Working or simply being a hobbyist in the electronic world will soon force you to need and use the test instrument called an oscilloscope.
An oscilloscope provides you more information than the standard multimeter (both analog and digital) by graphically showing you the waveform of voltage that can then be analyzed for some properties such as frequency, amplitude, rise time, time interval, distortion, pulse width, and others.
Based on the display, there are two types of oscilloscopes available. The old and early-type known as CRO (Cathode Ray Oscilloscope) used cathode ray tubes (CRT) as their display screen. While the modern one known as DSO (Digital Storage Oscilloscope) is continuously superseding and replacing the CRO types nowadays.
Regardless of your experience or occupation that you have at the moment (whether you are a professional, beginner, hobbyist, automotive maniac, or even a collector), we hope that this article could help you as a guide or reference.
Here, we cover the top 10 oscilloscopes and try to categorize them in each class. Things to consider before buying an oscilloscope are also included in this article so you may do your research in the future.
Top 10 Best Oscilloscopes
1. Siglent SDS1202X-E Oscilloscope [Best Overall]
It is common knowledge that there are many oscilloscopes available in the market with many brands. Selecting and choosing the best one might take some of your precious time. That being said, we try to collect data and it comes to the conclusion that Siglent SDS1202X-E is the best oscilloscope we can suggest for you moreover if you are a professional in the electronic industry.
It comes with 200MHz bandwidth which allows you a wide range frequency for measurement. It should be more than enough to have such a range. Compared to Rigol DS1054Z, it is far superior in the bandwidth aspect because Rigol DS1054Z has only 50 MHz bandwidth.
Another thing is it will help you work better and faster. It has a 1GSa/s sampling rate which is very fast and very responsive. From the design perspective, it has a non-reflective coating screen and also stabilizing rubber feet on its back while portability handle on its top.
The most unique feature is the color temperature display and 256 intensity grading. Other features are also included such as serial decoding, FFT, enabling the full bandwidth, and a calibration certificate. It supports I2C, SPI, UART, RS232, CAN, and LIN too. To ease document sharing, it is included with multiple interface types such as USB Host, USB Device, Pass/Fail, Trigger Out, and LAN.
- Bandwidth: 200MHz
- Sample rate: 1GSa/s
- Record length: 14 Mpts
- Non-reflecting coating screen
- Color temperature display
- Only 2 channels
2. Hantek DSO5072P Oscilloscope [Best for Beginner]
As a beginner, it is going to take a lot of time as we are lack knowledge and experience about oscilloscope. It is quite cheap for a beginner to buy. Hantek DSO5072 is also quite popular if you look up at some marketplace reviews.
It can be operated for 70 MHz which is more than enough for a beginner. Equipped with a 7” LCD color display will make the users comfortable while using it. Some users love it because of its lightweight, the built-in menu, and 4 math functions which include the FTT standard.
The sample rate it has is 1GSa/s which is the same as the above Siglent model. While the record length it has is only 40Kpts. Indeed, it is not so impressive, but still decent.
- Bandwidth: 70MHz
- Sample Rate: 1GSa/s
- Pretty cheap
- Record Length: 40Kpts
- 2 channels only
- May need to replace power cord type and adapter (shipped with euro type cord and adapter)
3. Rigol DS1054Z Oscilloscope [Best for Hobbyist]
This model is the best we can recommend for hobbyists. Rigol DS1054Z has been a competitor to Siglent in the marketplace. It is proved when you search for an oscilloscope in a marketplace, it is always Siglent and Rigol on the top lists.
Rigol DS1054Z is a reliable and affordable four-channel oscilloscope. It is featured with a large display (800×480 pixels) and some measurement functions. It can be operated on 50 MHz bandwidth with 1 GSa/s sampling rate which is already fast enough considering its price.
There are four-channels available for the users. Any work that needs detailed examination and comparisons between different channels can be easily done. The initial bandwidth is 50MHz but can be upgraded to 100MHz. It also applies to record length from 12 Mpts to 24 Mpts.
- Bandwidth: 50MHz
- Channel: 4
- Sample Rate: 1GSa/s
- Cheaper than Siglent SDS1202X-E
- May need to pay for some functions after 40 days trial period.
- UI is a bit slow
- Noisy fan
4. Hantek 1008C 8Ch Oscilloscope [Best for Automotive]
The automotive world is not free from electronics. Instead, electronics play a vital role in it. Most of the autonomous controls are done by electronics. Hantek 1008C is the best choice for you whenever you want to troubleshoot, repair, or even only for studying car electronics.
The channels it has is the most unique feature compare to the other scopes out there. It has 8 channels that are insanely powerful. It allows users to monitor multiple signals at the same time.
Moreover, it is featured with 100KHz bandwidth and sampling rate of 2.4MSa/s. it can be interfaced with a USB 2.0 plug and play. This oscilloscope model does not include a display. So, the display is provided on a PC screen which can be connected with the software included. Its record length is 4Kpts.
- Remarkably cheap
- 8 channels
- Has a menu for most automotive tests.
