Lab equipment (scope, function generator) for (advanced) hobby


Currently I’m evaluating digital scopes and function generators (and other useful lab equipment). I wan’t to spend at maximum $1000.

Yes, I know the most important specs of the scopes such as bandwidth, amount of channels, sampling rate etc. It’s still hard to decide wheter the amount of channels (4 vs 2) or bandwidth (100 vs 50 MHz) is more important.

I had a look at the following devices: GW Instek GDS 1104B (and similar), Rigol DS1104Z (and similar).

One specific project I have in mind: I want to do data transmission (only a few bits) over a short distance of a few mm with two solenoids (inductive coupling).

May be you can help me answering a few questions:

  1. Rigol vs GW Instek, any general thoughts on those brands?
  2. 50 vs 100 MHz bandwidth: can you give an example of something which will still work with 100 MHz but won’t with 50 MHz? Price difference is significant.
  3. What do you need to get transient behaviour of switching mosfets or BJTs?
  4. Any example when you necessarily need 4 analog channels and 2 won’t do the job?
  5. There are scopes with integrated function generator. Is it useful to have it inside the scope or what’s the advantage having a seperate device (other than saving space on the desk)?
  6. Any other advice regarding useful equipment for my project?

Thank’s for your advice!

I will take a SWAG but I have no idea of your experience or skill set. I use to work a lot with MOSFETs and I have a digital 500 Mhz Tek scope and it sometimes runs out of bandwidth when working with switching above 1 Mhz. Have you considered purchasing a used scope. When you do check on the cost of calibration for it as well. If you do buy used check it for function and send it out for calibration while you still can return it. For transient you will need either digital or storage. The faster the scope the more garbage you will see. I like my test pieces of equipment seperate that way if I blow one I do not lose everything. I can also pick and chose the function range etc I want. I would suggest you start with a Logic Analyzer, you can buy a 24 MHz unit for under $10.00 delivered to your door. This has reduced my scope usage by about 90%. I also have a Tek but it is in the cabinet, the cheep one does the job and is cheap to replace rather than repair. I keep my lab ISO/TS. Depending on the equipment it goes for cal every year or so.

A lot depends upon what sort of projects you intend to work on as to what equipment it would be a good idea to buy .

That would set a specification for you or make a demand to you that you need a particular part . How “fast” do you want to look at those transients , why ?
It’s important to get that right for the expensive purchases .

Don’t forget you can make , for example a simple signal or pulse generator , spark fun sell a cheap logic analyser and so on .
The most used item I have is my DVM and a logic probe .

I have a second hand 2ch 10MHz scope , second hand function generator , logic probe ( home made) , good quality DVM , accurate hand held thermometer . I also have a portable fluke scope retrieved from a skip ( it just had a duff battery).
It’s also worth pointing out that this stuff apart from the logic probe and DVM doesn’t get a lot of use !!!
So don ‘t dismiss the second hand

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