Hi. Hope you are having a good life. 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. You may have a lot of questions in 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 or hobbyist.
In the first part of this article I talk about the best oscilloscopes (the good and bad things), and then I try to talk about the parameters to look for when selecting a scope.
Hopefully, this article will help you.
- 1 The best beginner oscilloscope in 2019
- 2 There Are Other Great Options Available
- 3 Best usage of these beginner oscilloscopes
- 4 What is an Oscilloscope?
- 5 Usage of an oscilloscope
- 6 Parameters to look for in a beginner Oscilloscope
- 7 Final words on best oscilloscopes
The best beginner oscilloscope in 2019
Well, I just cannot emphasize this how much an oscilloscope is the basic need of every electronics hobbyist or beginner or any person involved in electronics. If you are thinking to learn or go with 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. All these models come from brands with proven track records. These are the proven best oscilloscopes for beginners and are priced reasonably. I really like them all.
In the rest of this article, I will give more info on these models.
1. Beginner Oscilloscope from Siglent Technologies (SDS1052DL)
The Siglent Technology is new to oscilloscope industry but its models are too reliable and affordable. I did research on its every model, read people reviews, saw videos, and used my own engineering knowledge to compare it with other brands. At the end, I am very happy and positive about this brand, and decide to list it first in my best oscilloscopes list.
For me, following are the must in beginner oscilloscopes.
- Come from a trusted brand
- Must be of low price, so a beginner can afford it. But this doesn’t mean there should be any compromise on its quality
- It should fulfill all the tasks requirements for which an oscilloscope is designed
- It must have a decent bandwidth range, sample rate, memory depth, and wave update rate
- It should feel good
- It must be very easy to use, don’t need to use a guide
Like I said, there are a lot of models from this brand. But, in my opinion, the SD1052DL is best suited for beginners and hobbyists people. I personally like this model too much and it is just beautiful.
Now, lets talk about the things I like and don’t like about this model.
Things I like about this model
- It has got 50MHz bandwidth, a kind of ideal for a beginner person
- Sample rate of 500MS/s, this is the real time making the scope so powerful.
- FFT function
- External triggering
- Two channels
- Memory depth of 32Kpts, this is a kind of low but it is that too much bad.
- 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
- 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
- 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, the Siglent SD1052DL 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.
2. Beginner Oscilloscope from Rigol (DS1054Z)
The best alternatives to the above brand are the Rigol and Hantek brands. I am sure, you may have heard of these brands in your own research on best oscilloscopes, if this post is not your very first. These brands are popular and trying their best to provide their customers with the best products.
Talking about the specific brand, 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.
What makes this model better than the above one?
- The four number of channels: You know, two channels oscilloscope, like the above one, 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 , can be you beginner oscilloscope.
Now, lets talk about the things I like and don’t like about this model.
Things I like about this model
- The model has 4 channels
- 50MHz bandwidth, same as the above model and can be upgrade
- 1 GSa/s real-time sample rate
- External triggering
- Math functions including FFT
- 12 Mpts memory depth, this is upgradable to 24 Mpts
- 30,000 wfms/s Waveform capture rate, this is so impressive
- Comes in nice packing and has a beautiful bright screen.
- It feels so great, one enjoy working with it
Things I don’t like about this model
- 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 display within it
- Has got some useful trial features. The bad thing is, the trial time starts when you first turn it on whether you use them or not. It sucks.
In summary, the Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope 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.
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 oscilloscopes. It has great customer services and of course great products all around the globe.
What makes this model better than the above all?
- You know what, I just select it for its better bandwidth. It has the same technical features as that of Siglent SD1052DL. But it gives you 3 times the bandwidth compare to Siglent 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.
In summary, the Hantek DSO5202P is almost the same features as that of the above models, 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.
Oscilloscope from the Keysight, a well known and world wide trusted brand.
The only problem with Keysight which made me not to include it in beginner list of oscilloscopes is, it costs you a high amount of money. But you know something, if you can buy this model, the DSOX1102A. It will be your lifetime oscilloscope unless you get more professional in electronics and their happens the demand for larger bandwidth and other stuff.
Best usage of these beginner oscilloscopes
I don’t know what you are going to do with these scopes. Good luck for what you gonna do with them. I created the list of applications, which I think can be effectively done by the above listed scopes.
- Engineering undergraduate students, electricians
- Automotive diagnosis
- Camshaft/crankshaft correlation and reading signals from sensors
- Instrumentation work
- Robotic projects
- For playing around with pulse width modulation (PWM)
- Remote measurements
- Arduino and Raspberry Pi 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.
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.
Usage of an oscilloscope
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Oscilloscope is made of complex circuitry. The important part of the 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.
2. Sample Rate
- 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.
3. Memory depth
- 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
- 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Final words on best oscilloscopes
This is all that I want to share with you about the best beginner oscilloscope. I shared everything I want myself to be told.
Personally, I think, finding the best oscilloscope for beginners or for anyone 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.
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.
You can also check my other posts on recommending best resistor kits and lab power supply for beginners in 2019.
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.
Thank you and have a good life.