Digital oscilloscopes are becoming increasingly popular among both professionals and hobbyists. They offer an incredibly easy, convenient and fast way to test electronic equipment and can be used for a wide range of applications.
They have also turned out to be a much better option than analog oscilloscopes and multimeters, which we will get to below. However, we will first walk you through the 5 best digital oscilloscopes on the market that are priced at the entry level but offer pretty much everything you may ever need.
But if you’re in a hurry, simply click on one of our top picks in the table below and find the product on Amazon.
Best Digital Oscilloscopes
|1. Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope||99%|
|2. Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E||96%|
|3. Tektronix TBS1052B Digital Storage Oscilloscope||93%|
|4. SainSmart Mini DSO213||89%|
|5. Siglent Technologies SDS1102CML||85%|
The Rigol DS1054Z is a brand new 4-channel with 50 MHz analog bandwidth, with the option of easily upgrading it to 100 MHz as well, which would greatly increase the variety of projects you can use it for.
Although the user interface might seem daunting at first, it would get pretty intuitive in no time. Just watch a few videos on YouTube and you will figure out most of the things you need to operate it.
The screen is large enough to allow you to easily notice every important detail. It’s also just as bright, and to make things easier for the users, comes with a signal intensity setting which works pretty much the way it does in an analog scope.
The sample rate and memory are particularly impressive for the price, as you will find that they are much lower in the other scopes in this price range. The 12 Mpts memory is also upgradeable to 24 Mpts.
Further, there are more than a couple trigger modes, and a long list of other features in a surprisingly compact and lightweight body.
Now, you would read some reviews saying there’s a big catch with this product and most functions are on a trial and would stop working after the trial ends, but that’s NO LONGER the case. They have now been made permanent by the manufacturer so the functions will never stop working.
- Amazing value for money
- 4 channels, 50 MHz analog bandwidth, upgradeable to 100 MHz
- Surprisingly easy to use even for people who have never used a scope before
- Large, bright and highly functional screen
- Great sample rate and memory; memory of 12 Mpts upgradeable to 24 Mpts
- Lots of other feaures
- The user manual isn’t very helpful, but do you even need it if you have YouTube?
This could have easily been our top pick if the Rigol DS1054Z didn’t make their functions permanent and required you to pay extra for them after the trial. However, the SDS1202X-E still remains a great pick, especially for the more newbie users that are after easier calculations and adjustments.
The 200 MHz bandwidth is amazing to have in this price range. It will allow you to troubleshoot and fix an impressively wide range of devices, including the more advanced CB radios and two-way radios, video cards and more.
However, it only has 2 channels against Rigol DS1054Z’s 4 channels. But it would be perfectly fine for newbies and even many advanced users.
The layout of the dials as well as the reading the display is fairly easy, adding to the overall ease of use for newbies.
But what’s really impressive is that the great ease of use doesn’t come with a compromise on the accuracy. Both the voltage and time measurements are extremely accurate, and all the features and functions are permanent and don’t require you to pay anything extra for “unlocking” them.
Even people that have never used a scope before or used only analog scopes said they were able to use it to fix things right out of the box, and don’t find much to complain about.
Some of them do bring up a couple minor issues like not being able to use the screen to choose the trigger position without messing up the sweep delay time. A particular customer also said they would have liked an HDMI port to connect it to a larger display, but you must remember that it’s a very affordably priced product and not a high-end digital oscilloscope.
- Incredibly ease to use
- 200 MHz bandwidth allows measuring a huge variety of devices
- Super accurate measurements for the price
- Permanent features and functions, no trial period
- Real-time sampling up to 1 GSa/use
- Great price
- Lacks some advanced features like making important changes right from the screen, but it’s expected given it’s an entry-level scope
While you would expect better at this price than 2 channels and 50 MHz bandwidth, you do have the option of going for the 100 MHz bandwidth version but at a significantly higher price.
However, this trade-off will be worth it for users that are looking for considerably more than an introductory model, such as being able to trigger on difficult signals without much trouble at all, delay the triggers, super accurate wave form measurements, as well as zoom a particular part of the display.
The ROM powering the scope can also be updated easily. It’s also one of the few scopes in this price range that works for many applications that usually require a much more expensive scope.
Despite the advanced features, the TBS1052B is pretty intuitive with a great layout of knobs and buttons. While it has many fancy functions, it’s just as easy to use as a typical analog scope.
- One of the most advanced scopes in this price range
- Some great functions like delayed triggering, ability to zoom in on a particular portion of the display, triggering on difficult signals and more
- Great accuracy with wave form measurements
- Ability to easily update the ROM
- Intuitive layout and easy to use
- The refresh rate of the display is on the slower side
- The bandwidth could have been higher at this price
The SainSmart Mini DSO213 is a very basic digital oscilloscope but it does its job well. In fact, it would be a perfect option for complete beginners and simple applications.
It works very well for automotive applications, as well as other basic applications like audio and Arduinos. Don’t expect it to do a great job for the more complicated devices like some advanced HAM radios.
With that of the way, it’s the cheapest option on our list but pretty functional. The analog bandwidth of 15 MHz and 4 channels would be perfectly fine for beginners.
However, while it has no problem measuring the frequencies directly, it wouldn’t work as well with difficult signals or at higher frequencies.
Its accuracy isn’t the best either, although you can improve it to acceptable levels with some work in the settings. Most hobbyists wouldn’t feel disappointed with the accuracy especially at this price.
It’s incredibly easy to use and very portable, and you would also have the option of improving the functionality if you know your way around user created apps.
It comes with a color display and built-in 8 MB flash storage.
