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Cheap Oscilloscopes - Is there one worth the money?

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(@inkblotr)
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Joined: 6 months ago
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Topic starter  

I am wanting an oscilloscope.  I cannot afford a typical bench 'scope but I've noticed there are some offered for sale (on that web site almost all of us use - A**z*n) for less than $50!  I can afford to buy one of those but would greatly appreciate someone who uses one do a video review of some to find the better/best and talk about the drawbacks or short comings.


   
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(@yurkshirelad)
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Joined: 3 years ago
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It really depends on what you want to use it for; what kind of projects. I bought one of those little kit oscilloscopes and it was a decent tool for practicing/learning my soldering and also for learning oscilloscope basics.


   
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(@yurkshirelad)
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This is the one that AliExpress is currently pushing to content creators -


   
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(@davee)
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Hi @inkblotr,

As @yurkshirelad says, it depends on your requirements and expectations, as well as the depth of your pocket. The cheapest ones tend to be very limited in terms of bandwidth, sampling rate, etc., but for 'low speed' work, which may well include communications between a sensor and a microcontroller in some cases, perhaps they are good enough to find the information you are looking for.

Personally, I looked in the $200+ range, and bought a low end 'bench' scope, and whilst it has some rough edges, in many respects it vastly exceeds the capabilities of scopes I have used in the past (2-3 decades ago!) that cost more than 10 times that figure, in spite of inflation.

In between these prices, there are also the 'screenless' scopes that require a separate PC or tablet as a screen. Personally, I didn't think the cost saving was enough, but in some circumstances, I think they are also worth considering.

However, before you spend your money, do some thinking and some research. YouTube is worth a look for reviews and background information. Some of the videos are clearly just time wasters, but others are quite informative. I noticed at least one widely advertised scope getting multiple reviews to suggest its specifications were largely wishful thinking, but most seem to at least 'approximate' to a realistic picture.

Whilst I too use the website you refer to, consider also widening your search. Of course, this may increase your risk of getting a bad deal, so tread carefully and wisely.

Good luck with whatever you decide. Best wishes, Dave


   
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(@yurkshirelad)
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Kerry Wong on YouTube also reviewed this Zotek handheld scope/multimeter and gave it a very favourable review. I'm not trying to advocate this particular device, but suggesting you watch/read some reviews of various scopes from trusted content creators and form your opinions.


   
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(@dronebot-workshop)
Workshop Guru Admin
Joined: 5 years ago
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This is a great suggestion, however I'll have to reject it, simply because there is no way that I could afford to buy a bunch of oscilloscopes!

Remember, I have to purchase all the components for my videos with my own money, I do not do sponsored videos. I generally set a limit of about 1000 dollars per video, as I'm not exactly rich, although I have gone over for a few videos.  But buying multiple oscilloscopes would exceed that budget, and when the video was done I'd have a collection of products that I would never use.

So while this is a great suggestion, I'm afraid that I will have to reject it. Sorry!

😎

Bill

"Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window." — Steve Wozniak


   
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(@cristishor201)
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Joined: 3 years ago
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@dronebot-workshop you could make a review for the oscilloscopes you already have. 🙂 The ones that are in your hand, are already the best ones. As you wouldn't buy them if they weren't affordable and good enough.

 

@inkblotr I bought FNIRSI-1C15 Professional Digital Oscilloscope when it was the most popular on Aliexpress, the half of curent price. But I don't like it, as even on low voltage it display less of the real voltage.

For example I try to measure a battery with both the multimeter and the oscilloscope. In multimeter I get 5.2V, and in osciloscope I get 3.2V or so, I mean way lesser.

Either it's not so profesional, either I don't know how to adjust and use it. 😀 

As a note reference:
I readed that the sampling rate it's not so important, and the frequency matter the most, especially for the range you are interesting for.

This post was modified 6 months ago by Cristian F

   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7425
 

@cristishor201 When I was shopping for a scope I quickly learned that the FNIRSI brand was junk. I asked Bill and bought his recommended scope, a RIGOL DHO802. If you think it's too expensive, calculate the price over 10 years and I bet you spend more on coffee. (it's about $1/week)

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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Marvin
(@rob42101)
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Joined: 5 months ago
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I have just bought a OWON SDS1022 Digital Storage Oscilloscope 2 Channel 20MHz, which may or may not be a mistake on my part. From what I can see, it seems to be not a bad scope, for the price, but please don't take my word for it, as I'm a beginner and impulsive.

Maybe (at some point) someone will do a quick assessment on the features vs. the cost of this scope and post back how they feel about it.

