Hi. Hope you are having a good life. Besides everything, an oscilloscope is a fundamental instrument for every electronics engineer or hobbyist to measure or analyze changes in electrical signals. It displays an electrical signal with respect to time, so you can see every detail of the signal i.e. its shape, frequency, amplitude. However, getting your own best beginner oscilloscope can be the tricky task. One may have a lot of questions in his mind, like what parameters should I look for? What should be the price range for a beginner scope? In this post, I try to help you solve this tricky task and find you the best oscilloscope if you are a beginner.
Be aware, there exists no such thing like a cheap oscilloscope. You can see old bulky CRO oscilloscopes on eBay or other platforms with low price tags. The low price tags don’t make them cheap, they are just old technology which is probably outdated. I am not going to talk about those old CRO scopes. In my opinion, if someone makes his mind to have one oscilloscope, it must be a decent one, well updated with the current technology, must guarantee a decent reliable running time, and must be the one which you are proud of.
- 1 The best beginner oscilloscope in 2018
- 2 There Are Other Great Options Available
- 3 People/Projects use these beginner oscilloscopes
- 4 What is an Oscilloscope?
- 5 Parameters to look for in a beginner Oscilloscope
- 6 Final words
The best beginner oscilloscope in 2018
Having an oscilloscope is very fundamental, fun and interesting. It gives you the power to see what’s going on with the signals in a circuit. If you are wondering how your sounds waves look like in telephone line, which is a very crazy idea, an oscilloscope is there to make your wish a reality. The journey of an oscilloscope and electronics hobbyist starts at the very beginning. The first simple circuit he can design might be a passive low pass filter. Oscilloscope helps him to see the real-time frequency response of the filter, to analyze and verify the cutoff frequency for the designed filter.
Sometimes, a design circuit for some unknown reasons fails. We turn it on, it works fine but a sudden it fails. To analyze this problem, to know what amplitude of impulse signals that are causing the circuit to fail, we need an oscilloscope. Well, I just cannot emphasize this how much an oscilloscope is the basic need of every electronics hobbyist or beginner. If you are thinking to learn electronics without an oscilloscope, you are wrong.
For electronics hobbyists or beginners, the best beginner oscilloscope I recommend is either the Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL, the Rigol DS1054Z, or the Hantek DSO5202P. These three models are proven best oscilloscopes for beginners and are priced reasonably. The bandwidth, sample rate, memory depth, and wave update rate are fine enough. The best thing, the size, and weight of these models are very much low, one can carry them anywhere.
In the rest of this article, I will give more info on these models and also provide you with their Amazon links.
1. Beginner Oscilloscope from Siglent Technologies (SDS1052DL)
Siglent Technology is new to oscilloscope industry but its models are too reliable and affordable. I did research on its every model and found them all satisfactory. As this article is focused on entirely beginner oscilloscope I had to carry my research in this regards. And for me, a beginner oscilloscope must be of low price and it should fulfill all the tasks requirements for which an oscilloscope is designed. I am not saying there was this just SD1052DL model specifically designed for beginners. What I am saying this was the model I thought would be great for beginners.
Speaking of technical terms, this model has got 50MHz bandwidth, 500MS/s, FFT function, external triggering, two channels, and memory depth of 32Kpts. Instead of advertised and technical features, I like the overall feeling of this beginner scope. Following are my personal things I loved about this model
- Huge bright and color display i.e. 18 Division on the horizontal line and 8 on vertical
- Quick boot time
- Feels very solid
- Small size
- Buttons feel very smooth and nice
- Computer connectivity includes old RS-232 and new USB connection.
- USB storage for saving purposes
- Pass/Fail out the connection
Things I don’t like about this model are, its sample frequency divides into the half when you use two channel at the same time, little noisy which makes it hard to measure small signals.
In summary, Siglent SD1052DL (Amazon link) is my first best oscilloscope for complete beginners, electronic hobbyists, and electrical engineering students. It will be a tool to measure all your signals, sum them, subtract them, give you the power of each signal, give you the frequency content of it. And yet this helping tool comes with a price tag of below $280.
2. Beginner Oscilloscope from Rigol (DS1102E)
The best alternatives to the above beginner’s oscilloscope are the Rigol and Hantek. I personally didn’t use the Rigol or Hantek models. I came up with these models doing internet research, seeing Amazon buyer’s reviews, watching eevlog youtube videos, and using my own engineering knowledge.
In terms of good features, Rigol is a well-known company, making digital oscilloscopes since 1999. Its products have been used worldwide and people are very much satisfied with its products. I found that they have great customer services, and answer any question you ask them. The model has 2 channels, 100MHz bandwidth, 1 GSa/s real-time sample rate, external triggering, math functions including FFT, and 1 Mpts memory depth, and comes in nice packing.
