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hobbyist oscilloscope

LAST UPDATED: May 2nd, 2020

If you’re the kind of person who spends their spare time debugging PWM signals or reading waves, then it’s high time you got yourself an oscilloscope meant precisely for hobbyists.

Not only are these cool to work with, but they’re also educational and super interesting to figure out. And if you have previous experience and looking for an upgrade to the old one, this article might just be what you need.

Best oscilloscope for hobbyists

The following list has been made with reviews of the six best oscilloscopes for hobbyists, no matter how experienced or serious you are.

Here we’ve not only mentioned the names and features but also included a detailed review along with all the minute details for getting just what you want. So what’re you waiting for? Read through and get the one you need.

Best HOBBYISTS Oscilloscopes Reviews

hobbyist oscilloscope review 2020

You’ll be spending quite a bit of getting a new oscilloscope, and naturally, you’ll have some expectations. To make sure the product doesn’t disappoint you afterward, we’ve compiled this review list that you can easily check out.

Bear in mind that to be forewarned is definitely being forearmed when buying a new gadget.

Rigol DS1054Z

Remember when experts used to suggest getting an oscilloscope with two channels? Well, the sky is the limit now. Because this scope actually has 16 different channels to let you read and compare waveforms.

Besides being versatile, this device has mixed-signal technology with high performance installed in it. The memory software in this device can be updated to catch readings of 30,000 wfms per second.

Its bandwidth is between the range of 100 to 500 MHz. And if power is what you need in terms of trigger functions, this might as well be your best match. These are perfect for hobbyists working in small or medium-sized labs.

You can find out small errors using this as it provides high resolution and proper signal details thanks to its amazing build. It can give details up to 24 Mpts and detects issues from multiple digital wave streams.

This oscilloscope can pinpoint various sections of a waveform very easily and quickly. This grey colored beauty weighs 6.6 pounds and is mostly built with plastic material.

But that is never an issue or reason to undermine this item since it’s been one of the most loved products for the past four years. The Ultra Vision feature gives it a memory depth of 12 Mpts that is upgradeable to 24 using a software key.

And the best thing is, the software bundle is included now with the whole unit. It comes with 2 to 4 sets of probes. If you’re an experienced hobbyist, you’ll soon realize while using this that it’s very intuitive.

The screen’s great due to its size and brightness. You’ll get several trigger modes to play around with as well. Overall, it’s a pretty good gadget, given the price point and size.

PROS

  • Lightweight and compact in size

  • Easy to use and intuitive design
  • Makes low noise

  • Has a multi-level grading waveform display feature

CONS


  • The user interface for this device might be slow at times

Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E

This o-scope is perfect for any tech enthusiast looking for something with a wider bandwidth. It has a bandwidth of 200 MHz and can record anything with a length of 14 Mpts. Not only is this good for accuracy, but also it’s suitable for identifying complicated problems on devices.

The display for this product is 7-inch and LCD. It has a zoom-in function that allows closer inspection of specific areas for better evaluation. Since there’s the color temperature measuring technology installed in this, it can detect events in two different colors depending on how frequent they are.

It’s not a portable device. In fact, this weighs 7.2 pounds, and it’s definitely not lightweight. But on the bright side, it’s awesome for students, amateurs, and hobbyists as they endeavor in collecting data and tweaking with circuits and sensors.

There are more than 38 automated patterns in the control panel for your ease of use. And if you’re worried about navigating your way on figuring out how this works, it has 10 types of shortcuts that are useable with one button.

On the downside, users do complain about the calibration and probes for this o-scope. So it’s better to keep this in mind if you’re just starting out with oscilloscopes. All the features come unlocked, and it’s super simple to use.

Being able to record up to 400,000 wfms per second, it can save low-probability events as well. The layout of dials for this machine is easy to learn for a newbie. Its math functions are quite good. And apart from the probes limitations, there aren’t any major issues with this item.

PROS


  • It has a nice big display with the zoom-in function
  • It has fast refresh rates

  • All the functions for this come unlocked

  • Good accuracy up to points of 14M and has history function for

CONS


  • It has only two channels and no HDMI port

Related Review: Handheld oscilloscope buying guide.


Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL

Having two different channels and a high-resolution screen, making it to the third of our list, is this product by Siglent. This is a product weighing almost 7 pounds. It’s small and suitable for both experts and newer users.

If you want something for general experiments and work procedures, this is the one. When you use the horizontal axis as a reference in reading on channel 2, you can easily perform the function of a sweep generator.

