SpecialReport_EE201804_Oscilloscopes

Vertical resolution, channel count lead users’ wish lists

March 22, 2018

Oscilloscope manufacturers continue innovating as they look to meet customers’ demands for the right combination of performance, flexibility, ease of use, and cost. Recent offerings include a choice of user interfaces—from models with large touchscreens to ones with no screen at all—the latter rely on a separate PC. Scopes are also offering additional functionality, including logic analysis, spectrum analysis, and waveform generation.

First and foremost, customers need confidence in the measurement result their instruments provide. Jörg Fries, vice president, market segments for test and measurement at Rohde & Schwarz, said at the time of the introduction of new products earlier this year, “Our engineers continue to bring innovative oscilloscopes to the market that increase measurement confidence.”1

Tektronix has been taking the pulse of the oscilloscope business for more than seven decades, and the company conducted extensive research in advance of the release last year of one of its newest scope families, said Wilson Lee, technical marketing manager. Key customer requirements included more channels, more flexible channel configuration, more vertical resolution, larger displays, native touch user interfaces, a choice of operating system, and ease of use, plus faster time to insight.

Jason Chonko, applications marketing manager, Siglent Technologies America, agreed with many of these points. “The latest trends in the scope market point towards ease-of-use and flexibility,” he said. “People want to make specific measurements quickly and have the flexibility to use their tools for a variety of functions.”

When asked what users are looking for today in an oscilloscope, Trevor Smith, business development manager at Pico Technology, said, “Customers are always looking for more performance, including bandwidth, sampling speed, and capture memory, for their budget.”

Yokogawa offered a slightly different take. “Our users tend not to follow the trends of higher bandwidth and higher sample rate, because they are working on electromechanical systems and not typically RF communications systems,” said Richard Patterson, Yokogawa product manager. “Our users are blurring the lines between mixed-signal oscilloscopes, data-acquisition [systems], power analyzers, and bus analyzers. They will be most successful with easy-to-use solutions that provide them not just signals but measurements and intelligence for their most common tasks.”

New for 2018

Among new oscilloscopes introduced this year are the Rohde & Schwarz R&S RTM3000 and R&S RTA4000 Series (Figure 1). The instruments offer 10-bit vertical resolution to enable power measurements fulfilling the more stringent requirements demanded by advanced electronics.

Figure 1. R&S RTA4000 Series oscilloscope
Courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz

The R&S RTM3000 oscilloscope offers bandwidths of 100 MHz, 200 MHz, 350 MHz, 500 MHz, and 1 GHz. The products incorporate a proprietary 5-GS/s 10-bit ADC, and each model includes 40-MS (80-MS interleaved) per channel acquisition memory with an optional 400-MS segmented acquisition memory. The new R&S RTA4000 oscilloscope, which is also suitable for analyzing serial protocols, offers bandwidths of 200 MHz, 350 MHz, 500 MHz, and 1 GHz. These models include the same 10-bit ADC, but have more memory, with 100-MS (200 MS-interleaved) per channel acquisition memory and standard 1-GS segmented acquisition memory. Both instrument series feature a 10.1” capacitive touchscreen display.

The company also introduced the R&S RTC1000, which it described as cost-effective and compact. It can be upgraded with additional functions, including an 8-channel logic analyzer, 4-channel pattern generator, digital voltmeter, component tester, spectrum analyzer, counter, and protocol analyzer for I2C, SPI, UART/RS-232, CAN, and LIN. Users can expand the bandwidth from 50 MHz to a maximum of 300 MHz via software license.

Fries, at Rohde & Schwarz, commented at the time of the new instruments’ introduction, “With the addition of the R&S RTM3000 and R&S RTA4000 to the R&S RTB2000 Series launched in March 2017, and today’s simultaneous introduction of the R&S RTC1000 Series, we have the most up-to-date 1000-, 2000-, 3000-, and 4000-class instruments on the market.”1

PCI Express 4.0 test

Teledyne LeCroy’s latest oscilloscope innovations include new firmware and software in support of automating physical-layer test of PCI Express 4.0 receivers and transmitters. The company at DesignCon in Santa Clara in January announced the release of what it called “…key elements of the industry’s most capable PCI Express 4.0 (PCIe Gen4) test solution,” integrating the Teledyne LeCroy 10 Zi-A oscilloscope with the Anritsu MP1900A Signal Quality Analyzer (SQA) BERT.