In summary, Rigol DS1102E Digital Oscilloscope (Amazon link) is the second choice in selecting the best oscilloscope for beginners. You can use it as a student and can analysis your projects with it. But if you are interfacing it with your PC then you may have a little hard time. Who cares for this feature when you have a built-in 5.7-inch display within it. The other best thing about this particular model is, a lot of videos are available on Youtube. You can have a fun time to learn everything about it. Which is very nice, because starting with the new device sometimes needs a little guidance.
3. Beginner Oscilloscope from Hantek (DSO5202P)
I do not think Hantek needs any introduction for the majority of you people. It is well known for providing best quality beginner oscilloscopes. It has all the features as in the above best beginner oscilloscope from Rigol. It has great customer services and of course great products all around the globe. You know what, I just select it for its better bandwidth. It has the same technical features as that of Rigol. But it gives you 2 times the bandwidth compare of Rigol with little price increase.
The increased price is so low that you cannot skip this product when you really require a high bandwidth, and higher bandwidth means a powerful oscilloscope. In terms of some good features, this model has a 200MHz bandwidth, 2 channels, 1 GSa/s real-time sample rate, external triggering, math functions including FFT, and 40K memory depth which is very low comparing to the other two models.
In summary, Hantek DSO5202P (Amazon link) is almost the same features as that of Rigol model, except it has low memory depth.
There Are Other Great Options Available
Obviously, there are many models you can check online. You will see some USB scopes too, just do not go for them. They are not really good until you buy the high-quality one.
Two channels oscilloscope may not be good for a car diagnosis, or situations where you need to see all the signal on a single display. For such situations, Rigol DS1054Z (Amazon link), can be you beginner oscilloscope.
The first oscilloscope I used in my university was from Keysight Technologies. Since then, I have a very deep feeling of trust in this brand. I clearly remember my first measurement, which was to verify the frequency of sine wave coming from a function generator. I was very excited and nervous when I got close to my first oscilloscope, and proudly it was from Keysight Technologies. Back then it was known as Agilent Technologies. I tested my every silly idea and every circuit with this scope and learned a lot.
The only problem with Keysight which made me not to include it as beginner lists of oscilloscopes is, it costs you a high amount of money. But you know something, this will be your lifetime oscilloscope unless you get more professional in electronics and their happens the demand for larger bandwidth and other stuff. The model, Keysight DSOX1102A (Amazon link), without the signal generator is way cheaper, but consider it if you have a high budget.
People/Projects use these beginner oscilloscopes
I personally use the Keysight model for most of my projects. For the rest of the models, during my research on the topic of best beginner oscilloscope, I found the following people or projects used the above-listed beginner oscilloscopes and get their jobs done with one of them. I think it is helpful to share it with you. Maybe some of you are looking for the same jobs to be done by the above oscilloscopes.
- Engineering undergraduate students, electricians
- Automotive diagnosis
- Camshaft/crankshaft correlation and reading signals from sensors
- Instrumentation work
- Robotic projects
- For playing around with PWM
- Remote measurements
- Arduino and RaspberryPi projects
- Electronics product development
- Electronics diagnostics/troubleshooting
In the rest of the post, I give info on what parameter to look for when someone decides to have a beginner oscilloscope in his lab.
What is an Oscilloscope?
As I said, an oscilloscope is the most fundamental instrument of every electronics engineer or hobbyist’s lab. Its best use is when it comes to time-varying signals, and a multimeter or all other measuring instrument seems to fail. It gives you a two-dimensional graph of a function (measuring signal) with respect to time, so you can clearly measure the signal frequency, amplitude, shape, rise time, distortion, time intervals, and few other parameters.
Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) signal can only be studied well if you can see it by eye. You can play around with duty cycles and amplitudes in a fun way if you can see it, in my opinion. There are a lot of things to discover about this awesome instrument, the oscilloscope.
There exist two main types of oscilloscopes, the digital and analog. There was a time for analog oscilloscopes. I do not know, maybe some people are still using it. My first oscilloscope was analog too, and the first time I introduced to it was during my university first year. But the powerful analog to digital converters has changed everything.
Parameters to look for in a beginner Oscilloscope
An electronic instrument is defined as good or bad based on some parameter judgments. A multimeter is good if it has high impedance and it is bad if it has bad safety measures. Same goes for an oscilloscope. Following are the parameter which I think you should understand before you can judge any oscilloscope as good or bad. These parameters are not limited to just beginner oscilloscopes, you can apply it to any of oscilloscope.
Bandwidth is the most important parameter of all. It limits the ability of the scope to measure a signal. It shows the frequency range that the oscilloscope can accurately measure. According to IEEE 1057, bandwidth is defined as “the point at which the amplitude of a sine wave input is reduced by 3 dB (approximately 30%) relative to its level at a lower reference frequency.” In other words, bandwidth is specified at the frequency at which a sinusoidal input signal is attenuated to 70.7% of the signal’s true amplitude.
