Last updated on December 10th, 2019 at 10:36 am
Oscilloscopes or o-scopes are used to measure waveforms of electricity.
The best hobbyist oscilloscope is a tool to measure the electric current in lab inventions, malfunctioning devices or new appliances for study and experimentation purposes.
Oscilloscopes measure circuitry and calculate an accurate record of voltage patterns over time.
Although they’re mainly used by engineers and researchers to test and observe various electronics, hobbyists also love to use them for fun or to study.
Oscilloscopes come in different shapes, measure various bandwidths and are offered at various price points, which could make the buying process a bit confusing.
I’ve researched the topic on your behalf. By reading this post, you’ll have a clear idea of how each oscilloscope can collect relevant data by measuring bandwidth, frequency, and changes in electric signals for study and research purposes. This is how you can pick the right one for you.
Best Digital Oscilloscope For Hobbyist Comparison
- 50 MHz
- 200 MHz
- 200 MHz
- 70 MHz
- 1 MHz
- 30 MHz
- 20 MHz
- 20 MHz
- 60 MHz
Review of our Top 10 Selected Best Hobbyist Oscilloscope
Although they’re all used in the electronic lab, each one of the following products has a set of different features that cater to the needs of specific users. Automotive engineers will have different needs from science hobbyists, so you should pay attention to these unique specifications.
Here is our selected list:
1. Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscopes – Bandwidth: 50 Mhz, Channels: 4
Several users voted this as the number one oscilloscope since its release in 2014.
The 7-inch LED screen is big enough to show the four channels together, so it’s suitable for people who want to make comparisons and analysis of audio signals. Moreover, the screen is easy-to-view from various angles.
It’s a nice choice for beginners and first-timers as it comes with the frequency counting functionality in addition to several math functions. The horizontal and vertical menus provide for several waveform data.
The memory can be expanded when you contact the manufacturer, so you know you can upgrade and increase the potential of your o-scope.
The more memory you have on your device, the bigger the capture rate. Your o-scope will be able to record data for a longer period of time to provide more accurate results.
It’s made of scratch-resistant plastic and features USB and Ethernet connectivity to transfer screenshots easily. It comes with a free software and a 35-hour trial period where users can download test their devices, although the manufacturer doesn’t offer enough information about this feature. This is the best oscilloscope for audio.
2. Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E – 200 MHz Digital Oscilloscope 2 Channels
This o-scope might be the right choice for people who want to gather and analyze detailed information.
The 7-inch LCD screen has the ability to zoom in to focus on a single area for better data reading.
The color temperature measuring technology highlights more frequent events in red and less frequent events in blue.
This facilitates data collection, reading, and analysis for hobbyists and students.
It weighs 7.2 pounds, so it’s not a suitable choice if you’re looking for a portable device because there are various lighter products.
It features more than 38 automated patterns using a user-friendly control panel, with 10 types of one-button shortcuts.
The o-scope can record up to 400,000 wfms/s to save low-probability events. It’s easy to use, and comes ready for your next science experiment because all the features come unlocked.
However, you should bear in mind that several users struggle with probes calibration. This might be a serious issue, especially for beginners.
3. SIGLENT SDS2204X Super Phosphor Oscilloscope – 4-channel 200 MHz Digital Desktop SPO
This oscilloscope can capture up to 60,000 wfms/s and comes with a USB host. This means that you can connect it to export data which is a good option for students.
The device is made of plastic and weighs almost 7.5 pounds, so it’s suitable for classroom and lab use where you have enough workspace. However, it’s not portable so you’ll need a lighter model to use in the field.
The 8-inch LCD display has a resolution of 800 X 480 pixels, which is lower than what you’d expect on an expensive model like this one. Nevertheless, this is a decent benchtop o-scope that can be used for various applications.
4. Hantek DSO5072P Digital Oscilloscope – 70 MHz Bandwidth, 1 GSa/s, 7.0″ Display
Students and hobbyists find it extremely useful because it supports 200/100/70 MHz bandwidths and can record up to 40K. This means that you can record, analyze and compare data for several experimental purposes.
The unit is made of plastic and is covered in a protective layer to prevent scratches. It grips on the bottom to keep it in place while working on your desk or bench. It’s a portable digital oscilloscope that weighs 4.63 pounds and comes with a built-in handle so you can take it to the class or share it with another hobbyist friend.