If you feed the device from an audio generator, its calibration is spot on. You can save a recorded waveform in this device by connecting it to a USB. It’s also possible to save the files into a comma-separated value spreadsheet.

This new and improved version of an old model has 32 different types of auto measurements for the user’s convenience. It has a five parameter display along with a zoom function.

After all, what’s the point in using an oscilloscope if you can’t focus on a particular wave the way you want? There’s even a pass or fail function meant to test readings.

The key features for this o-scope are its playback capacity, waveform record, and the real-time counting display. Since there’s six-digit hardware for counting frequency, it’s quite accurate and precise.

Also, the length of this item is 12.7 inches, and the height is 6.2 inches. It comes in whitish-grey colors and a color display. Advanced triggers are present in the menu for isolating certain signals as well. The maximum sample rate of real-time sampling is 500MS per second for channel 1.

Moreover, the same channel has a record length of 32 Kpts for getting a detailed reading of the waves. And as for pros and cons, the basics are mentioned here.

PROS


  • Quick operation and good stability

  • It has an on-screen menu for setting it up easily

  • Has good frequency counting capacity

  • History function present for playback and storage

CONS


  • Its complicated interface may confuse beginners

Hantek HT6022BE20Mhz

Coming in next on our list is this benchtop style oscilloscope from Hantek. It comes in black color and weighs just 1.54 pounds making it a pretty good hobbyist oscilloscope. So, if you’re here for a portable device, go ahead and grab it.

This is an extremely durable item meant for both the pros and the newbies. It has 3 different trigger modes. These are normal, auto, and single triggers. The types for the triggering include both rising and falling edge.

You have options for sampling selection as well. The rate is 48 MS, and the accuracy is almost spot on. And the error percentage is only 3% and that too at exceptional times.

You’ll get this item packed in a box with an invisible layer containing the probes and the CD with instructions. It comes with a user manual, clip probes, and a USB cord. This product has quite good math functions installed in it. It includes FFT, addition, division, multiplying, and subtracting features.

Moreover, you can easily connect and run this with Windows 7, Linux, NT, XP, or VISTA. With this, it’s possible to save the waveform images in the JPG or BMP format as well as keep the record in an MS Word or Excel file.

As for bandwidth, this little device has a pretty good one of 20 MHzShot. Since it’s so lightweight, you’ll not only save shipping costs but also save time since it’s a pretty quick operating gadget. There’s a high refresh rate and high sampling rate and amazing software support.

Furthermore, it’s the most suitable for using notebook computers. You can use it for business purposes as well. There’s no external power source for this, and it’s super easy to utilize. Not only is this going to save you money, but it’s also going to meet your expectations quite easily too.

PROS

  • It’s portable and lightweight

  • Compatible with laptops and computers

  • It comes with a USB port and cord


  • Durable and has 3% accuracy, which is enough for the hobbyists

CONS


  • The length of the USB cable is short

SainSmart DSO212

In the case of portability, another recommended o-scope is this one from SainSmart. It’s versatile and easy to use. Whether you are using it for electrical engineering or educational purposes or just some weird experimentation to meet your curiosity, this will do the job.

It’s affordable and comes in a stylish black color. The display is quite big and almost covers the entire surface of the device. One might even mistake it for a smartphone of sorts. The coupling in this portable machine is DC/AC. Its screen resolution is 320 x 240, and the built is spectacular.

With this, you’ll get three different channels, of which two are analog, and one is an operation channel. Its analog bandwidth is 1MHz. In terms of maximum sampling, the memory depth is 8K.

While this isn’t much compared to many other devices, keep in mind that this is a rather small device meant for the hobbyist. The price point is also a factor.

If you want something with more memory, it’s advisable to spend a bit more and get a bigger o-scope. It has a micro USB port and two apps installed into it. The battery you’ll need for running this is a 500 mAh that you can easily find in hardware stores.

There are about six synchronous modes – auto, single, normal, none, scan value, and average. Counting the weight of the battery, this device weighs only 90 grams.

So well befitting its name, it is possible to carry this in your pocket. The maximum sample rate for this product is 10 MSa per second. Its screen type is TFT LCD, and the size of the display is 2.8 inches.

The trigger modes are two – ascending and descending edge trigger modes. This is why, despite the small size, this gadget is so handy and fun to use.

