Finally Bought a Real Oscilloscope

An oscilloscope has been on my workbench wish list for years. I had been limping along with a degraded DSO-138 kit, occasionally wishing for something with more channels, or more bandwidth, or just the ability to measure voltage levels accurately. The key word being occasionally. I haven’t felt that I would use an oscilloscope enough to justify the expense. But when this year’s Amazon Prime Day rolled around, the memory of deciphering multi-channel signals was fresh on my mind, and I clicked “Buy” on a Siglent Technologies SDS1104X-E Oscilloscope. (*)

I had actually been eyeing a Rigol DS1054z(*), which had become a very popular entry-level oscilloscope for hobbyists. It is sold far and wide including my favorite vendor Adafruit, and its popularity meant plenty of online resources. From basic beginner’s “Getting Started” guides to hacks for unlocking features. Ah yes, those features. They were a big part of why I hadn’t bought the Rigol: it really sours me on a company when they would hold features for ransom even though all of the hardware is already present. Sure, I could visit questionable websites and generate codes to unlock those features without paying for them, but just the idea of buying from a company that would do such a thing turned me off.

While the Siglent oscilloscope did have a few paid upgrade features, they all involved additional hardware not already onboard. This made the concept more palatable for me. For reference, they were:

  • WiFi capability. The scope comes with an Ethernet port for network connectivity. Wireless comes at extra cost for the software upgrade in addition to the cost of a supported wireless adapter. I prefer wired Ethernet so I did not care.
  • AWG (arbitrary waveform generator) capability requires extra hardware in the form of Siglent SAG1021I. (~$175 *) So far, my waveform generation needs have been very basic. So basic, in fact, that I wrote a HTML app to cover my needs. I don’t think I’ll miss this feature.
  • MSO (multi-signal oscilloscope) capability requires a Siglent SLA1016 (~$330 *) which adds sixteen additional digital channels for logic analysis. Between the four channels already on board the oscilloscope (which already has logic analyzer functionality without paying to unlock as would a Rigol) and eight channels on my Saleae, I think I’ll be fine without the MSO add-on.

One thing that made me frown was that the AWG and MSO addons connect by something Siglent called “SBus”. Proprietary expansion ports are nothing new, but they chose to use a HDMI connector for the purpose. With a warning that plugging in actual HDMI devices would damage the oscilloscope. Gah! I see the economic advantage of using an existing high bandwidth connector already produced at high volume, but the resulting user experience sucks. Since I don’t plan on making any SBus upgrades, I will try my best to ignore that not-HDMI port.

This oscilloscope cost more than a Rigol DS1054z, though it is technically cheaper because many of Rigol’s paid add-ons were on the Siglent without extra charge. The Prime Day discount closed the price gap enough for me. Once it arrived, I dug into the manual eager to learn about my first real oscilloscope.

(*) Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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