Shopping for a Scope...

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
Hello.

I am getting ready to buy a scope for general use and have just about settled on the Keysight DSOX1204G.

Is the consensus this is a good choice? Are there hidden problems? Are there better choices in this class?
 

twohats

Joined Oct 28, 2015
141
Hello.

I am getting ready to buy a scope for general use and have just about settled on the Keysight DSOX1204G.

Is the consensus this is a good choice? Are there hidden problems? Are there better choices in this class?
Hi,
Do you really need a function generator?
You would get more bandwidth for your money, with a stand alone 'scope.
Some recent posts on this forum recently, asking similar questions.
Good luck, Twohats..
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
Hello.

Yes, the function generator was one of the reasons I was interested in this model. I could buy a standalone generator, but the utility of having something right on the front panel to trigger and drive stuff seems quite good.

200 MHz should be fine for this scope, if I need more I will buy something in addition. This is a sort of bench utility scope for design and troubleshooting. I do expect, eventually, to do some work at higher frequencies, but much higher, so it will be good to have this as well.

Before I left my last job, I had a bench with what I needed, and access to pretty much unlimited test gear. I am setting up a bench for myself now.

Thanks for the answer, I'm hoping some people have hands on with this scope, or alternatives in the class.
 

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
25,645
Keysight was the original Hewlett-Packard company so I would expect the scope to be good quality, since HP gear was first rate.
But I have no experience with them lately.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
Yes, HP → Agilent → Keysight.

I used an HP scope for a long time, it was quite good. I know I am paying more for the Keysight over some very good value brands, but I do trust it.

The capabilities of even modest scopes today is pretty amazing.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
22,084
If you do not have much experience using an oscilloscope I do not see any good reasons for buying an expensive scope. You can buy a 2-channel 100MHz digital scope for under US$300.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
I have experience with a scope, and I have reasons for wanting four channels and 200 MHz. I know that I want those specifications, I just don't know what the best choice in my budgetary price range might be.

After a lot of research, I have settled on this model, but I wanted some due diligence feedback from people that might have more experience with current models than I do.
 

ErnieM

Joined Apr 24, 2011
8,058
I do test engineering at my job. First rate company that is not afraid to spend on good equipment.

We use lots of Keysight equipment, including their scopes. Good stuff.
 

Wuerstchenhund

Joined Aug 31, 2017
189
Hello.

I am getting ready to buy a scope for general use and have just about settled on the Keysight DSOX1204G.

Is the consensus this is a good choice? Are there hidden problems? Are there better choices in this class?
Yes, there are. The Siglent SDS1204X-E.

Don't get me wrong, Keysight makes some really great scopes (although not everything is great, Keysight has also made some kit with inherent design flaws), and the DSOX1204G is a decent entry-level scope (we got a few as freebies when buying larger scopes), but it is very expensive for what it is and comes with only 1Mpts sample memory (and thanks to the MegaZoom ASIC, depending on how many channels are active this 1Mpts will quickly reduce to 1/4th, i.e. 250kpts, in many situations) which in 2019 quite frankly is a sad joke for a scope costing >$1k. In addition, it can only do FFTs up to 64k (which is poor), and most features like Bode plot are pretty basic. The included probes are also pretty poor, too, although at least this problem can be solved with little money (but at that price, this shouldn't be necessary).

With the DSOX1204G, you are pretty much paying for the Keysight name here for a scope that cuts too many corners and which is made in China like everything else.

In this class, I'd have a look at the Siglent SDS1204X-E. Not only is it much cheaper ($750), it comes with 14Mpts sample memory, can do FFTs up to 1Mpts, and has more advanced features than the DSOX1204G. Even the serial decoders, which are a paid-for option with the Keysight DSO-X1204G, are free with the Siglent.

As to the built-in signal generator, it's money down the drain unless you really need that all-in-one package. It's performance is poor and the functionality very limited. If you go for the Siglent SDS1204X-E then you could get a SDG1032X generator which can be controlled from the scope as well and which will give you much better signal quality and performance on 2 channels. And you'd still pay a lot less for that package than for a DSO-X1204G.

Don't get sucked in by the brand name. Look at the whole package.
 
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Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
Yes, there are. The Siglent SDS1204X-E
Thanks for this, it is exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping for.

One ot the problems in choosing a scope is knowing the difference—without being able to get my hands on them—between the feature list and the usable performance.

As I said above, I can see there are a lot of excellent value brands (e.g.: Rigol, Siglent, Hantek, etc.) but I can’t tell if the performance of the extended features makes them useful. Most reviews don’t help much.

I have to admit that the Siglent name itself put me off, being an obvious reference to “Agilent”, but it did seem to be a decent product. Your endorsement helps a lot. It does seem to have a superior feature set and the price is certainly better.

