Image courtesy of Rohde & Schwarz
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Oscilloscope Is Latest to Target Lower Price Range

March 15, 2017
The oscilloscope family packs sophisticated features, like 10-bit resolution and touch screens, into middle-of-the-road prices. It comes as other large test equipment makers drive down prices.

The latest oscilloscopes in an inexpensive category for schools and manufacturers now offer touch screens and high resolution, lowering the costs involved with testing embedded devices.

The oscilloscope family, from Rohde & Schwarz, the German test equipment maker, packs sophisticated features into a middle-of-the-road price point. The tools provide 10-bit resolution, which lets users make more precise measurements than with typical 8-bit oscilloscopes. The basic version of the R&S RTB2000 starts at $1,370.

In the view of industry analysts, that shift comes from the growing number of engineers using embedded devices to build the Internet of Things. The fierce competition between firms to win over these engineers is driving down prices. Rohde & Schwarz will debut the tools on Tuesday at embedded world, a trade show in Nuremberg, Germany.

In recent years, equipment makers have started putting advanced features into leaner digital oscilloscopes, which are capable of storing disrupted or unexpected electrical signals for future reference. Companies like Tektronix and Rigol sell budget tools popular for testing development kits like Arduino, BeagleBone, and Raspberry Pi.

But large test companies have also started selling cheaper machines for community colleges as well as small physics and biology labs. Keysight, the former test division of Agilent Technologies, recently released an oscilloscope line with update rate of 50,000 waveforms per second, support for analog bus measurements and protocol decode, and a starting price of $448.

Other oscilloscopes can connect to personal computers for portability and lower cost. But as with many other types of oscilloscopes, the prices vary widely from under a thousand dollars to over $20,000. There are technical advantages to using these tools, though, including higher bandwidth and increased sample rates.

The R&S RTB2000 oscilloscopes come in two and four channel models and offer bandwidth of 70 MHz, 100 MHz, 200 MHz and 300 MHz. The model with the lowest price provides 70 MHz bandwidth over two channels, while the four-channel model with the highest bandwidth costs $4,760. They provide a 10 Msample acquisition memory on each channel.

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