- Bundled with handy leads and DIS ignition probe.
- Lacks an AC setting and built-in filters
5. Siglent SDS1104X-E Oscilloscope [Best under $500]
Siglent has always been one of the top lists in the oscilloscope world. If we are talking about the price and quality, there will always be a trade-off. Suppose we have $500, then it is better for us to buy an oscilloscope with a price of $500 or near it because we have the ability to afford it. Siglent SDS1104X-E has some features that are superior rather than the Siglent SDS1202X-E.
Indeed it is at a higher price. However, the features provided are far more superior than the scopes with lower or even the same price. It has 100MHz bandwidth which is lower compared to Siglent SDS1202X-E, but it has more channels instead. Other new features that differ SDS1104X-E from SDS1202X-E are search function, Bode plotter for network analysis, built-in web server, and optional WiFi. So, it is without a doubt totally worth the price.
- Bandwidth: 100 MHz
- Channels: 4
- Sample rate: 2 x 1GSa/s
- Record length: 2 x 14Mpts
- Optional WiFi
- The fan is a little noisy
6. Rigol MSO1104Z Oscilloscope [Best Under $1000]
If you are looking for a scope with a budget of around $1000, then this one is the right choice for you. Rigol MSO1104Z comes with features and capabilities that are worth the price, although it is still a bit expensive for some people.
The product comes with 100MHz bandwidth and 4 analog channels. The scope is pretty compact. The probes provided are four passive analog probes and one active logic probe. It can do a quick measurement with the sample rate of 1GSa/s and record length of 12Mpts.
Moreover, it also provides 16 digital channels aimed at the embedded design and test market with its industry-leading specifications, powerful trigger functions, and broad analysis capabilities. It is featured with a higher waveform capture rate up to 30,000 wfms/s and real time waveform record-replay up to 60,000 frames. The more update rate, the more likely you are to capture glitches. Its display is multi-level intensity grading.
To help the users with easy document distribution, it has complete connectivity which includes LAN (LXI), USB Host and Device, and AUX. It can decode parallel, RS-232, I2C, and SPI. The manufacturer also included built-in functions such as to measure period, frequency, rise time, fall time, width, duty cycle, and pulse. Another thing is lots of math functions are provided. It can do FFT, differential, square root, log, and many more. A waveform generator of 25MHz is also available on two channels.
The difference between the regular model (DS) and MSO (Mixed Signal Oscilloscope) is the MSO model the feature called Logic Analyzer.
- Bandwidth: 100MHz
- Channels: 4
- Sample rate: 1GSa/s
- 16 Digital channels MSO
- Record length: 12Mpts
- Include free software bundle BND-MSO/DS1000Z built into the unit
- Complete connectivity: LAN (LXI), USB Host & Device, AUX
- A bit expensive
7. Tektronix 2467BHD Oscilloscope [Best CRT Type]
Tektronix is undoubtedly and widely known for manufacturing test and measurement devices. It means that this American company has a long history in the development world of test devices including oscilloscope.
Tektronix 2467B is a beast of this type. It is one of the top-end models in the 2400 series. It comes with high-range bandwidth of 400 MHz which makes it really powerful for high-frequency measurements. The channels it has are four channels which also add its value and quality. The display is presented as good as HD. We recommend this scope for those who are old-school fans or collectors.
With the bombardment of digital scopes, we do realize that the analog models will be replaced soon. However, there is always someone or even group who still prefer an analog one to the modern type scopes. So, here is our best recommendation for the said community.
- Bandwidth: 400MHz
- Channels: 4
- Built-in counter/timer/trigger (CTT)
- Can cause health issues because of radiation exposure especially on human eyes.
- No storage memory available
- No multiple interfaces such as USB Flashdrive.
8. Siglent SHS806 Oscilloscope [Best Handheld Type]
Engineers are not always working inside the labs. There will be sometimes that they are required to do the job in the fieldwork. When it comes to that, a portable handy testing device is best at service. Siglent SHS806 is the product we deeply recommend for those who have to work in the field most of the time.
The product has 60MHz bandwidth and 2 channels. The sampling rate of 1GSa/s is as powerful enough as the Siglent SDS1202X-E. It also has a 2Mpts record length that enables us to do a quick electric test.
The battery provided could last about five hours long. While being handy and portable, it also supports a USB interface to ease the document distributions. So, if you are in a dire need of portable scope, then this product is the best choice.
- Bandwidth: 60 MHz
- Channels: 2
- Sample rate : 1GSa/s
- Record length: 2Mpts
- Handy and portable
- Battery life is not too long
9. Sainsmart DSO203 Oscilloscope [Best Pocket Size Type]
With the development of technology so far, the market and community always demand more of the scopes model and quality. SainSmart released their product DSO203 with a lightweight feature. It just weighs 2.08 approximately and measurement of 4.2 x 0.4 x 2.2 inches.
For its features and performance, it is not losing to the old and handheld model. It is featured with 72 MHz and it can be considered as superior on its model. It also comes with four channels. With a sample rate of 72MSa/s, it has the ability to provide a reliable converted result of analog channels.