We all know oscilloscope is the electronic device, made of complex circuitry. The important part of the complex circuitry is the front end amplifiers, which work at the certain band of frequencies and define the bandwidth of an oscilloscope. If someone needs a high bandwidth he needs a sophisticated front-end circuitry, which makes the whole oscilloscope very expensive. In summary, the more is the bandwidth, the more powerful the oscilloscope is, and the most expensive as well. But a rule of thumb for selecting a good bandwidth is to have the bandwidth 5 times greater than the fundamental frequency of your measuring signal.
A very good point for beginners. If you have high bandwidth and you are playing with a low-frequency signal, you do not get accurate results. You get a lot of noise instead of great results. Sounds crazy! I know. So, basically, I keep all these things in mind and try my knowledge best to make the list of oscilloscopes having bandwidth best for beginners.
The sample rate is the ability of an oscilloscope to how fast it can acquire the number of samples per second, or in simple words, it determines the amount of waveform information captured and displayed on the screen. The greater the sample rate, the more resolution it has, and in the result, you have every detail of your signal on display.
Above equation is Niquest criteria for sample rate. Oscilloscopes must obey this in order to be called a good or the best beginner oscilloscopes. This is an industrial adopted rule of thumb. But some industry people also recommend a sample rate that is 3 to 5 times the bandwidth. The reason they provide is, you need a high sample rate to see any unexpected glitches or anomalies. In summary, the more samples you have in each period, the more signal detail you’ll capture. Let’s see what Keysight Labs have got for us about the sample rate and bandwidth.
A good point for the beginner, without proper bandwidth, you will end in an attenuated or distorted signal. While without enough sample rate you will end in having no information that is very necessary to display the exact frequency, rise and fall times of your signal. You can also miss any glitch or anomaly occurring instantly.
One important thing to double check is the sample rate of the oscilloscope when all channels are turned on. Typically, when multiple channels are in use, the sample rate is split up among the channels. If you are using more than one channel, you’ll want to make sure the sampling rate is still sufficient.
Memory depth is the measure of oscilloscope’s memory to store signals. The more memory depth means you can capture signal at the highest sample rate. This is a very nice feature and a good oscilloscope must have a good size of depth memory. But it will make it costly. The oscilloscope memory is directly tied to the sample rate. The more memory you have, the higher you can keep the oscilloscope’s sample rate as you capture a longer period of time. The higher the sample rate, the higher the effective bandwidth of the oscilloscope.
Waveform update rate
It is the time oscilloscopes takes to update its screen. It is a very great and important feature to look for. Of course, who cares for an oscilloscope when it takes too much time to update its screen. As in such a situation, there is a good chance you may miss an important signal. Above are the key parameter to look for in a good oscilloscope. Some other following useful aspects can also be taken into consideration.
Size and cost
They may not be the important parameters but I feel I should talk about them a little bit. For me, size is not that issue because I love working in the lab. There may be beginners which will use an oscilloscope for car diagnoses. For such people carry oscilloscope where and their, size is of a big problem. I keep this problem in mind and try my knowledge best to enlist oscilloscopes you can carry everywhere.
The cost is the big issue. But you cannot have a cheap oscilloscope with great features. It just cannot happen. Good bandwidth, sample rates, built in wave generator, FFT, extra channels, good memory depth are the parameters which will cost you money.
I keep these problems in mind and try my knowledge best to enlist oscilloscopes you can carry everywhere and are of a reasonable price at a beginner level.
Number of channels
An important thing I like to consider for a beginner oscilloscope is the number of channels. I think 2 channels are more than enough. For example, you want to see the communication of Arduino at the same time. Two channels will be enough to see what is coming to your Arduino and what is going away from it or to see the phase difference between 2 pulse trains or any two signals.
Basic math functions
The best beginner oscilloscope should have some basic math functions i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication, or FFT. It is very cool and useful to see voltage, current and their product (Power) on the same screen at the same time.
This is all that I want to share with you about the best beginner oscilloscope. I share everything I want myself to be told. To be honest, I tried my level best but I encourage you to also check other people opinion online. Personally, I think, finding the best oscilloscope for beginners is the second task. The first task is to find the brand you can trust and has a proven track record. This is my personal approach to buy anything. I used the same strategy here too.
I looked for all brands famous for making oscilloscopes. Read all the buyers reviews on Amazon (for selected brands) and on few other commerce sites which I found on Google search. You know that it is satisfying to see what other people think after using the brand. I then use my Electronics Engineering knowledge to decide how much bandwidth, sample rate, price range, and memory depth is enough for a beginner. In summary, I put myself in the shoes of a person who has just started with electronics or a person who wants to have a basic oscilloscope.
One last thing, all the given amazon links are affiliated one meaning if you buy these products from these links within 24hrs I get a small commission, which would really help me and I would appreciate this kind act from the heart.
You can also check my other posts on recommending best resistor kits and lab power supply for beginners in 2018.
- Best Lab Power Supply In 2018 [Really Affordable]
- Best Resistor Kits On Amazon 2018
- Best Beginner Multimeters
Thank you and have a good life.