The function generator doesn’t have to be integrated, though it appears they’ve got some sort of firmware upgrade in addition hardware option for it (I really need to untangle the options).

Built-in Ethernet is a plus and saves money, WiFi is an interesting option, but it requires a dongle and unless it’s quite small it would seem to be an awkward thing to have on a tight bench which mine is likely to be.

I’m investigating this one more carefully now and may well end up with it so I specially appreciate your time to spell it out for me.

Thanks again.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
I forgot to mention that the mixed signal possibilities are certainly interesting though I wasn’t going to try to wedge them in to my original budget. Because of the artificial limitations imposed by license-based features, it’s really hard to tell at first what is really buying more, and what is simply licensing an upgrade.

I doubt there are many people who would say they like paying for hardware that can do much more but is crippled by inferior firmware (or even just unflipped bits). It is like the early mainframe memory “upgrades” which were nothing more than additional fees to access memory already in the machine, it feels wrong.

Giving the savings on the main scope puchase, I may just end up with the unexpected bonus of an MSO, which would be useful.

Looking at the Siglent function generator range, it looks like I could even get a very good arb within the original budget for just the scope.

Once again, thanks for your experience.
 

Sensacell

Joined Jun 19, 2012
2,623
Nowadays it almost seems that the cheap china gear (read "Rigol") wins.

After my $9000.00 Tek scope died and I had to pay $3000.00 to have it repaired, the whole equation started to shift in my mind.
I could have bought the equivalent or better scope for the price of repair.
 

Wuerstchenhund

Joined Aug 31, 2017
189
Thanks for this, it is exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping for.

One ot the problems in choosing a scope is knowing the difference—without being able to get my hands on them—between the feature list and the usable performance.

As I said above, I can see there are a lot of excellent value brands (e.g.: Rigol, Siglent, Hantek, etc.) but I can’t tell if the performance of the extended features makes them useful. Most reviews don’t help much.
In the entry-level, aside from the big brands there are pretty much ony two contenders that are worth considering, which are Rigol and Siglent.

From Rigol, it's the <$400 Rigol DS1054z which is a killer, because it's the cheapest 4ch scope that with some hacking (Google 'Riglol') can have all its optional features enabled, and which via the same way can have its BW increased to 100MHz (or in reality, more like 130MHz). Because it's been on the market for a few years now the firmware is also pretty mature. It pretty much marks the bottom end for a real scope that is no toy.

Siglent on the other hand has come up with a series of entry-level istruments like the SDS1000X-E Series of scilloscopes, which are slightly more expensive than the Rigol DS1054z but which offer great performance and many useful features.

Both Rigol and Siglent scopes come with 3yr warranty.

The rest of the cheap names, like Hantek, Owon etc are pretty much cheap crap with often bug-ridden firmware. I'd recommend not to go there.

I have to admit that the Siglent name itself put me off, being an obvious reference to “Agilent”, but it did seem to be a decent product. Your endorsement helps a lot. It does seem to have a superior feature set and the price is certainly better.
It may sound similar to Agilent (although there's really no danger to mix both names up, for that they would have to call themselves 'Aigilent' or something like that), but Siglent has been around for a while. Originally their products were plagued by software problems, but they improved their processes and later products came to market in much more mature state. Siglent's strength is that it actively listens to user input, and has made many changes and added a lot of new functions just because of user requests.

The function generator doesn’t have to be integrated, though it appears they’ve got some sort of firmware upgrade in addition hardware option for it (I really need to untangle the options).
Like pretty much everything with Keysight, it's a software option that requires an additional (paid-for) license.

Built-in Ethernet is a plus and saves money, WiFi is an interesting option, but it requires a dongle and unless it’s quite small it would seem to be an awkward thing to have on a tight bench which mine is likely to be.
The WiFi dongle is actually a TP-Link micro dongle that barely extrudes from the USB port. But I agree, WiFi is a bit ackward option, but at least it's there if you need it.

I’m investigating this one more carefully now and may well end up with it so I specially appreciate your time to spell it out for me.

Thanks again.
No problem, that's what the forum is there for.


Nowadays it almost seems that the cheap china gear (read "Rigol") wins.

After my $9000.00 Tek scope died and I had to pay $3000.00 to have it repaired, the whole equation started to shift in my mind.
I could have bought the equivalent or better scope for the price of repair.
I'm sure you could have got a better scope for the money even when the Tek was new. Tektronix has built up a great reputation back in the old days through their analog scopes, however when technology shifted to digital scopes, Tektronix scopes were best case mediocre but more often than not just awful. In addition, over the years under Danaher, innovation has taken a nose dive as has support quality, and after they became free of Danaher their new scopes (TBS2000, MSO5, MSO6) were still poor, with bug-ridden or even unfinished (TBS2000) firmware and an awkward UI (MSO5, MSO6).

