8 Oscilloscopes < €400

An oscilloscope is an essential tool when trying to understand what is going on inside your electronics. It is an expensive piece of kit: even a simple model costs several hundreds of euros/dollars. While it is possible to buy great second-hand analog oscilloscopes for a lot less, they are very bulky and don’t have the digital storage capabilities of modern oscilloscopes. In this post I’ll list the sub-€400 digital storage oscilloscopes I evaluated before purchasing one for Nut & Bolt.

Bandwidth

Oscilloscopes are often specified by their bandwidth. The bandwidth – specified in MHz – specifies the frequency at which the signal on screen drops by 3dB. Why Oscilloscope Bandwidth Matters on the Adafruit blog provides a nice explanation on how this influences what you want to measure. In short, having a higher bandwidth allows you to measure faster signals.

Digital storage

A digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) can store signals in its memory. This allows you to capture a signal and then take as long as you want to examine it on the scope. The DSO’s in this list sample up to 1 billion samples per second (1GS/s), so having a large memory buffer to store these samples is a big advantage.

Rigol DS1052E and DS1102E

Rigol DS1102E
When discussing affordable oscilloscopes it is impossible to skip the Rigol DS1052E. It’s a very popular 50MHz bandwidth digital storage scope that, in earlier revisions, could easily be hacked to 100MHz. The hack is now harder to do and Rigol is lowering the prices on the DS1102E, which is the 100MHz version. The specifications for the Rigol DS1052E and DS1102E are as follows:

  • Screen: 5.7″ TFT, 320×234 pixels
  • Sample rate: 1GS/s
  • Bandwidth: 50MHz (DS1052E) or 100MHz (DS1102E or hacked DS1052E)
  • Memory depth: 1 million measurements
  • Price: €269 (DS1052E), €326 (DS1102E)

The Rigols see a nice combination of low price, good specifications and a large user base. The downsides are a small screen and, according to reports on various forums, a loud fan.

Owon SDS6062 and SDS7102

Owon SDS6062

The Owon oscilloscopes aren’t as well-known as the Rigols. Their previous versions had outdated STN screens and average specs, but the SDS series are a lot better. Let’s have a look at the specifications:

  • Screen: 8″ TFT, 800×600 pixels
  • Sample rate: 500MS/s (SDS6062) or 1GS/s (SDS7102)
  • Bandwidth: 60MHz (SDS6062) or 100MHz (SDS7102)
  • Memory depth: 10 million measurements
  • Price: €288 (SDS6062), €377 (SDS7102)

The Owons have good specifications and large screens. The fan isn’t as loud as the Rigol’s. The scopes can be outfitted with a battery for portable operation and the SDS7102 has a VGA output. The downsides are a higher price and a user interface that isn’t as polished as the Rigol’s.

Troniq DSO100 / Siglent SDS1102CM / Atten ADS1102C / LeCroy WaveAce 112

Atten ADS1102C

This is basically the same oscilloscope sold under many different brand names. A 100MHz, 500 megasamples per second oscilloscope with a screen the same size as the Rigol’s. The memory depth is only 4K samples so these are not really comparable to the Rigols and Owons. While they used to be very inexpensive, the recent price drop of the Rigol DS1102E has made this type of oscilloscope a lot less attractive:

  • Screen: 5.7″ TFT, 320×234 pixels
  • Sample rate: 500MS/s
  • Bandwidth: 100MHz
  • Memory depth: 4K (Troniq, Atten, LeCroy) or 1M (Siglent)
  • Price: €294 (Troniq DSO100)

Conclusion

I only plan to buy an oscilloscope once, so 100MHz seemed a more future-proof investment than a 50MHz or 60MHz one. For my studio, I finally settled for the most expensive oscilloscope in this list: the Owon SDS7102. Its large screen, quiet fan and large memory won me over. If you want to spend a bit less, the Rigols are still a very good combination of low price and good specs.