- One of the most affordable functional digital oscilloscopes you would find
- Works well for basic applications
- Beginners would have no trouble getting used to it
- Comes with a color display
- Doesn’t work for very advanced applications
- The processor is on the slower side, but that’s expected at this price
- The accuracy can be a bit of a hit or miss thing at times
This is another great product from Siglent that offers a great bang for your buck. Bandwidth of 50 to 150 MHz, 7-inch color display, real time counting, play back function, data recording feature and 32 types of auto measurements are some of the important features it offers.
As you can tell, these all are great to have at this price point. It’s also not much limited in its overall capability thanks to the 100 MHz bandwidth and 1GSa/second sampling, which helps it work well for most applications.
The auto mode works amazingly well too, as it automatically chooses the right settings based on the application and requirements, and it turns out to be spot on pretty much every time. The signal is almost always stable enough as well in this mode, so even beginners wouldn’t have any problem getting accurate measurements without messing around with complicated settings.
Some of the other functions are also automatic which further adds to the overall ease of use. The controls are smooth and easy too.
The calibration is definitely good enough as well, especially for hobby use.
The waveforms are pretty accurate as well. Customers mention they are surprised they are getting this level of accuracy in this price range.
- Feature-loaded scope at an amazing price
- Great 100 MHz bandwidth and 1GSa/second sampling handles most applications pretty well
- The auto mode makes things very easy for beginners and helps them get accurate measurements without any trouble
- Great waveform accuracy
- You may encounter some bugs if you use it for a large variety of applications, but things are getting better with each firmware update
Why Do You Need a Digital Oscilloscope?
There are more reasons to get a digital oscilloscope than we can cover in this post. Regardless of whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional at dealing with electronics, a digital oscilloscope is going to make your life easier.
The main use for any scope would be to measure electrical waveforms, though the ability to measure voltage levels turns out to be very useful as well.
A good scope can also do a lot of things that multimeters can’t, which also makes them a worthy upgrade.
A digital oscilloscope helps you find many types of errors in electrical devices that can otherwise get very challenging to find and fix. It also works great at debugging PWM signals, which helps you find mistakes with your projects that you may otherwise never be able to figure out.
There are many other uses that make a digital oscilloscope a great investment, including its ability to collect data and show detailed signal and circuit data that can help you improve your knowledge of how different applications work.
How We Chose the Best Digital Oscilloscopes?
We do a lot of research to find the best digital oscilloscopes on the market for you. The scopes we have reviewed above work great for hobbyists, and our top two picks are suitable for professional use as well to quite some extent.
However, we understand that hobbyists may not want to spend a lot on a scope, so we have considered the budget as a very important factor and have chose the products that offer an amazing value for money in the entry-level segment.
The bandwidth and channels are obviously some of the most important factors we consider, although our intention is more to figure out the range of projects and applications the scope would be able to help you with.
We also put special emphasis on the ease of use of the scopes, as we know hobbyists wouldn’t like to put tens and tens of hours into figuring out how their scope works.
We also consider if the scope we chose offers all the important features most people would need, including being able to work just as well on difficult signals, triggering options, whether the functions are permanent or would be limited after a trial period, the size and functionality of the screen, sample rate, memory and so on.
In other words, the scopes we chose are the most complete products you will find in the entry level range offering the most bang for your buck.
Digital vs Analog Oscilloscope
Analog and digital oscilloscopes work in a very similar way. Most of the time, the internal components are the same and they both measure electrical waveforms in the same way.
The difference is the way they project it to us. An analog scope shows the signal in the same way it has recorded it, while a digital scope converts it into digital numbers and displays on the screen while also having the ability to store it in that form.
Digital scopes usually boast quite a few important advantages over their analog counterparts. They are way smaller in size, much easier to work with, the level of accuracy is better and the measurements more convenient to read and understand, and also more energy efficient.
Furthermore, their processors are significantly faster and more powerful than analog scopes, and their signal analyzing capabilities are also more advanced.
Hobbyist or Professional?
Well, the choice of the right product greatly depends on whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional. To be honest, most of our top picks are geared more towards hobbyists than professionals or electronic labs.
That said, our top two picks above – the Rigol DS1054Z and the Siglent SDS1202X-E – can surprisingly be a great fit for professional use as well. Despite their cheap price tag, they cover a wide range of applications and are functional enough to be used for some of the more advanced or complicated equipment as well.
If you’re a hobbyist however, you can go with any of the products we reviewed above, depending on your budget and your level of experience with digital scopes. They are all functional enough for all types of projects and applications you may end up working on as a hobbyist.
If you’re a total beginner and have no experience with scopes whatsoever, we would recommend you to go with the Siglent SDS1102CML. It comes with more than enough features to not make you compromise on the type of applications you can use it for, but you would have no problem using it right out of the box and getting impressively accurate measurements just by using its “auto” mode.
Rigol vs Siglent
With the increasing popularity of digital scopes, the comparison between Rigol and Siglent is getting more popular as well. They have emerged as the top brands for digital scopes, and they both have some great products to offer.
However, Siglent’s scopes are often more user-friendly without compromising much on the functionality, while Rigol focuses more on the performance. This is the reason we have two Siglent scopes on our list but our top pick is the Rigol DS1054Z, as it comes with a more powerful processor and better functionality, though it can be a bit more difficult to get used to.
A Final Word
We hope this detailed guide has helped you choose the right digital scope as well as understand digital oscilloscopes better.
Regardless your budget and types of applications you tend to work on, you will find a great choice for pretty much everything in the options we reviewed above.
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