@whoever does that: please don't worry about what you say; you'll not offend me. The point will be that you know more than I do and others can learn from this.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


   
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Inst-Tech
(@inst-tech)
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Posted by: @rob42101

I have just bought a OWON SDS1022 Digital Storage Oscilloscope 2 Channel 20MHz, which may or may not be a mistake on my part. From what I can see, it seems to be not a bad scope, for the price, but please don't take my word for it, as I'm a beginner and impulsive.

Maybe (at some point) someone will do a quick assessment on the features vs. the cost of this scope and post back how they feel about it.

@whoever does that: please don't worry about what you say; you'll not offend me. The point will be that you know more than I do and others can learn from this.

Welcome to the forum @rob42101!... Indeed, your choice of an oscilloscope is for the price you paid is going to be just fine for general use, as long as you understand that using it for analyzing frequencies above 20 MHz will not be possible. But as a beginner, I don't foresee you having that problem anyway. The usage of a scope can be very beneficial when trying to understand wave forms like PWM ( Pulse With Modulation) , charging up capacitors, and the effects of voltage and current on inductors. Most of the projects you will be doing as a beginner will not involve high frequencies above 20 MHz , so you'll be fine.. Latter on, you may want to upgrade to a more powerful scope, but right now.. this is probably what you need to learn how to use it.

I don't usually give advice, especially to someone I don't even know, or have met, but in this case, I feel the need to stress safety..Please ready the instructions for your scope very carefully, before attempting to use it on a live circuit, especially  AC as in Mains ( or in the USA we call it Line voltage( 120 VAC).  There is a fairly steep learning curve to using a scope, so don't get discouraged if at first you don't understand all the jargon and how they relate to what your seeing on the scope. It all comes with practice and a lot of patients..lol 

I've been doing it for over 50 years, and I'm still learning new things in electronics. 😀 

If you have question.. or answers, please post them in the appropriate forum area.

Have fun, and be safe,

regards,

LouisR

 

LouisR


   
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Marvin
(@rob42101)
The Paranoid Android
Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 32
 

@inst-tech Thank you so much for the quick reply as well as the sound advice.

Your assessment does in fact backup my own research on the topic, but as I've no real experience, my research was based as much on intuition, as anything.

For others, I class the scope the a bought as (well, not "cheep", exactly) inexpensive, being that it was a little under £200 (that's GBP), which I'm sure you can translate into your local currency. This, I assessed, was a minimum spend for a scope that would be a useful tool as well as a learning aide. I did consider lower priced scopes, but thought that spending a little more, would be a better investment.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
Posts: 7425
 

@rob42101 You can add a logic analyzer for a few tens of dollars/pounds/euros. I got two by mistake, one was $20 the other $45. The kicker is it's $5 worth of hardware and stolen software and it's the software that makes it work, so the end result is the one at half the price functions identically to the other. 

Now I have a decent scope (that Bill recommended) and it shows the logic signals (like PWM, I2C etc) on the scope so the logic analyzer is likely never going to get used again.

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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Marvin
(@rob42101)
The Paranoid Android
Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 32
 

Posted by: @zander

You can add a logic analyzer for a few tens of dollars/pounds/euros.

Thank you. I'm unsure (at this point in my learning) if I need this addition, as I'm unsure if my scope can perform that function, as is. I did (many moons ago) build a logic probe, which (I assume) is the same thing?

That 'build' was a part of a night class that I did, which was to get a cert in Computer Maintenance and one of the requirements was to build that tool. It had a EPROM which was programmed in assembly code: happy days.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 4 years ago
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@rob42101 Sounds the same. Ah assembly, my first high level language! I started with machine code.

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PL/I and PL1, Pascal, Basic, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
My personal scorecard is now 1 PC hardware fix (circa 1982), 1 open source fix (at age 82), and 2 zero day bugs in a major OS.


   
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(@daverave999)
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Joined: 5 months ago
Posts: 2
 

My suggestion would be to try and pick up a used analogue one from eBay, but pair it with the cheapo clone logic analyser mentioned above. The scope would enable you see and compare analogue waveforms, and using the logic analyser with software like PulseView would enable you to decode digital protocols.

If you wanted to do it ultra cheap, you could likely convert an old CRT TV/monitor for viewing the analogue waveforms, though you'd need to work out how to calibrate it if that was important to you! I also recall seeing something based on the microphone input of a computer soundcard, but you won't get a particularly high sample rate from that.

Depends on what you want to do with it really!


   
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