New QPHY-PCIE4-TX-RX compliance test software automatically performs electrical and link equalization tests on PCI Express Gen4 transmitters and receivers, while updates to Teledyne
LeCroy’s PCIEbus D PCI Express link-layer decode software option support the 16-Gb/s data rates utilized in PCI Express 4.0.

In addition, updates to Teledyne LeCroy’s ProtoSync software option enable PCI Express 4.0 signals acquired on the oscilloscope to be analyzed with Teledyne LeCroy’s industry-standard transaction-layer protocol analysis software for accurate link equalization testing and the deep insight into protocol issues.

Furthermore, a new TF-PCIE4-CTRL controller enables complete automated fixture and DUT control for fast compliance testing, while updates to QPHY-PCIE3-TX-RX PCI Express 3.0 automated compliance test software now support the use of the Anritsu SQA MP1900A for all receiver and link equalization tests.

Teledyne LeCroy said the comprehensive system provides high-speed IC, device, and network engineers with a complete solution to conduct automated transmitter and receiver compliance tests as well as link equalization verification. The Anritsu/Teledyne LeCroy solution can be expanded to 32 Gb/s to address upcoming PCI Express 5.0 (PCIe Gen5) requirements.

From bench to probe

Other recent oscilloscope innovations range from a low-cost benchtop model to a scope in a probe. B&K Precision’s newest oscilloscope represents what the company calls the next evolution of the 2540 Series. The 2540C Series DSO and MSO models (Figure 2) offer a front panel that boasts an 8” screen with 256-level color gradient, two analog channels, and logic analyzer. The logic-analyzer software and 16-channel logic probe are included in the initial purchase of MSO models or can be upgraded in the field for DSO models. The 2540C features include FFT, masking, pass/fail testing, a waveform history function, serial triggering, and a menu help function. A 25-MHz function generator also comes standard in all models.

Figure 2. Model 2540C digital storage oscilloscope
Courtesy of B&K Precision

And Saelig recently announced it is offering the IkaScope WS200, a pen-shaped battery-powered wireless oscilloscope that streams captured signals to almost any Wi-Fi-connected screen. The IkaScope WS200 offers a 30-MHz bandwidth with a 200-MS/s sampling rate; the maximum input is ±40 VPP. It provides galvanically isolated measurements even when a USB connection is charging the internal battery. The IkaScope WS200 will work with desktop computers (Windows, Mac, and Linux) as well as with mobile devices like tablets or smartphones (iOS and Android Q4 2017).

The IkaScope WS200 has no power switch; it detects pressure on the probe tip and turns on automatically. Patented ProbeClick technology saves battery life: all power-consuming circuitry is only turned on when the probe tip is pressed, and the IkaScope WS200 automatically shuts down completely after a short period of non-use. The internal 450-mAh battery lasts about one week with daily regular use. An isolated USB connection allows for recharging the internal battery, and two LEDs in the unit indicate battery charge and WiFi status.

PC-based scopes

Pico Technology offers PC-based oscilloscopes and delivers regular free updates of its PicoScope software (Figure 3) that address new and evolving challenges faced by engineers and scientists, according to Smith. The most recent version, PicoScope 6.13, adds DeepMeasure to PicoScope 3000, 4000, 5000, and 6000 Series oscilloscopes, he explained, adding, “DeepMeasure delivers automatic measurement of waveform parameters on up to a million successive waveform cycles.”

Figure 3. PicoScope software screenshot
Courtesy of Pico Technology

Smith noted that with the PC-based architecture, “Display size and resolution can be optimized for the application, from a laptop screen to a large external hi-res monitor.” Further, users can download and install their own copy of PicoScope, and they can exchange “psdata” files to re-create and display waveforms from the field in the lab. Finally, he said, users can upgrade to the latest computer technology by simply replacing the PC.

The company also offers a PicoScope Software Development Kit (SDK) that enables users to write their own applications, Smith said, “…ranging from power-line transmission monitoring and partial-discharge testing to laser tattoo removal!”

