If you’re looking for a good entry level oscilloscope and don’t want to pay more than a few hundred dollars, then there are a limited number of options.
One option is the Rigol 1054Z. Another good option is the SDS series Siglent oscilloscopes – specifically the Siglent SDS1202X-E and SDS1204X-E. We’ve previously reviewed the Rigol DS1054Z so today we’re going to focus on the Siglent oscilloscopes.
In short, they’re both great bang for your buck oscilloscopes with plenty of excellent features considering their price points. It really comes down to the UI, and a matter of personal preference of how you like the menu settings and your personal use case.
We’d give the slight edge to the Siglent oscilloscopes because of slightly newer technology but you really can’t go wrong either way.
What Is An Oscilloscope?
An oscilloscope is used to visualize electronic signals. Among other things, it can be used for testing and debugging circuits by displaying a two-dimensional (on X and Y axis) plot of your electronic signal over a pre-determined period of time.
They are used by hobbyists, students and professionals alike and can range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars! Let’s take a look at a popular entry level model that’s packed with a variety of excellent features.
Siglent SDS1202X-E Oscilloscope
The Siglent SDS1202X-E is a compact and lightweight oscilloscope with 2 channels and a bandwidth of 200 MHz.
It has a sampling rate of 1 GSa/s for single channel which halves to 500 Meg Samples/S when both channels are turned on, and a signal memory of 7 or 14 MSamples/channel.
It has a number of good trigger mode options with decoders for serial signals like CAN, UART, and SPI built-in.
It features their patented Super Phosphor Technology which facilitates measurement and signal accuracy that is ultimately displayed on its wide screen high resolution 7” LCD screen (800×480 resolution) and relatively low system noise.
It checks all the required boxes – fast waveform updating, high resolution screen), solid bandwidth, impressive memory depth (sample rate * acquisition time window), and an unbelievable price.
It has a good amount of trigger modes as well: slope, edge, pulse, video, window…and plenty more from which to choose as well.
Siglent SDS1204X-E Oscilloscope
The Siglent SDS1204X-E is a step up from the 1104X-E and 1202X-E oscilloscopes as it features a full four channels for starters.
It also has a SAG1021 waveform generator (available separately).In other words, it can control an external arbitrary waveform generator (AWG) via its USB port – useful for generating Bode plots.
Technically, you could use the waveform generator with other stand alone generators as well via customizable scripts.
And it has a true 1 GSa/s rate thanks to it’s A/D converters. As previously mentioned, the SDS1202X-E sampling rate gets cut in half when an additional channel is turned on. But since the 1204X-E has two separate converters, it’s able to sample both channels at the 1 GS/S rate on every other channel – ie channels 1 & 3, or 2 & 4.
Depending on your needs, this feature alone may make it worth the extra money.
It too has an excellent, colorful and clear screen with a number of easy-to-use signal display options.
It has all of the same mathematical functions and fast signal processing thanks to its 14 Mpts per converter signal memory.
Siglent Oscilloscope Menus
People either love them or hate them. Some people like the simplicity and intuitiveness of Rigol’s buttons and on screen menu and Help settings for example as compared to Siglent’s somewhat convoluted menu setup.
You will most likely have to go through a number clicks er…knob and button presses to access certain measurements. This can either be time consuming or pretty simple and straightforward, depending on the user.
To be fair, it’s understandable that you may have to navigate through a number of screens due to the sheer number of options and features available. It takes some getting used to, but most people get the hang of it pretty quickly.
- Low Power Consumption: With only 25W, it’s below the average 50W power consumption found in many other oscilloscopes.
- Serial Decoding : Comes with popular serial communication interfaces like I2C (Inter-Integrated Circuits), SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface), UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter), CAN (Controller Area Network), LIN (Local Interconnect Network) along with free serial decoding feature, which means that you can use it without purchasing a separate key. Also, on-screen tabulation of those serial values gives a better understanding to the user.
- Intensity Graded Display: A feature that enables the user to dig into some complex waveforms and differentiate the minor waveforms present inside the major waveform envelope with different colors and zooming capabilities.
- Operations and Windowing Techniques: It also has some really good mathematical operations for an entry level ‘scope such as: signal addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and of course a smooth FFT function, credit to its hardware coprocessor.
- A capture rate of up to 400,000 waveforms per second with Gate and Zoom Measurement.
- May have some issues tracking frequencies lower than 199 Hz.
- Trigger control knob has no detent and it is clickable only.
- No Automatic Attenuation setting, a manual option only.
- Only two channels (four channels would be nice)
Siglent Oscilloscopes Comparison Chart
|Bandwidth||100 MHz||200 MHz||200 MHz|
|(Max) Sample Rate||1 GSa/s||1 GSa/s||1 GSa/s (2 channel)|
|Memory Depth||14 MPts||14 MPts||14 MPts|
Telling you which Siglent oscilloscope is best amongst the three SDS models is like choosing between a Toyota and a Lexus. They’re all good cars but they have different price points based on their features and performance.
That said, we included the Siglent SDS1104X-E in the comparison chart but didn’t discuss it because we’re not sure it makes sense to pay over $100 more for a ‘scope with half the bandwidth of the SDS1202X-E and SDS1204X-E.
As far as price, you’ll pay double for the SDS1204X-E so think hard about whether you really need the additional features in order to justify the incremental cost.
Each person has different needs. Figure out which features you really need for your particular use case along with your budget and then decide from there.