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inexpensive oscilloscope

LAST UPDATED: June 29th, 2020

Oscilloscopes are notoriously expensive. Whether you’re an enthusiast or a professional, you know how costly these machines can be. However, that doesn’t mean you need to break your wallet to get a good one.

In fact, there are several superb oscilloscopes out there that offer impressive signal processing and waveform representing prowess. You just need to know where to look.

As such, we scoured the market to find the best cheap oscilloscopes. After thorough research, we found eight units that stood out.

We’ll introduce you to these magnificent devices and teach you everything you need to know before you buy them. In case you want to know just how an expensive and a cheap unit differs, you’ll get to know that as well.

So, let’s not wait any longer and get down to the reviews!

Cheap Oscilloscopes Comparison 2020

Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Budget Oscilloscopes Review 2020

Cheap Oscilloscopes

As we’ve mentioned before, eight units stood out as the top-tier cheap oscilloscopes. So, let’s take a look at exactly what makes each of these units so special.

Rigol DS1054Z

Rigol DS1054Z

When it comes to quality and price, Rigol can’t be beaten. There’s a good reason why they are one of the most popular brands in the entire industry, especially for beginners. That’s because they are experts in delivering premium quality for an affordable price.

So, let’s take a look at what they can do.Starting off, we have to talk about the bandwidth. The DS1054Z has an impressive 50 MHZ bandwidth that offers you a ton of range when it comes to recording signals.

50 MHZ might not seem like much to some, but you get top tier Rigol quality to make up for that.
As such, it is one of the best-made oscilloscopes you’ll ever find. The device has four analog channels to bolster its utility.

This lets you receive signals from four sources simultaneously. When you’re gathering so much data, you’ll also want high memory as well.

This is because, the more waveforms a scope can record, the more data you can analyze. It’s especially important for a device with four channels. That’s why the Rigol DS1054Z offers 12 mpts memory.

Not enough for you? You can use a software key to upgrade it to 24 mpts as well. You can’t ask for more memory from a device that costs so little. Now, let’s take a moment to appreciate its sampling speed.

The more it has, the more signals it can capture per second, creating highly illustrative and detailed waveforms for analysis. How much does the DS1054Z have? It has an astounding 1 GSa/sec sampling rate that is more than adequate for any kind of hobby and lab work.

To utilize its hardware, the folks at Rigol made sure to include a handy software bundle for free. The software and the impressive 7-inch display make this an excellent option for anybody who’s looking for quality at a good price.

PROS

  • Fast 1 GSa/sec sampling speed
  • 12 mpts memory that’s upgradable to 24 mpts
  • Large high-resolution display
  • Can capture 30,000 waveforms
  • Free software built-in

CONS

  • Some of its functionalities are locked behind a paywall

Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL+

Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL+

Siglent is a brand you’ll often hear about whenever you look up quality oscilloscopes. That is simply because of the sheer quality they offer at such a reasonable price. The SDS1052DL+ is a prime example of magnificent quality scope with a plethora of functionalities at a very reasonable price.

What sets this unit apart from most is its compact design. It’s easy to carry as it does not weigh much, and yet it still possesses a wide range of hardware to match its utility. To start off, this device has a great display system.

It offers high resolution, so you can view the waveforms in maximum detail, allowing you to conduct a more thorough analysis. The O-scope needs to utilize this high resolution with a detailed report.

As such, the SDS1052DL+ offers 500 MS/sec real-time sampling speed on a channel. Therefore, you get to view thoroughly detailed waveforms on a pristine LCD display for maximum effect.

Speaking of channels, this unit offers 2. As a result, you can gather signals from 2 sources simultaneously. Each channel also has a recording length of 32 kpts.

So, you have high sample speed and memory on your side. The unit has a 50 MHz bandwidth. As such, it records a wide range of frequencies with relative ease.

Whether you’re trying to conduct circuit tests or lab tests, this unit will have your back. Coupled with the sample rate and channels, the model offers immense utility for you to use for any kind of task.

It’s got a lot of utility for a device that costs so low. The device adds a plethora of math functions and a built-in frequency counter as well. In addition, it also has automatic measurement functions for superior convenience. The scope even tops it all off with a USB and LAN interface.

PROS

  • A multitude of math and measurement features
  • Pristine LCD screen
  • USB and LAN interface capable
  • No drift on the display
  • Drivers are easy to install

CONS

  • The fan may be a bit noisy for some

Related Guide: Micsig Tablet Oscilloscope

SainSmart DSO212

SainSmart DSO212

Looking for a good handheld oscilloscope? Well, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that there are quite a few out there in the market. However, their portability comes at a cost. To try and match the efficiency of stationary models, they need to invest in highly compact hardware that drives up the price.