Smith explained that one of the most popular third-party applications written for the company’s instruments is the Frequency Response Analyzer for PicoScope (FRA4PicoScope). “The application was written by Aaron Hexamer, with both source and binary code hosted on Bitbucket,” Smith said. “It uses the built-in PicoScope signal generator to step through a range of frequencies and DFT extraction to produce a Bode plot of the DUT gain in dB and phase in degrees.”

The company’s most recently introduced real-time oscilloscope is the PicoScope 4444. “It features four true differential input channels and a range of accessories for measurements from millivolts to 1000 V CAT III applications,” Smith said.

Indicative of customers’ demands for optimum combinations of performance budget, he said, the company has seen increased demand for its 4000 Series high-resolution and 5000 Series flexible-resolution models that address precision applications with up to 16 bits of resolution and better than 70-dB SFDR.

“We’re also being regularly asked for more serial protocol decoders and analysis packages,” Smith said. “PicoScope now includes 18 decoders as standard, with Modbus RTU as the most recent addition.” He added that in addition to serial-bus analyzer capability, the company’s oscilloscopes offer the functionality of a logic analyzer (on MSO models), spectrum analyzer, function generator, and arbitrary waveform generator.

ASIC supports flexible configuration

Tektronix’s most recently introduced oscilloscopes include the 5 Series MSO mixed signal oscilloscope, the 5 Series MSO Low Profile model, and the TBS2000 digital storage oscilloscope, according to Lee. “The 5 Series MSO results from the largest development effort in Tektronix’ history and is new in nearly every respect,” he said. For example, the 5 Series includes a new ASIC that combines traditional ADC, demux, trigger, and digital acquisition components in a single device—thereby allowing more channels in a single instrument, tighter integration between analog and digital channels, and more flexible configuration. “The new TEK049 ASIC includes 400 million devices and 2 billion connections,” he emphasized. The 5 Series also includes a new lower noise front-end amplifier, new hardware and software architectures, a new industrial design, and a new user touch-enabled interface.

Lee highlighted several consequences of the development effort. He noted, for example, that customers can choose 4-, 6-, or 8-channel models, with the 6- and 8-channel versions costing only about 25% and 67% more, respectively, than the 4-channel model.

In addition, he said, “Unlike ordinary scopes, the 5 Series MSO offers reconfigurable oscilloscope inputs. By default, each input is a TekVPI+ connector that accepts all TekVPI analog probes, but when the new TLP058 logic probe is connected, the input is converted to eight digital channels.” Users can add as many logic probes as they need, enabling anywhere from 8 to 64 digital channels, he said, adding, “Digital signals are sampled, triggered, and stored the same as analog signals, greatly simplifying comparisons.”

Lee continued, “The 5 Series MSO has the first oscilloscope user interface truly designed for touch, with support for all the gestures users expect, like pinch, zoom, swipe, drag, and so on. The interface is modeled after touch interfaces found on smartphones and tablets with key functions easy to access without digging through menu layers.”

The 5 Series MSO also offers an optional Windows operating system. “The 5 Series MSO is the first oscilloscope that can operate as a dedicated scope or in an open-Windows configuration,” Lee said. “The switch is made by simply adding or removing an SSD with Windows installed on it from an access panel. With the SSD removed, the instrument boots as a dedicated scope. When the SSD is present, it boots Windows. Whether it runs Windows or not, the oscilloscope operates the same way with the same look and feel, and UI interaction.”

The 5 Series MSO contains an optional integrated arbitrary/function generator, which Lee called “…perfect for simulating sensor signals within a design or adding noise to signals to perform margin testing.” The integrated function generator provides output of predefined waveforms up to 50 MHz for sine, square, pulse, ramp/triangle, DC, noise, sin(x)/x (sinc), Gaussian, Lorentz, exponential rise/fall, haversine, and cardiac signals. The arbitrary waveform generator provides 128 kpoints for loading saved waveforms from an internal file location or a USB mass storage device. The 5 Series MSO is compatible with Tektronix’ ArbExpress PC-based waveform creation and editing software. The 5 Series MSO also contains an integrated 4-digit DVM and 8-digit trigger frequency counter. Any of the analog inputs can be a source for the voltmeter, using the same probes that are already attached for general oscilloscope usage.

