PC based oscilloscope

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Mashly, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. Mashly

    Thread Starter Member

    Apr 4, 2014
    Hi All,

    I was wondering if any of you had used a PC based oscilloscope and whether you thought they were any good. I am interested as I do not have the space (or money) for a decent sized unit at the moment. I am mainly interested in making audio equipment but may also want to check some I2C or SPI lines, I may eventually want to check some low frequency RF stuff but realise this will not work for that.

    Here are the ones I have been looking at,




    Thanks in advance for any advice,

  2. MrSoftware


    Oct 29, 2013
    I can't comment on PC based oscilloscopes, but a co-worker used a PC based logic analyzer for reading bus data and it was really handy. You can see the logic levels on the screen, as well as the interpreted data if it's a protocol that the analyzer knows about. It was really useful for debugging some SPI and I2C devices.
  3. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    This topic comes up here from time to time. Take a look here, here, here.
  4. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    Some of the LCD scopes are very slim - but not cheap.

    Things have come a long way since a typical CRO had to be wheeled around on a trolley, they're often given away as people upgrade to LCD scopes.

    One of the magazines I collect every month has regular ads for the Picoscope PC instruments - they're not what I'd call cheap, but you can get built in spectrum analyser or arbitrary waveform generator etc if you've got deep pockets.

    IMO: You have to spend a fair bit to get digital resolution that you can trust like the trace on an analogue instrument.
  5. Sensacell

    Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    I hate the PC based instruments- they are terrible for work-flow.

    You can buy a used real scope on E-bay for the same money- then re-sell it for the same when you upgrade.
  6. Alec_t

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 17, 2013
    Have you considered using a PC sound-card based scope? Obviously, it will be limited to monitoring low-amplitude signals (<~1V) in the ~20Hz-20kHz range, but it's better than nothing and costs very little.
  7. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    Last time I looked - there were freeware progs to download, and most motherboards have built in soundcard - so it can actually be free.

    If the limited bandwidth doesn't cramp your style - there's some pretty fancy DSP software about.
  8. bwilliams60

    Active Member

    Nov 18, 2012
    I have a Picoscope in my collection and they are very pricey but they really work well for the automotive industry that I use it in. I have been wanting to use it in an audio application that I have on the go but jusy havent got around to it yet. You canalso buy apps and plug ins for your cellphone that work not too badly.
  9. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    I vaguely remember an oscilloscope card project for the Gameboy - it was probably published by Elektor, but it was at least a decade ago and Gameboys must be rare as hen's teeth by now.
  10. MaxHeadRoom


    Jul 18, 2013
  11. Tonyr1084

    Active Member

    Sep 24, 2015
    I mostly agree with Sensacell on this. I have one in addition to my desktop scope. The desktop scope is quick and easy, but it's having troubles with the timing circuit. The PC scope has an advantage over my desktop in that it's like having a scope with memory. I can observe an event with the PC whereas with the desktop I can only watch it happen over and over with little opportunity to interact with it. Still, having to turn on the PC and waiting for the Hantek (the two channel PC base scope) to load up, the bother changing frequency and amplitude - all make for a bit of a hassle. The advantage is that I can see an event and measure it.

    I'm more apt to switch on my old CRT desktop scope. I may have to give it a whack from time to time to get the timescale to operate. I guess I need to get in there and find the bad solder joint or dirty switch. Oh, that's another thing the Hantek has an advantage over the CRT scope - no physical switches to manipulate.

    My CRT scope - I have to jump the X and Y inputs together in order to set a trigger. Otherwise, if observing a square wave (for instance) I have to hope it matches a sweep frequency. Setting it up to trigger from the X input is difficult as all get-go.

    Each has an advantage and a disadvantage. I HAVE the Hantek but I'm more likely to switch on my CRT scope. Faster and easier. And easy enough to observe slowly rising voltages. You can't do the with the Hantek. At least not that I've figured out how to so far.

    Oh, my PC based unit? I operate Windows XP. I absolutely HATE windows 7 or anything higher.
  12. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    Someone gave me a Tek 465 some years back - occasionally it needs a whack on the side to get it to come on.

    The manual came with it, but I couldn't find how to get the case open. So I just give it a thump when it needs one..............

    There was a Trio and a Philips in the same lot, both were fairly minor repairs.
  13. Tonyr1084

    Active Member

    Sep 24, 2015
    Probably needs a good cleaning. Sometimes I have to wiggle knobs to get a stable signal. But a whacking usually indicates a bad solder joint. I COULD open it up and chase down the problem but I have a project that has somehow managed to elude my time. I have been wanting to build this thing for several years but always seem to find time to do something else. And the project itself is not all the difficult. Simple op amp and a FET to drive a laser pointer. But this thread is not about that. And speaking of that project, I'll probably switch on the old XP and use that. My Hantek has two inputs whereas my old Techtronix has a single input.