using the optional software connect package mentioned in the company's release notes.

These scopes also include niceties such as a 1GS/s sampling rate, 4000 points of waveform memory, and color-coded knobs. You also get digital filtering, sequential memory acquisition, and four math functions, including the ability to crunch through FFTs (fast Fourier transforms) for spectral analysis.

The sequential memory mode lets you frame an area of interest on a signal, and then it gives you a playback that lets you quickly play through the sequence to spot glitches or anomalies.

Like the sequential memory mode, a nifty single-button autoscale function handles the correct setting of vertical, horizontal, and trigger controls for a given signal. That's just the ticket for semi-skilled scope operators, but even scope veterans will like the feature as it lets you grab waveforms quickly without wasting time twiddling knobs.

You can also store set-ups and waveforms, and perform mask testing. You can even run one of these instruments as a waveform recorder. Speaking of waveforms, 3000 series scopes also provide delayed sweep functions. Using that, you can view a long record, then window in on a section of the signal of interest. In delayed sweep mode, you can zoom in while still viewing an entire captured waveform.

Finally, Agilent also supplies a number of appropriate probe options for these instruments. Probes range from a 1:1 20MHz passive probe to a 10:1 150MHz passive probe (shipped with the DSO3062A, DSO3102A and DSO3152A, and a 10:1 300MHz passive probe (shipped with the DSO3202A). You can also order a 50MHz current probe, and either a 100:1 4kV 250MHz high-voltage probe or a 1000:1 15kV 50MHz probe.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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