The 5 Series MSO comes with a 15.6” HD (1,920 x 1,080) display with capacitive touch—giving it double the viewing area of a scope with a 10.4” display, allowing users to see many signals and look at readouts and setting details, Lee said, adding that in contrast, the 5 Series MSO Low Profile instrument offers a “…combination of channel density, performance, and low-cost per channel at 1-GHz bandwidth that allows researchers and scientists to gather more accurate data and gain deeper insights into their machines while reducing test-equipment space requirements.”

Lee also commented on the Tektronix TBS2000 oscilloscope. “Embedded engineers use general-purpose oscilloscopes to prototype, debug, and validate designs of new products and for general troubleshooting. The TBS2000 meets these requirements and more for low-budget, low-speed applications,” he said.

Models are available with 70-MHz or 100-MHz bandwidths and with two or four channels. With a 9” WVGA display, the TBS2000 can display 15 horizontal (time) divisions. A 20-Mpoint record length with single-knob pan and zoom provides the ability to capture long time-duration signals and easily navigate to find important details.

The scope also offers support for the Tektronix VPI probe interface—a first for a low-cost Tektronix oscilloscope, Lee said. The feature allows users to use a range of Tektronix active probes at an affordable price, he added. Other features include a context-sensitive, configurable help function that provides on-screen tips for important settings. And finally, “Wi-Fi dongle support enables wireless connectivity so engineers can take advantage of the instrument’s LXI-compliant interface to conveniently control the oscilloscope remotely,” Lee said.

Lee also commented on several application areas for the company’s scopes. “Car designers rely on serial buses for error-free communications between ECUs, sensors, and actuators,” he said. “They can also rely on the 5 Series MSO, equipped with CAN, CAN FD, LIN, and FlexRay decoding and triggering to be able to get a synchronized view of their systems. The automated Automotive Ethernet compliance suite lets engineers test to the standard, without becoming high-speed bus experts.”

In addition, he said, “Embedded designers need the ability to make reliable, repeatable power quality, harmonics, switching loss, safe operating area measurements, and more. The 5 Series MSO offers a complete automated power measurement-and-analysis package. With up to eight high-resolution channels and a wide range of available probes, the 5 Series MSO is also ideal for evaluating power-supply sequencing and digging into 3-phase power converters.”

Finally, he commented on high-energy physics and material science research. “Higher power and energy research is driving requirements for higher performance in smaller form factors, and at lower costs,” he said. The 5 Series MSO Low Profile offers a compact, 2U rack mountable form factor and a very competitive cost per channel that is ideal for this application.”

Platform flexibility

The newest addition to the Siglent oscilloscope product line is the SDS1000X-E Series, according to Chonko. The 2-channel version offers a 200-MHz bandwidth, and the newly released 4-channel model is available in 100- and 200-MHz versions.

“Our scopes deliver advanced features without the cost,” Chonko said. “Many of our scopes include free serial decoding and more. Our new budget 4-channel SDS1000X-E scope has Wi-Fi capability, web-browser control, two A/D converters and memory modules, onscreen Bode plotting, and more, starting at $499.” He cited the Bode plot function as “…an example of increasing flexibility within a platform. This feature works with an external generator accessory or one of the Siglent SDG Series of arbitrary waveform generators to characterize the frequency response of circuits. This expands the working frequency range of the Bode function and allows existing SDG owners to have more options.” In addition, he said, “Many of our scopes feature Quick Print buttons to speed up the process of saving screen images.”
Chonko also said that the X and X-E Series scopes feature a built-in arbitrary waveform generator as well as logic-analysis capability for digital inputs, enabling users with benchtop real-estate constraints to pack more into the available area. “It can also be easier to use a single front panel,” he said. “By combining sources (AWGs) and measurements (oscilloscope input channels), you can characterize discrete components and circuits with a single instrument.”