Not everything from Tektronix is as poor as their scopes, the RTSAs (Real-Time Spectrum Analyzers) are very good, as are their high-end AWGs.

We buy lots of test equipment, but from Tektronix only AWGs. Most of our scopes come from Keysight or from the company that invented the DSO, LeCroy, plus there are a few R&S scopes, all which make scopes that are superior to any Tektronix DSO ever made.

Tek's last niche is the EDU market and government contract, and even in the former it gets harder because Rigol and Siglent making inrods there, too (and these days the latter rarely specifies Tektronix equipment).

A good example why it's not a good idea to rely on a brand's laurels from three decades ago. Things can change quickly.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,369
Yes, HP → Agilent → Keysight.
Why would a brand with such overwhelming (and mostly positive) brand recognition, keep changing their name? It seems to me like the opposite of a good business idea, repeated.

I'm sure you could have got a better scope for the money even when the Tek was new. Tektronix has built up a great reputation back in the old days through their analog scopes, however when technology shifted to digital scopes, Tektronix scopes were best case mediocre but more often than not just awful. In addition, over the years under Danaher, innovation has taken a nose dive as has support quality, and after they became free of Danaher their new scopes (TBS2000, MSO5, MSO6) were still poor, with bug-ridden or even unfinished (TBS2000) firmware and an awkward UI (MSO5, MSO6).

Not everything from Tektronix is as poor as their scopes, the RTSAs (Real-Time Spectrum Analyzers) are very good, as are their high-end AWGs.

We buy lots of test equipment, but from Tektronix only AWGs. .
You seem very knowledgeable about these things. Do you know anything about the Tek TPS2000B? The battery power, small form factor, 4 isolated channels, and ability to easily take power measurements have kept it on my long-term wish list for years. I would be using it for troubleshooting Variable Frequency motor drives and other high power switching devices in the field. I own the Fluke 190-204A/M/S 4ch 200mhz scopemeter which has 4 isolated channels but not the nifty plugins for power calculations. I'm not impressed with it. I wonder if I would be even less impressed with the Tek.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
Why would a brand with such overwhelming (and mostly positive) brand recognition, keep changing their name? It seems to me like the opposite of a good business idea, repeated.
HP spun off their test gear and biotech into Agilent, Agilent spun off the test gear into Keysight.

It was to specialize.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,369
HP spun off their test gear and biotech into Agilent, Agilent spun off the test gear into Keysight.

It was to specialize.
Thanks for the added details but I still don't see the logic in it. I'm not arguing with you; maybe I'm arguing with HP. I'm not sure.

Consider a company like Samsung. They make everything from drill ships to RAM chips, and they do it all under one name: Samsung. They have a pretty good reputation and I would wager that they could start selling Samsung cars in the USA tomorrow and people would probably buy them without much hesitation because of the name. Now how much sense would it make for them to take their cell phones which already have a huge share of the market under the ubiquitous Samsung name, and "spin them off" under a different name that will take take consumers years to once again grow fond of (twice)?
 

Wuerstchenhund

Joined Aug 31, 2017
189
Why would a brand with such overwhelming (and mostly positive) brand recognition, keep changing their name? It seems to me like the opposite of a good business idea, repeated.
As Yaakov said this was because HP had spun off the T&M and Biotech divisions, and later Agilent spun off the T&M Division. HP (for good or worse) saw its main business in computers, and later Agilent saw it's main business in Biotech, so the T&M Division had to move each time.

I agree that the name change was a bit silly, but the main thing is that the equipment they make is still very good, as is the support. Even though you really pay through the nose for that.

You seem very knowledgeable about these things. Do you know anything about the Tek TPS2000B? The battery power, small form factor, 4 isolated channels, and ability to easily take power measurements have kept it on my long-term wish list for years. I would be using it for troubleshooting Variable Frequency motor drives and other high power switching devices in the field. I own the Fluke 190-204A/M/S 4ch 200mhz scopemeter which has 4 isolated channels but not the nifty plugins for power calculations. I'm not impressed with it. I wonder if I would be even less impressed with the Tek.
Well, the TPS2000B is pretty much just the isolated and battery powered version of the old TDS2000B which by now is almost an antique. You get a measly 2.5kpts of sample memory, which also means your sample rate will drop fast at longer time bases. The built-in functions are very basic and the optional features like Power Measurements can't hold a candle to any modern scope.

