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Comprehensive Guide to Oscilloscopes

Oscilloscopes are essential tools in electronics, telecommunications, and various technological industries. Whether you're an engineer, technician, or enthusiast, understanding how to use and choose an oscilloscope can greatly enhance your ability to diagnose and analyze electrical signals. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of oscilloscopes, including their types, features, applications, and how to select the right one for your needs.

What is an Oscilloscope?

What is an Oscilloscope?

Definition and Basic Functionality

An oscilloscope is an electronic test instrument that graphically displays electrical signals over time. It allows users to visualize and analyze characteristics such as voltage, frequency, amplitude, and waveform. The primary purpose of an oscilloscope is to capture information on electrical signals for debugging, analysis, or characterization.

What is an Oscilloscope?

History and Evolution

Oscilloscopes have significantly evolved over the years. The first oscilloscopes were analog, using a cathode ray tube (CRT) to display signals. Modern oscilloscopes, however, are predominantly digital, offering advanced features and enhanced capabilities for more precise and varied applications.

Types of Oscilloscopes

Analog Oscilloscopes

Analog oscilloscopes use a CRT to plot the signal's trace onto a phosphorous screen, providing continuous display as an analog waveform. Despite being largely replaced by digital models, analog oscilloscopes are still valued for their real-time response and simplicity.

Digital Oscilloscopes

Digital oscilloscopes sample the signal at a high rate using an analog-to-digital converter, converting continuous analog signals into discrete digital signals. These oscilloscopes offer advanced features such as storage capabilities and automated measurements.

Other Types

  • Analog Storage Oscilloscopes: Capable of storing traces for later viewing.

  • Digital Storage Oscilloscopes (DSOs): Can capture and store digital signals for analysis.

  • Digital Phosphor Oscilloscopes: Provide enhanced display of signal details.

  • Digital Sampling Oscilloscopes: Used for very high-frequency signal analysis.

  • Mixed-Signal Oscilloscopes (MSOs): Integrate digital and analog channels.

  • Mixed Domain Oscilloscopes: Offer both time and frequency domain analysis.

  • USB Oscilloscopes: Portable and connect to a computer via USB.

Key Components and Features

Display Screen

The display screen is a crucial part of an oscilloscope, available in various types and resolutions. Modern digital oscilloscopes typically feature LCD or LED screens with high resolutions, allowing for clearer and more detailed signal visualization.


Probes are used to connect the oscilloscope to the circuit under test. They can be passive (attenuated) or active and come in various types to suit different measurement needs. Proper probe selection and usage are essential for accurate measurements.

Vertical and Horizontal Controls

These controls allow users to adjust the voltage scale (vertical axis) and time base (horizontal axis) of the displayed signal. Proper adjustment ensures accurate representation of the signal.

Triggering Systems

The triggering system synchronizes the display to ensure a stable waveform, making it easier to analyze repetitive signals. Triggers can be set to capture specific events, making it a powerful tool for signal analysis.

Connectivity Options

Modern oscilloscopes offer various connectivity options such as USB, LAN, and GPIB, facilitating easy data transfer and remote operation. These options enhance the versatility and usability of the oscilloscope in different environments.

How Does an Oscilloscope Work?

Oscilloscopes use three main systems to reconstruct and display electrical signals:

  1. Vertical System: Captures voltage information and displays it on the vertical axis.

  2. Horizontal System: Controls the time base and displays the signal over the horizontal axis.

  3. Trigger System: Synchronizes the display for a stable waveform.

Probes are essential for connecting the oscilloscope to the circuit under test, routing the signal to the oscilloscope's input. The oscilloscope then processes the signal and displays it on the screen, allowing for detailed analysis.

Applications of Oscilloscopes

Oscilloscopes are used in a wide range of industries and applications including:

  • Electronics Engineering and Design: For testing and debugging circuits.

  • Automotive Diagnostics and Repair: To analyze vehicle electronics.

  • Telecommunications and Networking: For signal analysis and troubleshooting.

  • Medical Equipment: Monitoring and diagnosing medical devices (e.g., ECG, EEG).

  • Scientific Research and Development: For experimental and research purposes.

  • Audio and Acoustics Analysis: Evaluating sound signals.

  • Power Electronics and Energy Systems: Analyzing power systems and components.

Key Oscilloscope Features

Modern oscilloscopes come with a variety of features:

  • Cursors: For precise measurement of time and voltage.

  • Calibration Signals: For probe compensation.

  • Storage Capabilities: For capturing rare or transient events.

  • Automated Measurements and Analysis Tools: To simplify the analysis process.

  • Connectivity Options: Such as USB, Ethernet, and GPIB for easy data transfer.

Choosing the Right Oscilloscope

When selecting an oscilloscope, consider the following factors:

  • Bandwidth: The range of frequencies the oscilloscope can accurately measure.

  • Sample Rate: The number of samples per second the oscilloscope can take.

  • Number of Channels: The number of signals the oscilloscope can measure simultaneously.