However, brands like SainSmart manage to offer an unbeatable deal when it comes to portable oscilloscopes. They offer high-grade quality hardware in small packages. The device itself is exceptionally light; it’s barely an issue to carry.

This way, you can use your device anywhere you need with next to no issues. If you do a lot of electrical work, you should always carry one of these devices with you. This lets you conduct necessary experiments on the go.

As such, it’s an essential piece of equipment that makes your life much easier. In addition, it is extremely portable, and it is small enough to carry in your pocket.

The device has a built-in USB flash-drive storage. This lets you save waveform data and transfer it elsewhere if you need to. You can record and read a good number of waveforms, allowing you to conduct superior analysis and also ensure you can transfer the data for future analysis and comparisons.

While its specifications might seem feeble compared to what the less portable models can offer, you must remember that this model is a portable unit. Considering its portability, its 10 MSa/s sampling speed is more than impressive. It is further complemented by the 1 MHz bandwidth.

And the device itself even offers an impressive sample memory depth as well. Since it’s portable, we have to look at how reliable it is.

Thankfully, the DSO212 will have your back with its 500 mAh battery. It lasts quite a while and requires minimal charging as well. As such, among cheap oscilloscopes, this is likely the best portable option.

PROS

  • Highly portable
  • Interactive user touch-capable user interface
  • Built-in 8 MB flash drive for added convenience
  • Very solid and durable
  • Possesses a plethora of features considering how small the device is

CONS

  • The small size might be inconvenient to some

Related Review: Oscilloscope under $1000 – Buying guide.

Hantek DSO5072P

Hantek DSO5072P

You’ll hardly ever find an oscilloscope that can pack in power and utility as well as the DSO5072P. It managed to bring forth an astounding display, powerful hardware, and a plethora of trigger modes in a cheap package. There’s no wonder why Hantek is such a well-reputed brand.

Firstly, we need to discuss the large 7-inch display. This gives you a lot more viewing space when it comes to analyzing the produced waveforms. The extra viewing space makes it exceptionally easy for you to go read and analyze the data through the high 800×480 resolution screen.

Coupled with some extra features, you get an extraordinary analyzing experience. As far as bandwidth goes, it has a lot considering its price. This unit offers 70 MHz for such a measly price that it’s an absolute must buy.

Moreover, it boasts a 1 GSa/sec sampling speed for extremely fast signal collecting. With this speed, the resulting waveforms remain extremely detailed. The high sampling rate prevents any signals from escaping, boosting the device’s accuracy as a result.

If you’re looking for a device that can give you long streams of data to analyze, then this oscilloscope has you covered.

How? Well, the device offers a 40k record length. So, you get lengthy waveforms to analyze and check. As a result, this is an excellent option for laboratories. Nevertheless, we aren’t done yet.

To maximize its utility, the device offers a plethora of trigger options for you to select. Each of these grants you a better understanding of the waveforms and lets you pick out and filter the information you need.

Your work becomes faster, and the analysis becomes more accurate. The trigger includes edge, pulse width, overtime, and many more. It’s really nothing short of a must-have.

PROS

  • The large display enables clear analysis
  • Trigger modes add plenty of conveniences
  • 40K record length
  • Powerful 70 MHz bandwidth and 1 GSa/sec sampling speed
  • Includes software to connect to the PC

CONS

  • The switches and capacitor feel somewhat lacking

Related Guide: Top 10 Oscilloscope under $500

SainSmart Mini DSO213

We’ve already reviewed a model from SainSmart just one entry ago. Coming from the same line-up as the DSO212, the DSO213 is a step up in more than one way. Being the successor, it has additional features that ascend it to newer heights. However, that ascension does make it a costlier model.

So, let’s take a close look at what makes this device so special. We have to take a moment to talk about its bandwidth. It’s hard to expect 15 MHz from a device as small and compact as this one. Moreover, it’s harder to expect it from a portable device this cheap.

It doesn’t end here. It’s got more in terms of specifications. The sample rate stands at 100 MSa/sec. This synergizes perfectly with the impressive bandwidth to drastically increase what this device can actually do.

As such, it is one of the strongest portable oscilloscopes for this price. However, strength isn’t all. It needs to add more to quality in order to land a spot on this list. That’s where it’s incredible UI and hardware come in.