Unfortunately, there aren't many scopes with isolated inputs and battery power, so choice is much more limited. The best option in this class is probably the Rohde & Schwarz ScopeRaider, a handheld scope with isolated inputs, up to 50Mpts memory in segmented mode, a very nice display and 10bit vertical resolution (the TPS2000B is, like most scopes, an 8bit scope). The ScopeRaider can be equipped with MSO option (8bit) as well as options for serial decode (UART, I2C, CAN/CAN-FD, LIN, SENT etc), an advanced trigger package, Harmonics analysys and much more. Prices are similar to the TPS2000B.

Keysight has its U1600 Series of handheld scopes with isolated inputs, although these are much more basic than the R&S ScopeRaider.

For tighter budgets there are also the Siglent SHS1000 Series of handheld scopes. Like the Keysight U1600, these scopes are more basic but come with isolated inputs and 2Mpts of sample memory, with prices starting at $1259.


Good question.
I never could figure out why Datsun became Nissan in the U.S. :confused:
Probably because most Datsuns rusted faster than the drove, so to get rid of the reputation of making rust buckets they had to change the name.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,280
Thanks for the added details but I still don't see the logic in it. I'm not arguing with you; maybe I'm arguing with HP. I'm not sure.

Consider a company like Samsung. They make everything from drill ships to RAM chips, and they do it all under one name: Samsung. They have a pretty good reputation and I would wager that they could start selling Samsung cars in the USA tomorrow and people would probably buy them without much hesitation because of the name. Now how much sense would it make for them to take their cell phones which already have a huge share of the market under the ubiquitous Samsung name, and "spin them off" under a different name that will take take consumers years to once again grow fond of (twice)?
All of those Samsung divisions are still part of Samsung. Keysight is NOT part of Agilent and Agilent is NOT part of HP. They were spun off as completely separate companies. Since they are different companies, they are legally required to have different names.

But even leaving the legal issues aside, why would the parent let the company that was spun off keep the same name?

If you built up a company, say Strantorix, into a highly reputable brand and then decided to spin off a division (for whatever reason) so that that division was no longer a part of your organization, meaning that you no longer had any control over what they do or how they do it, would you allow them to keep using the Strantorix name even knowing that a few years from now they could start putting out crappy stuff or get involved with shady business practices and that would sully the Stantorix name even though none of your remaining business divisions had anything to do with it?
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,369
All of those Samsung divisions are still part of Samsung. Keysight is NOT part of Agilent and Agilent is NOT part of HP. They were spun off as completely separate companies. Since they are different companies, they are legally required to have different names.

But even leaving the legal issues aside, why would the parent let the company that was spun off keep the same name?

If you built up a company, say Strantorix, into a highly reputable brand and then decided to spin off a division (for whatever reason) so that that division was no longer a part of your organization, meaning that you no longer had any control over what they do or how they do it, would you allow them to keep using the Strantorix name even knowing that a few years from now they could start putting out crappy stuff or get involved with shady business practices and that would sully the Stantorix name even though none of your remaining business divisions had anything to do with it?
You must forgive me; I've just come out of a very confusing relationship. The company I used to work for was owned by another company who was owned by a holdings company who owned several hundreds of other companies, which were effectively one giant multi-monopoly under hundreds of names. Under that company I saw splits, mergers, 3-way splits and 3-way mergers, etc., mostly confined to weird marriages and divorces of the companies owned by the holdings company. The very company I worked for, created two new companies out of thin air and then later that same year, merged them together. That's the kind of shenanigans I had in mind when reading the words "spin off." I didn't understand it when I worked there and I don't understand it now. I hadn't even considered that normal companies sometimes sell off a division of their company, which is no longer is part of the company.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
You must forgive me; I've just come out of a very confusing relationship.
Acquisitions and mergers may or may not be voluntary acts, spin offs are. The good reason to spin off a division is to free that part of a business to focus on something that might vary form the core competencies of the larger company. It’s generally not a sale, investors in the main company get tax free distributions of stock from the new company. Generally, both the main and the new company see improved performance after the spin off.

Occasionally, a spin off could be to shed something that works well enough to be profitable on its own but looks like a net burden to the main company which is focused elsewhere. It is effectively the opposite of a (voluntary) merger. In a merger it is expected that the core competencies of the companies are shared and so it will allow for reduced staff (boo) and infrastructure, and increased market share.
 

rsjsouza

Joined Apr 21, 2014
263
Yaakov, I would just throw another two names in the hat: GW Instek and Micsig.

Although GW Instek family of entry level scopes (GDS-1000E) is limited, their mid level GDS-2000E series is pretty good in performance and features. A GDS-2204E is about the same price of the Keysight you were considering and is reviewed here.

Micsig manufactures portable oscilloscopes in tablet form, but its interface is very good and, depending on your usage, it may be more suitable to your work. Their best seller is the TO1104 (100MHz, 4ch) priced at the same level as the Siglent and is reviewed here.
 
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