Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Meet the Owon SDS 7102V – part 2

In Hardware on May 5, 2013 at 00:01

Today’s post continues where we left off yesterday. Here are the front-panel controls:


Nice and tidy. Absolutely effective, as far as I could establish in my first impressions. As with all modern scopes, there are lots of features behind all those buttons, and many of them lead to “soft menu’s”, i.e. menu’s shown on screen (on three sides sometimes: right, left, and bottom). That’s what the right and bottom buttons next to the screen are for. There’s one “multipurpose” rotary encoder knob, which is used when selecting from the occasional menu popping up on the left.

The only downside is that you can end up moving your hands around a lot while setting things up and while making adjustments. Coming from a different brand, I had some trouble remembering where averaging, FFT, trigger settings, etc. were, but that’s bound to get easier over time as muscle memory sets in. Because operating any complex instrument with lots of knobs and features really is about motions and muscle memory. It just takes a bit of time and practice.

One remarkable feature of this scope is its very deep 10 megasamples acquisition depth (it’s adjustable, from 1,000 samples up). This makes it very easy to take a single snapshot of an event, and then to zoom in to see specific events in full detail.

One use would be to decode serial communication signals such as UARTs and I2C data packets. There is no built-in decoding, so this needs to be done manually. Then again, you can save all 10 million samples to a USB stick so with some software it would be possible to perform such decoding automatically on a standard PC or Mac, albeit after-the-fact.

Power consumption is very low: 0.77W standby, 18W when turned on.

You might be wondering how this oscilloscope compares to the Xminilab and the Hameg HMO series – which are about a fifth and five times as expensive, respectively. But with such an extreme price range, it’s impossible to answer this question other than: the more you pay, the more you get. Pretty obvious, and also pretty useless as guideline, I’m afraid.

Would I buy the Xminilab if I had no more than $100 to spend? Yes. While it’s limited and does require a lot more ingenuity and patience, it can still help to understand what’s going on, and to address problems that couldn’t be solved without a scope.

Would I recommend the Owon for serious electronics use? Definitely. It lets you capture all the info you need, and “see” what’s going on – both analog and digitally – for frequencies up to dozens of MHz. With much larger display & more memory than the Rigol DS1052E.

Would I purchase a Hameg HMO series again, even though it’s so darn expensive? Yes. The software, the math features, the logic analyser, and the serial decoding – it all adds up, yet it’s still half the price of the “low end” Agilent models. And, not to be ignored: its (cropped but informative) screenshots are perfect for the 604 pixel width of this weblog!

I’ll explore the capabilities of the Owon SDS 7102V scope in more practical scenarios in the weeks to come. Stay tuned…