DAQ and data recording

When asked about application areas, Chonko said, “We have noticed that many professionals outside of the electronics world are using oscilloscopes as budget data-acquisition systems because of their portability, ease-of-use, and low cost. A digital oscilloscope is basically a high-speed data-acquisition system with a very nice user interface. You can collect raw data, make automatic measurements, and save screen images with a few button presses.”

Consequently, he said, there is no need to bring a laptop or do any programming. “Simply connect your sensors and go,” he said, adding that the capability has been useful for chemistry and mechanical-engineering applications involving ion transfer and vibration analysis. “We have also seen an uptick in scopes for electronic musicians and in the music synthesizer market,” he said.

As Patterson at Yokogawa noted, his company also addresses data-acquisition applications. “We most recently released a touchscreen portable device which is both an oscilloscope and a data-recorder/DAQ system, the DL350 ScopeCorder,” he said. “Our mainstream oscilloscopes include our DLM2000 Series of scopes—the most popular configuration is a 4-channel 200-MHz bandwidth option.”

Patterson elaborated on the company’s product features. For example, on 4-channel scopes, all four channels can serve as analog channels, or the fourth channel can be switched to display eight digital channels. In addition, he said, “We have unique serial bus analysis and enhanced triggering for automotive buses such as CAN, LIN, SENT, CXPI, PSI5, and CAN FD.

We also have popular embedded serial bus support such as SPI, I2C, and UART, as well as user-defined options. We make it easy to simultaneously debug the physical layer and see your packet data.”

He said the company’s scopes have earned a reputation for reliability with respect both to the repeatability of measurements and the durability of the hardware over years of use. “Many features of our oscilloscopes are enabled by our ScopeCore IC to perform signal processing and measurements in real-time without sacrificing data throughput,” he said. “For electric-vehicle development, our power-supply analysis options provide real-time insight into popular power-supply and inverter parameters. We can also capture data for longer periods of time with longer waveform memory than other oscilloscopes on the market.”

He reiterated that Yokogawa’s customers are usually working on electromechanical systems and are less demanding of bandwidth but more insistent on flexibility, resolution, precision, and ease of use. “The serial-bus analysis, power-supply analysis, spectrum analysis, and real-time signal analysis capabilities appeal to systems designers because they can look for cause and effect within one single instrument,” he said.

Finally, HBM offers products moving further along the spectrum from oscilloscope to data recorder. It’s most recent offering is the SomatXR CX22B-R data recorder, which targets the acquisition and storage of measured data in mobile applications such as vehicle testing. The data recorder is suited to be used in harsh environments, with an extended temperature range of -40 to +80°C. It is shock- and vibration-proof and has an IP65/IP67 degree of protection provided by its water-, dust-, and shock-proof enclosure.

The SomatXR data-acquisition system provides two flexible mobile measurement solutions: the rugged CX22B-R data recorder for interactive testing and the CX23-R data recorder with a web interface for unsupervised testing. Besides these two data recorders, seven equally rugged measuring amplifiers are available for acquiring different physical quantities. The unit includes an integrated UPS for fail-safe operation.

From benchtop to PXI

This article has thus far focused on products, options, and technologies introduced since our November report on the topic, or it has provided elaboration that vendors have chosen to offer with regard to previously released products. In addition, other products described in our November article2 continue to be competitive. In addition to benchtop and PC-based scopes, those scopes include PXI models.

In the benchtop category, RIGOL Technologies offers the DS2000E Series oscilloscope—a 2-channel instrument available with either 100-MHz or 200-MHz bandwidths. All models provide two analog channels with 50-Ω input impedance standard. Each offers a real-time sample rate of 1 GS/s (on both channels), memory depth of up to 28 Mpoints standard, and waveform capture rate up to 50,000 waveforms/s. Targeting the basic oscilloscope market, the oscilloscope features an 8” WVGA intensity-graded display, network connectivity, hardware waveform record/playback, serial trigger and decode, and other analysis capabilities.

National Instruments and Keysight Technologies both introduced PXI oscilloscopes last year. NI’s offering is a 100-MHz, 8-channel oscilloscope that builds on NI’s expertise in high-density and software-designed instruments in PXI. The PXIe-5172 oscilloscope includes a user-programmable FPGA. Engineers can use LabVIEW to customize the oscilloscope’s firmware, such as adding in-line signal processing or advanced triggering. Key features of the PXIe-5172 include a 250-MS/s sample rate, input voltage range of up to 80 V peak-to-peak with ±20-VDC offset, and support for external sample and reference clocks.