The device comes with a USB port to export data, however, it doesn’t support Windows 10 operating system. Moreover, you’ll have to buy a US power cord.
5. SainSmart DSO Note II DS202 Nano ARM Portable Mini Handheld Touch Screen Digital Storage Oscilloscope – 8MB Memory Storage 2MHz 10Mps
It doesn’t also require lots of storage space if you’re still building your technology lab. It’s a portable and lightweight o-scope that you can use on the go.
It has a protective shell to protect it when you’re using on the field. This device works right of the box and gives you the chance to save 8 MB of data on the flash memory. This means that it’s suitable for newbies and first-timers who have never used an oscilloscope before.
It has two analogue channels and one operation channel. These are enough for experimental work, maintenance, and low-profile engineering purposes. However, the USB port works with micro USB only.
The device comes with only 1 probe so you’ll need an MCX connector before using another one. The screen is rather small, and the resolution isn’t the best, but its excellent value for money.
6. Tektronix TBS1052B Digital Storage Oscilloscope – 2 Channel, 50 MHz Bandwidth
This means that it’s a good choice for people who are interested in research and product testing.
It has a 7-inch display to study and read information listed on the screen. The zoom function is useful in examining every detail for accurate results. However, some users struggle because the device doesn’t detect probes easily.
The device weighs 6.85 pounds but comes with a handle so you can use it on multiple locations despite its weight. It’s more expensive than other o-scopes but can record up to 2.5 kpts per channel.
However, it doesn’t come with a cooling fan, so it’s not noisy. This is an excellent feature, especially for aspiring scientists and researchers who prefer to work in a quiet relaxing environment. As a bonus, there is an educational feature that offers tutorials and tips to hobbyists and beginners.
7. Hantek HT6022BE20Mhz 6022be PC Based USB Digital Storage Oscilloscope 20 MHz Bandwidth
It features a USB port and can be used with multiple operating systems to display the results on the computer, so it’s a bit different from other oscilloscopes on our list.
The device is made of anodized aluminum, so it’s durable but lightweight. It can save waveform data in text or images so you can share them with others as email attachments.
The high refresh rate and 48 MS/s enable you to record enough data for experimentation and testing. It measures 20 MHz of bandwidth and has 3% accuracy, and this is enough for amateurs and semi-professional testing.
The software has several bugs that you can find online solutions for and the sampling is close to real time with a little bit of lag. There is no scroll bar to see different parts of the signal, but it is a good basic model and provides decent value for money.
Although it offers only 20 MHz bandwidth and 250MS/s real-time sampling with 3% accuracy, it’s enough for basic testing and experimenting. It features 16 logic channels but with only with 1 M/Ch in memory depth, so it’s not the right device for you if you want to use your tool for more complicated applications. However, 16 channels ae enough to experiment advanced systems and circuits.
Rebooting is another issue that users struggle while using this oscilloscope when they pair it with a device that uses Windows 10 as an operating system. However, it’s compatible with numerous other operating systems and works very well with them.
9. Rigol DS1102E 100MHz Digital Oscilloscope – Dual Analog Channels, 1 GSa/s Sampling
It has two channels, 1 GSa/s real-time sample rate, and 1 Mpts memory depth, which is typical of a semi-professional o-scope in this price range. However, users love that this device delivers high-quality FFT that can help you get accurate data especially if you’re not that good with frequencies.
It comes with a 5.7-inch backlit LCD Display and provides 20 wave parameters, so it’s suitable for students and hobbyists. Although some users prefer bigger screens, you can view data on the computer, zoom-in and take screenshots to include in an academic report.
The cursor mode is a nice feature that beginners love as it helps to take measurements. You can connect it to your computer, save and even print waveforms so you can study and test your waves.
10. Siglent SDS1102CML Digital Storage Oscilloscope – 100MHz, 7” TFT-LCD Display
But most importantly, it provides hobbyists and scientists to be with advanced triggers to isolate certain signals. It’s sensitive enough to capture low-level signals, so it’s suitable for hobbyists who love to research with various waves.
