I’ve needed a new bench oscilloscope for quite some time, both for work-from-home activities and for my hobby activities. I have an old HP54501A, but the NVRAM died in it years ago. When I bought a replacement system board with new NVRAM, it continued to have problems. In addition, the sampling rate is abysmally slow, making to only useful for slow or very repetitive signals. It is essentially useless for glitch-hunting activities I’ve needed to perform in the last 2 years, forcing me to use one of the $20,000+ scopes in the lab at work on several occasions. The old Tektronix TDS460 on my desk at work isn’t even sufficient for some of the things I’ve needed to do.
I’ve looked at several of the dirt-cheap scopes. The Rigol units from the DS1102E upward, the Owon units, the lower-priced GW Instek units, etc. However, their updates rates are not good (the Owons are terrible at around 32 waveforms/sec), the build quality is poor (especially on the Rigols), and the firmware isn’t terribly robust. They are an incredible bang for the buck, especially for the casual hobbyist, but they are not tools I can count on to save me time (and hence money) for advanced hobby use and professional use. Of the units I’ve looked at, the only truly appealing ones are the Owons for their portability (battery is an option) and deep memory. They are essentially incapable of finding signal glitches due to their very low waveform capture rate; I’d only consider one for portable use on repetitive signals, or in cases where I need basic MSO capabilities for dirt cheap.
In 2011, Agilent released a series of game-changing oscilloscopes in the InfiniiVision 2000 and 3000 X-Series oscilloscopes. The big deal: a 50,000 waveform/sec capture rate thanks to an Agilent-designed ASIC, at a price point of $1200 for the base 70MHz model. The 3000 series (starting at around $2800) will do 1,000,000 waveforms/sec! These new oscilloscopes can find signal glitches at rates previously only attainable at a price point in excess of $5000, which is well beyond what can be justified if you’re not making money daily with your oscilloscope. The build quality is well above the Rigols, Owons and GW Insteks. The screen is an 8.5″ WVGA (800×480). And you can start with a base unit and purchase additional features as needed, many of them being only software license changes (the feature is already in the base model, it just needs to be unlocked via a license key).
I’ve essentially never needed a 4-channel scope, except when I need MSO or serial bus decoding features. So I’ll likely start with the DSOX2012A and later add the MSO option. The only things that have me considering the more expensive 3000 X-series: more triggering features, and a lot more upgrade options especially for bus decoding and triggering. And some of the upgrade options have more features than the 2000 X-series. For example, the waveform generator can do arbitrary waveforms whereas the 2000 can not.