digital oscilloscope

Portable Oscilloscope

While it may seem that today’s portable oscilloscope is the all conquering hero of the hobby electronics enthusiast, or car electronics enthusiast, there are still several things to watch out for. Yes they are much lighter than the leviathans of days of yore, weighing in at a few pounds or even less, but theres no point in lightness if you cant get the job done.

For example, say youre building a Laser death ray and you just need the pulse to be within 20ns of the trigger pulse. You just need to be able to check that in the design lab. Otherwise Batman and Superman will be all over you, its embarrassing if those things dont work when you need them to. So key factors to asses:

The weight  is what defines portability, but where does one stop categorising something as portable and just leave it on the bench? This will depend on your application. If you need to visit many people to test equipment then youll aim for 1-2 pounds in weight.
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Anything more than that starts to become heavy. If youre working in a lab or basement then weight may not be so much of an issue, then a stable platform that doesnt slip and slide may be more important. Another thing to consider is how much battering will the scope take when its in your toolbox. Consider ruggedization.

Portable Oscilloscope features

Bandwidth This is crucial. Make sure the units sampling rate is good enough , especially if you are dealing with digital electronics. Car electronics will not require the same sort of bandwidth.

When it comes to time base choices, some portable oscilloscopes come with automated features, which are great when they work, but you always need that backup to manually adjust if the auto feature doesnt quite get the signal. Make sure there are suitable ranges available. For example if youre using a thermocouple or temperature probe, you may want a single screen sweep to last a couple of hours.

There are two fundamental ways to compare waveforms. You can plot both graphs and look at them or save the wave form and then capture the next one and compare the graphs on a computer. If you want to compare the oscilloscope screen, youll probably want dual inputs. These dual channel inputs are a feature of many scopes, some of the cheaper ones will not have this useful feature.

Consider the screen display. Is the screen resolution good enough; you want a nice smooth wave form, you may find color useful also, do you need a back-lit display for your working environment? Many engineers do. Back when I first used oscilloscopes Fast Fourier Transforms of the input form were not available. Now there are a myriad of functions you can apply to an input signal, including smoothing functions for noisy environments or even functions of your own choice. Now thats what  I call amazing!

Other features you may wish to consider:

1.Battery life time.

2.USB port for saving wave forms or controlling the oscilloscope from a computer.

3.Size of the dot matrix display

4.External trigger

5.Check which probes and clips are included in the package.

6.Brand name. Flukes are the best, but also tend be more expensive. There are however may good scopes which are not Fluke. Check them carefully for features and youll likely get a great portable oscilloscope for not very much money.