This benchtop o-scope weighs 5.5 pounds, so you can carry it easily. It features a 7-inch LCD Display to capture waveform changes.
Students and amateurs love how they can use this device to extract data using the USB port. Thanks to its software package, you’ll be able to analyze various data patterns and even use your oscilloscope remotely.
Everything You Need to Know about Oscilloscopes
Oscilloscopes can be used as diagnostic tools to detect electronic malfunctions and are also popular in every hobbyist’s lab who likes to experiment and measure the electric current. They can measure various kinds of waves and provide accurate data for studying and testing purposes, unlike multimeters that aren’t that accurate.
O-scopes can be used for a wide range of projects and purposes. These include:
Studying: Engineering students use these devices to verify that their machines or models are working correctly. They are used to gather and compare data to prepare study reports and research papers.
Automotive Diagnosis: Repairmen use them to study and find the faulty parts in your circuit you can know what’s wrong with a car.
Electronics Troubleshooting: If you’re a fan of repairing your home appliances or planning to start your electronics shop, then you need to buy a reliable oscilloscope.
Robotic Projects: Whether you’re an amateur, a student, or a teacher, you can use this device to experiment with your project and see if it’s functional.
Science fans: You can see how sound waves look and experiment with various features using this device. This is a useful tool that you can use in the classroom or science lab.
There are various things to know about o-scopes if you’re in the market shopping for one.
Differences Between Portable and Benchtop Oscilloscopes
Portable devices are suitable for people who are always on the go. Lots of students and hobbyists prefer them over benchtop models which are typically heavier and more difficult to carry around.
Various users prefer products like the SainSmart DSO Note II DS202 Nano ARM Portable Mini Handheld Touch Screen Digital Storage Oscilloscope because it’s excellent value for money with simple and easy operation. It responds well to users’ input data and displays menus and various types of data on its small screen.
These models are suitable for people who need to work in the class, the workshop or other locations. They’re lightweight and compact enough to fit in your pocket or backpack. Some portable devices are battery-operated and need no access to electricity.
However, these portable designs aren’t usually designed for serious users who are planning to use their devices for more challenging tasks. Although The SainSmart model has a small screen, most of them don’t even have a display screen. This means that you’ll have to connect your oscilloscope to a laptop or computer to study recorded data.
Corded benchtop models are more cumbersome, although some of them are quite portable. However, you’ll have to have access to electricity to measure and compare data.
They have bigger screens so you can study and compare various types of waves.
These o-scopes are suitable for more professional and serious users because they can cover bigger bandwidths and record various types of data. Some of them can be connected to the computer like the Rigol DS1102E 100MHz Digital Oscilloscope.
So it’s safe to say that handheld models are suitable for people who work in the field. Teachers, automotive engineers, maintenance specialists, and hobbyists who work in the outdoors find them extremely useful.
Benchtop models are suitable for people who have designated workspaces. They have more technical features so they can provide more accurate readings.
Pick the Right Bandwidth
The bandwidth refers to the minimum and maximum frequency your o-scope can measure. The bandwidth should be at least 4 or 5 times the highest frequency on the device or circuit you’re studying. Using the probes, you can measure signals to study and test waves.
The bigger the bandwidth, the more powerful your device will be because that means it can accurately measure a wider range of frequencies. This also means that it will cost more.
However, higher is not always better. If you have high bandwidth but you’re trying to measure very low frequencies, you’ll get noise. Amateurs and beginners usually don’t need very high bandwidth to study simple electric circuits.
Nevertheless, if you’re planning to use your o-scope in a more professional setting, then you’ll probably have to pay more for a device that has a higher bandwidth. These devices will provide accurate information about more complicated systems and circuits.
Which Sample Rate is Suitable For Me?
The sample rate is measured in either Ms/s or Gs/s. To get accurate results, it should be at least five times the highest frequency you’re measuring. The real-time sample rate is the most relevant feature in hobbyists’ o-scopes.
The minimum sample rate is another important feature to think about, especially when you measure low frequencies. Most entry-level o-scopes will measure 1 Gs/s or 2 Gs/s.
Some scopes will have different rates according to the number of channels in use. You should study the specifications of your oscilloscope and find what it can do because most of the time the rate will change based on operation conditions. For example, the sample rate in a single channel will be twice what you get if you’re using two channels together.
