Confused with all the feature updates and new specifications you see on oscilloscopes? This interview takes a look at the broad trends affecting oscilloscopes and how they help engineers.
Trevor J. Smith, manager, test & measurement, Pico Technology, speaks with Dilin Anand from EFY.
Q. What one feature defines newer oscilloscopes?
A. Newer test equipment and oscilloscopes have much deeper memory. The best among the latest scopes have 512 mega samples or more of capture or buffer memory. Looking at the trend, scopes had up to 500Mhz with one gigasample of buffer memory in 2013. Today, it has doubled. For an example of memory increase, oscilloscopes with 250MHz to 500MHz bandwidth come with a two GS buffer that can hold two 200 m captures at a rate of up to five gigasamples per second!
Q. What drives the need for additional memory on oscilloscopes and other test equipment?
A. Test engineers today need to do some really deep analysis. This creates the need for really high sampling speed, which also increases the need for more memory. Additional memory is also good for analysing strings of data. If design engineers are working on serial standards like I2C and Flexray, then analysing those communications channels along with the collected data would require additional memory.
Q. Apart from specification upgrades like memory, what else defines new oscilloscope hardware?
A. At the ports side, scopes have now upgraded to use USB3.0 instead of USB 2.0 for the interface. While the new interface is obviously faster, the real difference is that integrating USB 3.0 allows users to stream gap-free continuous data from oscilloscopes onto the user’s computer. This means that users can now graph frequency and duty cycle against time thus enabling them to capture waveforms in the modulation domain rather than the frequency and time domain.