An oscilloscope system is beneficial for testing varying signal voltages, allowing for a two-dimensional plot of one or more signals to be generated. Generally, the waveform created by the oscilloscope assembly will allow for properties such as amplitude, rise time, frequency, time interval, distortion, and more to be analyzed with ease. While older instruments required the use of scales for comparing calculated values, modern oscilloscopes directly calculate and display properties on a screen for ease of use. As more manufacturers are pushing to create entry-level oscilloscope systems that are low-price and easy to use, there is no better time to learn about such instruments and the options that you may have.
When you are in the market for an oscilloscope, you will quickly realize that many instruments will vary in the specific parameters that they are capable of detecting and calculating. One of the first factors that one should consider before making a purchasing decision is the amount of channels that an oscilloscope has. With more than one channel, a user can measure multiple signals at once, allowing for debugging and testing to be much more efficient. Across all oscilloscope options, the amount of channels will be even, and two-, four-, and eight-channel configurations are the most common. Two- to four-channel oscilloscope systems are the best for general use, while more advanced systems may be available at a higher price. As such, the amount of channels can be balanced between budget and necessity.
Bandwidth and sample rates are also important, especially due to the fact that an oscilloscope acts as an analog-to-digital converter. For an entry level device, a sample rate between 500 Msps and 2 Gsps is standard, while bandwidths will range from 25 MHz to 200 MHz. Despite hobbyists typically only requiring bandwidths under 100 MHz, ones that function above such values can often be fairly comparable in price. For the most budget-conscious option, a device with a 50 MHz bandwidth can be a good starting point.
Memory depth is also something that one should consider as input values will be stored in the memory of the device when sampling is carried out. With more memory available, an increased amount of samples can be conducted in a single acquisition sweep. Additionally, increased memory will also lead to more resolution at higher timebases, meaning that it can be beneficial to have more memory based on the need for an oscilloscope module.
In order for an oscilloscope assembly to optimally conduct measurements and readings, it requires probes. While OEM probes are usually sufficient for standard processes, it is crucial that they come in the correct amount and match the bandwidth of the system as a whole. Additionally, probes with better accuracy are better suited for measurements.
Lastly, it may be beneficial to shop around for a device that contains all the features that you may need. While horizontal and vertical measurement functions, XY modes, and FFT are all basic features, one may still need specialized triggering modes for debugging processes. A logic analyzer input can also be useful if needed, though will not always be available with every model.
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