Computer Compatibility: Is it Really Worth it?
Today you can find several portable and benchtop o-scopes that you can connect to the computer and laptop. But this feature comes with a price, so it really worth it?
If your device doesn’t have a screen or has a small one, then having good computer compatibility is a must-have. You can easily connect your oscilloscope to the computer, study the data, and compare information.
The computer allows you to store your data in various forms for easy sharing and storage. Some models can save your waves data in multiple formats to share them with other interested parties in the form of texts, pictures and excel sheets.
However, it’s essential to pick a model that can work with your operating system; otherwise, your computer won’t recognize the device. If your device has a software CD, make sure that you can easily make the best of it without paying for any extra features.
Students usually find this feature extremely useful because they can study, analyze and compare the stored data. They will be able to write well-research lab reports and share them with multiple users.
Hobbyists and even professionals can benefit from a device that they can connect to the computer when the display doesn’t have a zoom-in feature. When you zoom in, you’ll be able to study the details of the waves.
Where Are you Buying your Oscilloscope From?
With several o-scopes available on the market, interested potential users are usually looking for high-quality devices that are manufactured by reputable brands.
Having a decent oscilloscope made by a well-known brand means that you won’t just enjoy the potential of your new device, but you can also feel confident about the quality of the after-sale services.
Some of these brands have been in the market for years, so they want to maintain their reputation by offering extra features, decent support, and troubleshooting services to their clients. Users of the o-scope will reach out to the company, if their device starts to malfunction, or if they can’t set it up in the first place.
Moreover, most of these companies offer decent warranty agreements, so users can view their devices as an investment that doesn’t depreciate with time. A high-quality device can be used for years to test the performance of hundreds of electric circuits.
At the same time, if something breaks down, you’ll have access to high-quality spare parts, powered by the brand’s reputation.
Best Oscilloscope Brands
Here’s our selection of the top brands on the market.
Rigol is a well-known name in the world of test and measurement. The Chinese-based company provides worldwide customers with high-quality spectrum analyzers, arbitrary waveform generator, data acquisition systems, in addition to sensitive measurement devices.
The company has been in the market since 1998, releasing its first digital o-scope to help people take their measurements game up a notch. Ever since then, Rigol’s experts have worked on more than 493 patents to offer high-quality test tools.
Rigol currently has offices in the USA and Europe and deliver excellent value to its customers by reducing their overall cost of testing. As a leading name in the Research and Development field, they provide amateurs and users with the needed data to study, analyze and compare different segments of data to test the functionality of their devices or write performance reports.
Users, who need high-quality test tools with decent value for money, know that they buy their o-scopes from Siglent Technologies. The company offers excellent products in the field of research and development for various testing, examining and analyzing purposes.
The Chinese company began developing digital o-scopes in 2002. Today, after years of experimentation and research, its product lines include handheld o-scopes, function, and arbitrary waveform generators, digital multimeters, spectrum analyzers in addition to other testing devices.
Any beginner or professional can find a product that can help them measure currency and frequency that caters to their needs because Siglent offers various models.
Siglent focuses on introducing competitive oscilloscope for the small and medium-sized markets where amateurs, students, maintenance engineers, and laboratory scientists need accessible and reliable devices to record and analyze data.
Hantek is a famous name in the High-Tech industry as it continues developing its decent devices for affordable prices. The company relies on combining years of experience with the latest technologies and the desire to provide users with a good experience.
As Hantek’s experts realized the market’s need to more portable and compact devices, the company succeeded in promoting several models of handheld oscilloscopes and multifunction measuring instruments.
This is why they began experimenting with the USB o-scopes in 1999. These devices allow amateurs and professionals to step out of the lab and measure waves and currencies wherever they are.
In 2001, the engineers were able to offer the plug-and-play USB o-scope for hassle-free operation. Today you can find Hanteks’ products in Europe and the States as they pay attention to the changing needs of their customers.
SainSmart decided to offer something to hobbyists and professionals who want to bring their phenomenal ideas to life. Using the best measurement and testing tools, they’ll be able to evaluate the success of their projects.
Their product lines include tools related to robotics, 3D printing, sensors, in addition to measurement and testing tools. Their DIY kits are amazing as they offer affordable compact devices for people who want to experiment and test their inventions.