  • Specific Needs and Applications: Determine what features and capabilities are essential for your work.

  • Budget Considerations: Balance the cost with the necessary features.

Top 5 Oscilloscopes: Analysis and Comparison


Siglent SDS1202X-E

Siglent SDS1104X-E

Rigol DS1054Z

Rigol DS1202Z-E

Siglent SDS1104X-U


200 MHz

100 MHz

50 MHz

200 MHz

100 MHz







Sample Rate

1 GSa/s

1 GSa/s

1 GSa/s

1 GSa/s

1 GSa/s

Memory Depth

14 Mpts

14 Mpts

24 Mpts

24 Mpts

14 Mpts


TFT-LCD 7 inch (800x480)

TFT-LCD 7 inch (800x480)

WVGA 7 inch (800x480)

WVGA 7 inch (800x480)

TFT-LCD 7 inch (800x480)







Price (Approx.)






Key Features

High bandwidth, serial decoding

4 channels, standard decoding

Affordable, deep memory

High bandwidth, robust build

4 channels, superior display

  1. Siglent SDS1202X-E: Offers high bandwidth suitable for detailed analysis but limited to two channels. Ideal for users needing precision but not multiple channels.

  1. Siglent SDS1104X-E: With four channels and standard decoding, it's a great option for applications requiring multi-signal analysis. Reasonably priced for its feature set.

  1. Rigol DS1054Z: Affordable and with large memory depth, suitable for budget-conscious users needing flexibility with four channels.

  1. Rigol DS1202Z-E: High bandwidth and robust build quality, suitable for demanding applications requiring stability and precision.

  1. Siglent SDS1104X-U: Notable for its superior phosphor technology and four channels, ideal for users needing high-quality display, though with a complex interface.

Operating an Oscilloscope

Basic Setup and Calibration

  1. Connecting Probes: Properly connect the probes to the oscilloscope and the circuit under test.

  2. Measuring Signals: Adjust the vertical and horizontal scales to fit the signal on the screen.

  3. Adjusting Settings: Use the oscilloscope's controls to optimize the display for accurate readings.

  4. Safety Tips: Follow proper safety protocols to avoid damage to the equipment or injury.

Advanced Features and Techniques

  1. FFT Analysis: For analyzing frequency components of a signal.

  2. Serial Decoding: To interpret data from communication protocols.

  3. Automated Measurements: Use built-in tools for quick analysis.

  4. Data Logging and Export: Save and export data for further analysis.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

Identifying and Fixing Problems

  1. Signal Distortion: Check for proper probe compensation and settings.

  2. Noise: Minimize noise by proper grounding and shielding.

  3. Calibration: Regularly calibrate the oscilloscope for accurate measurements.

Maintenance Tips

  • Prolonging Life: Keep the oscilloscope clean and handle it with care.

  • Regular Calibration: Ensure accurate performance by periodic calibration.


Oscilloscopes are essential tools for analyzing and troubleshooting electrical signals across various industries. Their ability to graphically display signals over time provides invaluable insights. As you continue to explore and use oscilloscopes, consider the factors discussed in this guide to enhance your understanding and application of these powerful instruments.

Explore Now

We invite you to explore the top-selling oscilloscopes on Amazon. Each product has been carefully selected based on quality, performance, and value, making it easy for you to find the right fit for your needs.

Recommended Products

  1. Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E 200 MHz Digital Oscilloscope 2 Channels Grey

  • Link amazon

  • Pros: High bandwidth, multiple channels, advanced features.

  • Cons: Higher price, requires experienced users.

  1. Siglent Technologies SDS1104X-E 100 MHz Digital Oscilloscope 4 Channels Standard Decoder Grey

  • Link amazon

  • Pros: Multiple channels, standard decoder, user-friendly interface.

  • Cons: Limited bandwidth compared to SDS1202X-E.

  1. Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope 50 MHz Bandwidth 4 Channels 1GSa/s Sampling Rate 24Mpts Memory Depth

  • Link amazon

  • Pros: Affordable, extensive memory depth, reliable performance.

  • Cons: Lower bandwidth, basic features.

  1. Rigol DS1202Z-E Digital Oscilloscope 200 MHz Bandwidth 2 Channels 1GSa/s Sampling Rate 24Mpts Memory Depth

  • Link amazon

  • Pros: High bandwidth, extensive memory, robust build.

  • Cons: Higher cost, limited to two channels.

  1. Siglent Technologies SDS1104X-U 100 MHz Super Phosphor Digital Oscilloscopes 4 Channels

  • Link amazon

  • Pros: Four channels, enhanced display quality, competitive price.

  • Cons: Lower bandwidth compared to higher-end models, complex interface for beginners.

For more detailed information about our products and services, visit our website at Trung Kiên Techdevinco. Here, you will discover innovative solutions in electronics, automation, and telecommunications, along with in-depth articles and expert product reviews. We are committed to providing you with excellent experiences and valuable insights.

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