The device has an excellent touch display that enables easy navigations throughout the device’s many smart menus. The colors are vivid and bright, allowing you to see every detail in much greater quality without any strain to your eyes.

This makes data analysis much simpler. It’s easy to connect and even easier to operate. Of course, there’s more that this pocket-sized oscilloscope can do. Like our previous portable oscilloscope review, it has a built-in 8 MB flash drive.

As such, you can save waveform data for later and make comparisons. And its 4k memory depth is sure to leave you satisfied as well. It doubles the battery life of the DSO212 with a whopping 1000 mAh battery. So, if you have the budget, then this should be the portable oscilloscope of your choice.

PROS

  • UI is highly user-friendly and intuitive
  • Very powerful for a portable unit
  • Compact enough to fit in your pocket
  • Long battery life
  • 8 MB flash drive for easy data saving

CONS

  • The manual is not so helpful

OWON XDS3104E

OWON XDS3104E

As great as portable units are, they have a fatal flaw; their screen sizes are measly. You’ll naturally want the best screens possible if you want to analyze long streams of waveforms. This is especially true if you need an oscilloscope for a laboratory setting.

That’s where OWON comes in. They don’t settle for the already large 7-inch screens the previous units have offered. The unit takes things further. With an 8-inch view, you have plenty of room to interpret waveforms and spot anomalies. And what’s better is the quality.

OWON made sure to utilize its larger screen size with a superb 800×600 resolution. These two features combined together make this device a treat for those who want clear viewing. There’s still more. The device utilizes an optional multi-touch screen.

With this, navigating through the many menus and finding the numerous features has never been easier. This further ties into just how user-friendly this device is. You’ll hardly ever feel like you’re lost.

And your hands are naturally guided to the settings you need to complete whatever you’re trying to do.
Whether it’s going through the multiple trigger option or utilizing the multi-interface integration feature, the XDS3104E has you covered.

Speaking of triggers, this unit has a lot of them. It includes a plethora of useful ones that you’ll find yourself using time and time again, such as edge, pulse, windows, logic, and a lot more.
And with each use, you become more and more accustomed to how to utilize each of the countless triggers, boosting your efficiency immensely as a result.

Finally, when it comes to raw power, it’s the golden standard at this price range. It has a 100 MHz bandwidth with an astounding 1 GSa/sec sampling rate. When you combine the widescreen, the plethora of trigger, and the massive 40M record length, then you have an O-scope very few can stand up to.

PROS

  • Superb display with interactive UI
  • A plethora of trigger options
  • Superb 40M record length
  • Very powerful bandwidth and sampling speed specifications
  • Many amenities included

CONS

  • If you don’t have a CD drive, then installing the software can be difficult

Tektronix TBS1052B

When looking for a good oscilloscope in a budget, you have to make some compromises. You can’t expect to buy industry-grade oscilloscopes with outstanding performance when restricted by a budget.

However, this oscilloscope can bring you close to the industry-grade for a very reasonable price.
Simply put, if you’re searching for a budget scope with the highest sampling speed, then this Tektronix unit has you covered. We’re talking about a device that offers 2 GSa/sec sampling speed.

That’s twice as much as the highest sample rate on the previous entries. It’s the ability to gather signals is simply astounding.

The waveforms become chalked full of detail as the device captures every single signal you send its way. The detail-rich waveforms are perfect for experimentation and lab uses.

To make the most out of its high sampling speed, the device has a 50 MHz bandwidth. It might not be the highest in the list, but it’s more than enough to utilize the high sample speed. The added bandwidth grants the unit a significant range in terms of frequency.

Not to mention that the device has a respectable 2.5kpts recording length per channel. The display is something to admire as well. You’re getting a 7-inch WVGA screen to go over the detailed waveforms. It makes analysis much more pleasant and allows you to find anomalies and points of interest faster and easier.

Moreover, the 800×480 resolution also lends to its superior display qualities. Tektronix’s TVS1052B offers plenty of supplementary features to help analyze. It includes a myriad of math and measurement features to help examine the waveforms.

There is a total of 34 automated measurement options to make the process even simpler.

PROS

  • Extremely high 2 GSa/sec sampling speed
  • Large display with a noteworthy resolution
  • Multitudes of automated measurement feature to assist in the evaluation
  • FFT function for superior analysis
  • Reliable trigger options

CONS

  • It’s not as user-friendly as it could be

Quimat Updated

Quimat Updated

Even the cheapest oscilloscopes can cost quite a bit. Considering how each of these entries boasts such advanced technology, it’s only natural that would be the case. However, if it’s still too much, or if you want to have an excellent portable backup scope, then this Quimat model is for you.