Other features the user can get is the auto measurement, waveform storage, firmware upgrade, user application, and open-source. Sainsmart DSO203 is indeed small and lightweight. However, the features and performances are not a joke and able to provide the functionalities you need.
- Bandwidth: 72MHz
- Channels: 4
- Sample rate : 72MSa/s
- Rechargeable battery via USB connection
- USB interface
- The version is old
10. Picoscope 2204A Oscilloscope [Best USB Type]
Common scopes have already included the display along with the products. On the other hand, it will require some space in your bag. It can be a problem when you do not want to carry such a heavyweight. Picoscope comes with their product model 2204A and its fascinating features.
Picoscope 2204A comes with a 10MHz bandwidth and a maximum sample rate of 100 MSa/s. The record length is only 8Kpts. It is USB powered fully. So, the laptop or PC can power it. It has 2 channels. In the comparison between price and features, the hardware is reasonable.
Another thing that makes it awesome is the software. It includes Picoscope PC software for free. Here, you can monitor the waveforms. Aside from that, it allows you to do multiple views. It will impress you with serial decoding. The software provides the decoded data of the traffic on the user interface. The Picoscope software even makes you able to define your own equations. Meanwhile, most affordable scopes only offer basic waveform math.
- USB powered
- Light and small (fits in a laptop bag easily)
- Ideal for field test
- PC software included
- Sample rate: 100MSa/s
- Math features
- Need a laptop or PC for interface
- Bandwidth is only 10MHz
Things to Consider Before Purchasing One
It determines the maximum frequency that it is able to measure accurately. The easiest way is to use ‘the five times rule” which means that you have to multiply the frequency you want to measure by five. Make sure you do not skip this parameter as it will affect the accuracy of the measurements.
2. Rise Time
Fast rise time is needed for accurate time measurements. Rise time as k/bandwidth where k is between 0.35 for scopes with bandwidth <1 GHz and 0.40 to 0.45 (>1GHz).
3. Matching Probes
The best way to get precise measurements is to use the probe from the same manufacturer. It must match the bandwidth of the scope.
4. Input Channels
In a simple way, the more channels the scope has, the better. However, it will also increase the price. It always depends on your need. If it is only needed for comparison of signal timings of waveforms, then two or four channels should be enough. In other case such as debugging a digital system with parallel data, 8 or 16 channels are better.
5. Fast Sample Rate
It explains how often an oscilloscope samples the signal such as the frame rate of a movie camera. The ‘five times rule’ also applies here that it means to use a sample rate of at least 5x of the highest frequency component.
6. Versatile Triggering
It helps the users to give a stable display and lets them zero in on specific parts of complex waveforms. When the scope has wider trigger options, it means that you can find the problem cause root faster.
7. Long Record Lengths
The bigger the record length, the better. The oscilloscope is able to store only a limited number of samples. The complete waveform record must have a certain number of points. It is called record length.
8. Powerful Waveform Navigation and Analysis
The users need tools to automate the process and accelerate finding specific waveform errors. Tools such as Zoom & pan, Play & Pause, Marks, Search & Mark, and Advanced search are necessary in the case to find specific waveform errors.
9. Automated Waveform Measurements
It makes it easier to get accurate numerical readings. Today, many digital scopes provide mean and RMS calculation, duty cycle, and other math operations. Even users can write their own formula for specific math functions.
10. Advanced Application Support
Advanced scopes are equipped with application software for optical and electrical design troubleshooting and standards compliance. This kind of software is really needed for those who work in the electronic world moreover in the research and development field.
11. Easy, Responsive Operation
The scopes must be easy to use and responsive quickly to any small change of events. AUTOSET and/or DEFAULT buttons will help even occasional users for instant setup.
12. Connectivity and Expansion
The users might have a need to connect the oscilloscope to a computer or transferring data via portable media which allows advanced analysis and simplifies documenting and sharing results. Standard interfaces such as USB is useful for USB flash drives to store waveforms, captures, and settings. It also includes interfaces like GPIB, RS-232, Ethernet and LXI, and links to network communication modules.
13. Cost of Ownership
At the end of the day, it is not free to get an oscilloscope. Making sure to get the priorities right is a must for every user before purchasing one. If the need is able to be fulfilled with the medium quality scope or even the cheap one, then no necessary to buy an advanced one.
Time to Decide: Which Oscilloscope to buy?
So, here we are. We have arrived at the conclusion stage. Oscilloscopes are manufactured so that people can monitor and analyze the electronic signal waveforms which they could not do by using a standard multimeter. The most important thing to consider is always bandwidth. The price comes after.
If you are looking for a test instrument to analyze the frequency of a being-picked-up signal, then you might look for a spectrum analyzer.
After doing some researches on our own, Siglent SDS1202X-E is the best choice we could recommend you to buy. It is superior in both features and performances. On the price tag, it is totally worth the price compared to its competitor Rigol DS1054Z.