PROS

  • Portable and very lightweight
  • It has a big display screen
  • It has a micro USB port
  • The batteries are replaceable

CONS


  • You’ll need to buy new probes for it

Hantek DSO5072P

Don’t go mistaking this for microwave or a radio though it looks a bit like one. It’s just an oscilloscope for measuring waves. This product from Hantek is one of the most unique-looking ones out there. It has an LCD display and weighs just 4.9 pounds.

As for the basic features, this has all the usual ones, along with some specialties. It provides software for PC real-time analysis and has a record length of up to 40K. Four math functions, including standard FFT, is quite good for accuracy.

The bandwidth is 70 MHz, and it has two channels. And the 7-inch color display can give readings with an accuracy of 3-4% in the normal and acquisition modes. There are multiple trigger types available in this device. Those include the video, pulse, slope, alternative, edge, and overtime triggers.

Input impedance for this is 1 M Ohm. Since the time base accuracy is 50 ppm, it’s very precise and able to diagnose minute errors. If you’re looking for an alternative to a DMM in the form of a scope, you’ll find this one pleasantly surprising.

Moreover, as this is a multi-tester, you can do real-time readouts of many measurements right next to the waveform display. The display is super easy to read and very clear. One of the most intriguing things about this gadget is that it’s possible to set the trigger on pulse width.

It’ll get readings by being triggered for both smaller and larger pulses within the range of 5% of what you set up. We won’t lie – there are some issues with this product.

The memory doesn’t work sometimes, and the chip it comes with is somewhat lacking. But if you’re careful about getting it from a good source and check beforehand, it’s going to serve you well.

Again, there are times when even after connecting it to the PC, the scope doesn’t quite recognize it. The software is at fault here. But since the GUI for this is super intuitive, there’s really no urgency of controlling the device from your PC.

PROS


  • The large display is easy to read

  • Good bandwidth with two channels
  • Lightweight and portable

  • The GUI is very intuitive and easy to control

CONS


  • The memory doesn’t work sometimes

What to Look for in an Oscilloscope for Hobbyist

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN OSCILLOSCOPE

There are some things you should keep in mind when you go get your o-scope from the store. The list can be endless, but we’ve mentioned just the most important points any top hobbyist oscilloscope must possess.

Bandwidth

While many think the more the bandwidth, the better the performance of the device, it’s not necessarily true. A gadget with more bandwidth is most likely to pick up false signals and unwanted waveforms while testing.

So, it’s better to get what you actually need. For the average hobbyist, the bandwidth should be at least twice the maximum frequency of the signal transmitted. Of course, if you want to work with high-frequency sounds, you need something of a larger bandwidth than the average.

Application Support and Operation

Before you go and grab the most popular scope in the market, ask yourself one thing. For what purpose do you need the o-scope? What are you actually going to measure? The answer to this question will determine which one you should buy.

Some manufacturers provide extra applications as support for a specific function. They even give software packages that specialize in measurements, analysis, or reporting. This makes things quite easy and simple for someone who has little experience with these gadgets.

Connection Options

Does the item have Bluetooth? Is it compatible with the PC you have or the version of Windows you use? Check out the graphics card connector of the device and see whether it is suitable for an external monitor.

Some manufacturers provide options for transferring data to make MS Excel or Word files or even printing directly by connecting data to your printer. Many of these gadgets nowadays have slots for memory cards as well.

Display

While it may seem trivial at first, once you get to work, you’ll realize just how important a clear bug screen really is. Look for ones with an LCD color display.

Unless you have really sharp eyes and don’t need to focus on minute details of readings for your work, you won’t need a larger size of a display. But for the serious hobbyists who always like to push the limits and get to the nitty-gritty details, a 7 to 8-inch display is a must.

Price

Since it’s your pocket, you need to be conscious of what’s worth it and what’s not. Don’t go spending thousands for something you might get on sale for half the price. Also, good name brands might cost more, but their products do last a lot more than your average ones.

So, decide what you want first. If budget is your priority, then there are lots of portable digital scopes in the market. We’ve enlisted some super budget-friendly devices here as well. So pick one out and have fun.

Differences between Portable and Bench-Top Oscilloscopes

If we were to list all the various categories of oscilloscopes, we could go on for days. But since you don’t have all day and there’s no point in stating information that won’t be useful, we’ve stuck to the main ones.

Benchtops and portable types of oscilloscopes are what we’re going to discuss about. And while the name says it all, there’s a lot more to the types than meets the eye.

