TLDR; The HANMATEK 110Mhz DOS1102 Digital Oscilloscope is a good budget option for hobby project. If you’re more comfortable with an option from a well-known brand, the Siglent SDS1104X-E 100Mhz Digital Oscilloscope is a great scope with a lot of high-end features.
Having an oscilloscope is a must when you start doing more advanced electronics projects since it allows you to see how a signal look like. The obvious use case is when working with analog signals, but it’s also pretty useful to know the quality of a digital signal or of a power source.
For hobby project it may feel like a luxury since you won’t need it all the time. I don’t fire up mine very often compared to my trusty multimeter, but it’s worth its weight in gold when you do need it and the multimeter is too limited. There is no other tool that will give you that visibility on how a circuit behaves.
There are a few questions to ask yourself when you shop:
- How much bandwidth do I need? This is the frequency that can be measured and displayed accurately by the oscilloscope. In general, you’ll need around 5 times the maximum frequency of the signal to get good result. The absolute maximum of an Arduino Uno PWM (pulse width modulator) signal is 8Mhz for the standard 16Mhz clock, so a 50Mhz to 100Mhz bandwidth is more than enough.
- What is the sample rate? This is how often the oscilloscope take a measurement by second, regardless of its frequency. A higher sample rate means that the signal displayed is more precise.
- How many input channels do I need? This is how many signals you can measure at once (and how many probes you can plug in). For small projects, 2 is generally enough (or at least can be worked around).
- How can I export the data? Not everybody will need this, but if you need to extract data to analyze it or want/need a picture of the waveform, it can be worth taking a look at your options to get the data out of the oscilloscope.
You can pay thousands of dollars for a scope that has a lot of bandwidth and memory, but for Arduino or Raspberry Pi projects you don’t need all this precision. For a few hundreds dollar or even less, you can get a perfectly acceptable scope that will show you all you need to see.
Here are the budget oscilloscopes that I will review in this article:
- Siglent SDS1104X-E 100Mhz Digital Oscilloscope
- HANMATEK 110Mhz DOS1102 Digital Oscilloscope
- Rigol DS1054Z 50Mhz Digital Oscilloscopes
- ADSD1013D Portable USB Oscilloscope
- ‘DSO Shell’ DSO150 DIY Oscilloscope Kit
If you want to go with a proven product for which it will be easy to find help, Siglent is a well-known brand of oscilloscope. This model comes with with 4 channels and 100Mhz of bandwidth, so that’s plenty to get started with. It also comes with many advanced features that comes in handy for microcontroller projects, such as decoding for IIC, SPI, CAN, LIN, serial and I2C messages.
It can also function as a logic analyzer out of the box (which allow you to see a digital signal) with a total of 16 digital channels, but needs a pretty expensive optional logic probe to use. Still, it’s nice to have the option if you ever want one someday; a standalone logic analyzer will be a lot more expensive than the price of the probe, and USB logic analyzer are probably in the same price range.
Also, this oscilloscope can be controller remotely from your WIFI network using a web page, which is also how you extract data from it. It’s a nice option since you can put the display on a bigger screen, or have it right there on your computer while you look up information.
This is a pretty standard scope at 110Mhz of bandwidth and 2 channels. It’s not from a big brand name, but the buttons and menus are pretty close to what you would generally see, so it’s pretty intuitive.
The one-click show all measurements is also pretty cool to see quickly all the information about a waveform. It includes all the standard waveform measurements you’d normally care about. It doesn’t include decoding for advanced protocols, but that’s to be expected for an entry-level scope.
You can also plug the oscilloscope with a USB cable to your computer to display the output, export the data and analyze it using their Windows desktop application.
Rigol is a well-known brand of scope and this 50Mhz oscilloscope with 4 channels is once of their entry-level model. It has some high-end features, such as being able to decode RS232/UART, I2C, and SPI signals and multiple mathematical operations can be applied to the signal.
You can export the data from the oscilloscope in a variety of ways: for instance, it can be added to your LAN (local network) with a network cable and you can save to a USB stick in CSV format.
It has a bit less bandwidth than the other two portable oscilloscope I reviewed, but that’s enough to get started with. You may want to have a look around YouTube: it should be hackable up to 100Mhz. The sample rate and accuracy will be lower accordingly, but it’s worth considering if you’re up against the limit of what it can do.
This is a bit different than the other oscilloscope reviewed here, since it’s just a handheld tablet with ports to plug in the probes and charge it. It has 100Mhz of bandwidth with 2 channels, but at higher frequency the precision is not very good.
This has the basic features you’d expect from an entry-level oscilloscope: you have a few options to trigger a measurements and you can look at the waveform and its various measurements from the screen. You can also capture a picture of the result, which you can download when you plug it in a computer.
This is a good introduction to using an oscilloscope, as long as you don’t expect the same results as the more standard portable oscilloscope I reviewed. It’s also nice for many diagnostic applications since it’s handheld and battery-power: it can be great as a second oscilloscope when don’t want to go around with the big, expensive scope.
If all of the options above are too expensive for you, or you are looking for a fun project that helps you understand oscilloscope better, you can order the DSO150 oscilloscope kit. You can assemble it with only a basic soldering iron and a multimeter to check the resistors and capacitors: most of the parts are already soldered on the board, except some through-hole components.
It also comes in a nice box, but you’ll have to find a 9V DC adapter to power it if you don’t already have one in your junk box.
It’s far from being as precise as the commercial scopes reviewed above, but you can see the general shape of the waveform with a bandwidth of 0-200kHz, using a single channel.
The Siglent SDS1104X-E 100Mhz Digital Oscilloscope is my top option among all the oscilloscope reviewed here: it’s a name brand scope with high-end features that can come in handy even with hobbyist projects such as decoding I2C and CAN signals, and has an option to expend to a logic analyzer down the line.
On the other hand, if your budget is more limited and you don’t need those options, the HANMATEK 110Mhz DOS1102 Digital Oscilloscope is also a great oscilloscope to get started with. I’d also consider the ADSD1013D Portable USB Oscilloscope if your budget is really limited: it’s still a good tool to have better visibility on what your circuits are doing.