This company is one of the most reputable oscilloscopes’ manufacturers, excelling in the field of portable and handheld models that allow for field testing.
Tektronix is a successful American company that specializes in offering high-quality o-scopes and logic analyzers. Going back to the technology revolution that took place after World War 2, the company started to offer measurement and testing tools under the name Tekrad. The name later changed in 1946, becoming a famous and reputable name with currently more than 60 years of experience.
If you want to know about the history of o-scopes, then you should examine the history of Tektronix. The product lines include the earliest and most advanced oscilloscopes. It currently has offices in more than 21 countries.
Fluke products are designed to keep the world of innovations up and running. The company offers high-quality and rugged testing and measurement tools for beginners and professionals who want to collect data and analyze patterns.
The American company started in 1948 and currently covers different market segments under its various brands; Fluke Networks, Fluke Biomedical, and Fluke Calibration.
LeCroy is a leading name in the world of oscilloscopes and other test equipment. It was founded in 1964, focusing on offering test and measurement tools to DIY lovers and professionals.
Their oscilloscopes are designed to help designers and engineers test, measure, and analyze complex electronic signals to improve the performance of their systems and innovations. By improving the performance of chips and subsystems, inventors and engineers can enjoy an increase in productivity and functionality.
In 2016, LeCroy acquired another company, Quantum Data, which specializes in manufacturing video testing tools and protocol analyzers.
FAQs About Oscilloscopes
In this section, you’ll find the most common questions that users usually ask before or after making a purchase.
Q1: What can an oscilloscope measure?
They’re used to measure the change in an electric signal over time. The waveform can be analyzed and studied to improve the performance or detect malfunctioning.
Q2: Are oscilloscope probes interchangeable?
Probes weaken the signals measured so they don’t exceed the input change of your o-scope as this might ruin it. Most probes are interchangeable, although they have different bandwidths and loading characteristics. If the electric current input is the same, you can use the probes with multiple devices.
Q3: What are the different types of o-scopes?
There are four types of digital oscilloscopes: DSO digital storage oscilloscopes, DPO digital phosphor oscilloscopes, MSO mixed signal oscilloscopes, and Digital sampling oscilloscopes.
- DSO models allow users to see events that happen only once.
- DPO models use serial-processing architecture to capture, display, and analyze various signals.
- MDO models can measure signals from analog and digital devices. MSO models combine the functions of DOPs with a 16-channel logic analyzer to debug digital circuits.
- Digital Sampling oscilloscopes work differently because the input signal is sampled before it’s weakened, so they have higher bandwidths.
Q4: What is the trigger function on an oscilloscope?
This is an important feature that achieves a clear signal as it stabilizes the horizontal sweep of the o-scope to the proper point of the signal. Triggering is used to capture signals that happen once or repetitively.
Q5: What is the difference between bandwidth and a frequency?
They’re both used to measure terms of networking. The bandwidth measures the amount of transferred data per second while the frequency measures the number of oscillation of the data signal per second.
Q6 : What is the difference between an oscilloscope and a digital multimeter?
A digital multimeter or DMM can take measurements of discrete signals to read up to eight digits of resolution for the voltage or frequency of a signal. They can’t reveal wave shape or signal strength for detailed studies.
Oscilloscopes add more value to the numerical results of DMMs. They reveal the shape of waves and graphically show distortion and noise.
This list contains high-quality o-scopes that cater to the needs of hobbyists and professionals. In my opinion, I think the Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E 200 MHz Digital Oscilloscope 2 Channels is the best hobbyist oscilloscope. It’s a medium-priced benchtop model with various automated functions, high bandwidth, and memory recording to provide accurate data insights.
Students, first-timers, as well as professionals find it helpful thanks to the color temperature feature. Although there are more advanced models on the market, it offers enough features for medium-level testing and measurement.
If you’re looking for a handheld model, then you should consider the SainSmart DSO Note II DS202 Nano ARM Portable Mini Handheld Touch Screen Digital Storage Oscilloscope, 8MB Memory Storage 2MHz 10Mps. This is a lightweight model with lots of potential and its portability allows you to easily use it away from your laboratory.Related Reviews