Portable

Firstly, portable devices are, obviously, perfect for all the busy-bodies out there that love to be on the go at all times. Since they’re small, they can be carried around in pockets or backpacks without worry. Hobbyists usually prefer these over bench tops merely for their size and weight.

Portable products in the market cost lesser than bigger ones. Companies like SainSmart and Hantek make amazing portable o-scopes that are handy and easily utilized.

Benchtop

In contrast, the benchtop devices are perfect for the ones looking to experiment in class or do small projects. While portable devices are usually battery-powered, the benchtop ones tend to require an external power outlet.

They have USB ports and interfaces for connecting to electricity. When using this, you’ll need proper access to electricity in your location.

The ones who are professionals and quite serious about this hobby use these more often. Some of the benchtop oscilloscopes are quite bulky, but there are a few lightweight ones out there. They are suitable for sensing higher frequency waveforms and sensitive data recording.

Oscilloscope Brands

OSCILLOSCOPE BRANDS

Here’s a list of the top brands for osciHere’s a list of the top brands for oscilloscopes in the market now.lloscopes in the market now.

Rigol

You’ve probably guessed it by now. Rigol is the most popular brand of today and quite justly on the top of our list. This Chinese-based company has been serving customers with efficiency since 1998. They have produced various high-quality devices for testing and sampling ever since their establishment.

Today they have outlets in the US and Europe. So you can easily get your hands on one of their coveted products from your home state. They are a leading name in the research and development arena of the globe and always encourage users to provide feedback and give performance reports after checking out their gadgets.

Siglent

While many people talk about Rigol, this brand has its own definite fan base. Decent value, high quality, and modern multidimensional features – Siglent makes sure to give you all of it. This brand started out in its first o-scope market in 2002. And while their products lacked variation at the time, it’s not the case today.

They have a wide range of testing devices to choose from now, providing some of the best budget oscilloscopes out in stores. Handheld, portable, benchtop, arbitrary waveform generators to digital multimeters – you name it. They have it all.

As their main target audience are the students, amateurs, and tech-geeks, they launch various competitive oscilloscopes every now and then.

So for anyone looking to get a reliable sampler for their science experiments at a good price, this one’s the brand to choose.

Hantek

If you’ve been in the tech industry for some time, you’ve probably heard about the Hantek brand. This brand began experimenting with USB o-scopes since the late 90s and has broken the boundaries of labs quite a few times.

Their gadgets have made it possible for the hobbyists and pros to step out of their comfort zone of labs and try reading waves and circuits anywhere they go.

Paying attention to what their customers need, they’ve produced plug-and-play USB o-scopes in 2001 and have set up sources in Europe and the States.

Not only are their devices well known for being high quality, but these have some unique features out there.

SainSmart

While this brand doesn’t exclusively produce measurement scopes, their gadgets are all top-notch. They produce everything from sensors to 3D printers and oscilloscopes.

The brand is best known for its portable and handheld gadgets. If you’re a sucker for DIY crafting and projects, you’ll love them.

They have amazing DIY kits that are super affordable and allow people to experiment and test their own inventions easily.

Frequently Asked Questions

oscilloscope frequently asked questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked queries regarding the best oscilloscopes:

How many types of oscilloscopes are there?


There are mainly two types – digital and analog o-scopes. But there are 5-6 other types like cathode, anode, portable, benchtop, etc.

Can I use an oscilloscope to measure high-frequency signals?


Yes, you can. But you’ll need one that has a large bandwidth for doing so.

What does ‘Triggering” mean for an oscilloscope?


It’s basically exactly what it sounds like. Triggering an o-scope means having it catch up and pick up signals from a certain point in a certain situation. That gets displayed on the screen.
There are many trigger types for the devices available nowadays, and many allow the user to control what triggers the device and what doesn’t.

How do I choose an oscilloscope?


We’ve included a list of the things you need to check when buying your first oscilloscope. The buying guide has been specifically made to let you choose the best one, so go check it out!

What bandwidth do I need as a hobbyist?


As a hobbyist who probably isn’t looking for tampering with technology for serious work purposes, you can settle on an average bandwidth. That’s anywhere with at least twice more than the frequency of the signal transmitted.

Take a look at the maximum frequency of the signals involved in your project and choose a scope with the bandwidth that’s five times higher than that.

Final Words

As exciting as reading signals can get, the perfect measuring device can take that to a whole new level. So with our buying guide and the 6 best oscilloscopes for hobbyists that we’ve mentioned here, you’ll be pretty much set to go and discover whatever your machine waves have to offer.

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