And Keysight last year introduced the M9243A PXIe oscilloscope—built with Keysight’s InfiniiVision oscilloscope technology and providing up to 1 GHz of bandwidth for quick analysis and troubleshooting of wideband signals. With a 1,000,000-waveform/s update rate and advanced probing technology, the oscilloscope enables troubleshooting of random and intermittent signals not easily seen with digitizer technology. Features include cursors and markers, advanced triggering, waveform averaging, masks, and 31 selectable measurements. When the scope is combined with 89600 VSA software, engineers can demodulate and evaluate complex I/Q waveforms with a full 1-GHz bandwidth.

Finally, Teradyne also offers oscilloscopes in PXI as well as LXI and VXI architectures. The ZT461x digital storage oscilloscope family provides high-speed, wide-bandwidth performance and supports easy integration into automated test systems. The ZT461x includes flexible software and a graphical user interface as well as on-board signal processing to speed up data acquisition and analysis. It offers sample rates to 4 GS/s and bandwidths to 1 GHz. It serves defense and aerospace, medical, automotive, semiconductor, and telecommunications applications.

Innovation continues

Innovation in the oscilloscope field is ongoing. For example, since introducing the R&S RTC1000, R&S RTM3000, and R&S RTA4000, Rohde & Schwarz has introduced the R&S RT-ZHD high-voltage differential probes, suitable for measurements on power semiconductors. They offer a bandwidth to 200 MHz and come in four different models with maximum peak voltages from 750 V to 6,000 V. Offset compensation to 2,000 V makes it possible to measure small ripple voltages on large DC components independently of probe attenuation and the oscilloscope’s vertical settings. The probe can be use with the new R&S RTM3000 and R&S RTA4000 oscilloscopes. The company also introduced the 25-MHz R&S RT-ZD002/-ZD003 probes, which can be used with the R&S RTC1000, R&S RTB2000, and other scopes.

In addition, the company introduced the R&S RT-ZPR40 power-rail probe, which offers a 4-GHz bandwidth with a direct SMA connection or a 50-Ω pigtail coax connection. The company said the probe is suitable for use with the 4-GHz and 6-GHz R&S RTO2000 oscilloscopes. This combination allows the user to take advantage of the oscilloscope’s FFT functionality and serial protocol decoding. According to Fries, “The 4-GHz probe enables scope users to find EMI issues on power rails that they were previously unable to isolate.” The company also introduced a 2-GHz alternative, R&S RT-ZPR20 probe.

The company pointed out that power-supply quality is a key factor in the functionality and performance of sensitive electronic circuits, particularly in embedded designs incorporating RF modules, where RF signals can be coupled onto the power rails of sensitive electronic components such as microprocessors, fast memory components, and sensitive analog circuits, impairing the functionality of the device.

Rohde & Schwarz choose embedded world 2018 in Nuremberg earlier this year to highlight its scopes and probes, including the R&S Scope Rider, which is suitable for power-electronics measurements in the field. For more on embedded system design, see “Design through test technologies boost real-world intelligence”.

Planning ahead

Looking ahead, Lee at Tektronix expects global demand throughout 2018 to remain stable with 2017 levels. “Technology-wise, we’ll likely see continued demand for more channels, more resolution, and deeper memory”—coupled with parallel discussions in determining costs, particularly per channel. Last, he said, there will be increased demand for more software applications that provide ease of use coupled with performance.

Concluded Smith at Pico Technology, “Without giving away our product roadmap, it’s fair to say that Pico will continue to address FWDH (faster, wider, deeper, higher resolution) needs of our customers—priced to meet today’s test, measurement, and development budgets.”

References

  1. Rohde & Schwarz debuts embedded oscilloscope family,” EE-Evaluation Engineering Online, Jan. 23, 2018.
  2. Nelson, Rick, “Balancing performance, flexibility, usability,” EE-Evaluation Engineering, November 2017, p. 6.

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