Bonus: DSO Nano and friends

DSO nano V2
Before settling on a real oscilloscope I had a long look to see if the DSO nano would be enough for my needs. The DSO nano V2 is a portable device like an MP3 player. It’s an ARM-based 1-channel oscilloscope that’s cheap and can be thrown into your bag. Here are the specs:

  • Screen: small TFT, 320×234 pixels
  • Sample rate: 1MS/s
  • Bandwidth: 200kHz
  • Memory depth: don’t know
  • Price: $89

I like the idea of the DSO Nano a lot. It’s small, innovative, inexpensive and open source. However, its bandwidth is too limiting for being the only scope in the workshop. 200kHz bandwidth means you can measure signals up to about 40kHz, which is way too low for measuring switching power supplies, PWM signals and digital communication protocols. If you are only measuring audio signals or are looking for a second DSO to bring with you on the road, the DSO Nano V2 is a nice scope.

If you liked this post, please head over to JeeLabs for Jean-Claude Wippler’s article on how he chose and oscilloscope: getting an oscilloscope.

15 Responses to “8 Oscilloscopes < €400”

  1. David

    Yes, a logic analyzer is definitely a nice thing to have (and a lot cheaper). Do you have a Saleae Logic? Looks like a nice piece of kit.

    I went for an oscilloscope because I need to debug analog signals as well.

  2. jim

    I went with a Rigol. I wanted something that was easy to use and cost was a big factor. It came with a case so I could keep it in new condition and it had the feature set I wanted. The owons are nice but the price seemed to jump when I checked the specs.

  3. jim

    PS the first tool I ever got was a 10$ logic probe. The second tool was a Logic (best buy) the third tool was a Rigol DS1102E. So i have to agree with the first comment here.

  4. MoJo

    What tends to let these cheap scopes down is accuracy. The Owon models in particular are know to be a bit below par to say the least. I suppose it depends how much you care about accuracy or if you just want to see the general shape of the waveform.

    Could you add more info on features? For example most do FFT I think but how many FPS and over what range? FFT is very useful. How about exporting data to memory card?

    What is the zoom like on them? Rigol scopes, for example, were known to have issues where you couldn’t see small events when zoomed out due to the way they didn’t display the waveform properly, but I don’t know if that is still the case.

    An oscilloscope is a really incredibly useful tool for a hobbyist and it is nice to see cheap but fairly usable ones available now. Just be aware of the limitations.

  5. Trev

    I bought the ATTEN ADS1102C for 250 Euro incl EMS shipping off eBay. Excellent purchase – no regrets.

  6. Paul Campbell

    I’m quite happy with my Rigol (I bought the 100MHz version with the logic analyser option) my only complaint is the fan – the thing is really noisy

  7. David

    @MoJo:
    In which areas are the ‘cheaper’ scopes less accurate than the name-brand ones? And do you have any info to show that the Owon SDS-series are less accurate or reliable than the Rigols or Attens? On the Eevblog forum some people have tested the Owon SDS rigorously and shown that up to and over 100MHz the waveforms look fine.

    By the way, I haven’t actually touched any of these scopes before writing this up. This is just an overview based on the information found on the web.

    @Trev:
    Any additional remarks on the Atten? What do you think of it so far? Things you like, things you dislike?

    @Paul:
    Yeah, the idea of a loud fan really put me of. I like my tools quiet. There are simple ways to swap out the fan for a quieter one though.

  8. Markus Gritsch

    I replaced the loud fan of my RIGOL with an inaudible one from a PC. Perfectly quite now.

  9. David

    @Chris: The reasons are simple: the Hantek is outside the price range and distributors in Europe are hard to find.

    It looks like a great scope, though, so if it fits your budget it might be a good choice.

  10. didier

    I have been using the Rigol (uprated 50MHz) for two years. Best compromise for service, simple developments. It is compact, afordable and easy to use. A must have for the advanced hobbyst.
    USB interface are smart but require a laptop which is, in my case, mostly overloaded (hardware and software).
    Didier

  11. Jhon

    Hi.

    I do not know a year ago, but now you can buy a Owon SDS7102V (about 331 € including tax) cheaper than a Rigol DS1102E. The Rigol that you say here at € 326, is without taxes, we must add 19%.

Leave a Reply