It’s quite possibly the cheapest unit on the list. Nevertheless, it is reliable for most functions. It’s almost astonishing how a device as small as this can be so convenient and capable when it comes to generating waveforms.

Quimat has discovered the perfect blend of hardware and software to create such a cheap but portable oscilloscope. There’s a lot it can do with relative ease.

Let’s start off by discussing its wide range of sensitivity. It stands at 5mv/div to 20v/div. This range makes garnering data significantly more accurate. The device also has a reliable memory system as its ability to store waveform data even after it’s turned off.

Also, it’s hard to expect such a feature from a handheld device such as this. The device also comes with several trigger options that make measurements and evaluations simple. This includes auto, single, and normal modes.

Another thing to note is that the device has an encoder that helps reduce the time it takes for parameterization. When a device this small and cheap offers so many features, it’s bound to be something special. The interface seems very simple, but that’s exactly what makes it so great.

There are a few buttons for each option and a dial to turn of adjustments. It’s so easy that even a novice can quickly learn how to handle this device with relative ease. Moreover, the color display does a great job of representing data despite how small it is.

PROS

  • Possibly the cheapest entry on the list
  • High range of sensitivity compared to similar devices
  • Encoder included
  • It is handheld and weighs just 100 grams
  • Very easy-to-use interface

CONS

  • It’s small and might lack some features you want

What to Look for in Budget Oscilloscopes

What to Look for in Budget Oscilloscopes

Now that you’ve been introduced to the best cheap scopes in the industry, it’s time to buy. However, you need to know a few details before you actually go ahead with the purchase. So, let’s take a look at what these are.

Bandwidth

This is pretty much an essential specification for any oscilloscope. It dictates the range of frequencies a unit can detect and properly analyze. So, if you’re out to analyze signals with high frequencies, then you’ll naturally need a device with high bandwidth. As such, make sure you take note of the scope’s bandwidth before you buy it.

Sampling Speed

The next detail to look out for is the sampling speed. It is the measure of how quickly the device can input samples per second. The higher it is, the more detailed the waveforms will be.

It prevents any samples from escaping, and as such, provides much greater accuracy. So, it goes without saying that it’s an essential part of any oscilloscope.

Trigger Modes

These let you filter out and focus on specific parts of the waveforms to enable much greater analysis. As such, they are a key part of the evaluation process. So, the more trigger modes a device has, the better it is for thorough examinations.

Channel Numbers

With more channels, you can input signals from multiple sources simultaneously. It’s essential for comparisons and detail. Normally, you’ll expect 2 or 4 channels for oscilloscopes at this range. So, if channels are important to you, go for a many as you can.

How Do Expensive and Cheap Oscilloscopes Differ

How Do Expensive and Cheap Oscilloscopes Differ

It’s no mystery that high-end oscilloscopes can cost upwards of $1,000. But why is that? Simply put, they are state-of-the-art devices meant to analyze high-tech and power-intensive devices.

They generally have higher channels, sampling speeds, and bandwidth as well. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to handle the demanding tasks they’re put through.

And they also have a plethora of extra trigger modes, math and measurement functions, and more. These models are meant for professionals who have much higher demands.

For DIYers, hobbyists, and others, it isn’t all that necessary. They have fewer features and lower specifications. However, it’s still usually more than enough to handle their purposes.

With advancements in technology, the boundary between cheap and expensive oscilloscopes are diminishing. Soon, maybe the best budget oscilloscope can rival higher-end ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we have some of the most commonly asked queries regarding the 8 best cheap oscilloscopes:

What is the most important specification?


It’s either the bandwidth or the sampling speed. Which one is more important depends on your needs.

Do all of these units have PC software?


Most do, but not all of them.

Can I find a budget model with over four channels?


Scopes, with over four channels, are considerably more expensive. So, as far as we know, it isn’t possible.

Are trigger modes really important?


In most cases, absolutely. If you want to thoroughly examine waveforms, they are downright essential.

Are handheld units good?


They serve their purpose as best as they can portably. We recommend keeping a handheld unit as a backup regardless of what you choose to buy.

Conclusion

You’ve learned everything you need to know. From what the best cheap oscilloscopes are, to what you need to look out for before you buy and how cheap and expensive models differ. We hope you’ll find your ideal scope at a reasonable price for your future prospects. Now go! The waveforms await your evaluations!

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