The quality and features in entry-level 'scopes has made a huge jump in recent years - In a nutshell, the 4-channel Rigol DS1054Z oscilloscope delivers tremendous bang for your buck. The DS1054Z is so well outfitted, I'd be happy if it were my first and last 'scope.
Just taking a quick tour of the front and back before we power it on, we of course have our four channel input, enormous seven-inch display, that's great to see that's quite quite a lot of screen real estate to work with, menu buttons down the side so there's menu buttons on the left which means we're going to have quite a lot of options available right at our fingertips from the get-go and of course the the standard controls for a digital storage scope those, that's a pretty common looking interface, just on the top, of course, we have the carry handle on the bottoms and fold out footies, just to lift it off the bench a bit and on the back we have you know usual power input, USB and LAN to get a remote connection to the computer, and a trigger output as well as a pass and fail output so that'll be useful if you plan on doing any automated testing. And of course, in the box, you'll also get your for scope prints as well as USB and power leads.
So I've powered the scope on, that took about 25 seconds, pretty standard for digital scope and while that was powering on I broke out the function generator so that we can actually take some measurements. So I'll plug the function generator directly into channel 1 and I've already set the probe multiplier to 1 x because we're not using the ten times scope probe here, we're just using a direct connection so we need that on one time and I'll bring that time in, yep there are two kilohertz finally no worries.
So we have our wave on the screen and we want to take some measurements you can see that we have our channel menu currently on the right-hand side, this is like the context menu, so if I go to measure, it changes to the measure menu that's a pretty standard operation, but what I really like is down the left hand side we have this this dedicated menu for taking signal measurements, so straight away we can decide we want to measure the frequency, and once we press that we get a box down the bottom that just gives us a directory out of the frequency, so we can press that and press it again it tells us that the item already exists, so it's not going to duplicate it, that's nice.
Now say we wanted to extract a little more data, we could bring up the, on the right-hand side of the measurement menu, we can bring up the statistic option so if we enable that we now have this frequency measurement is flushed out a little bit, with a little bit more information, the current the average, the max, and the min. So at the moment, of course, this is coming from a signal generator everything is reading bang on 2 kilohertz. Let's have a look at how some measurements can be taken, so we, of course, have the standard measurement menu this looks like the interfacing menu that we were kind of it we were accessing the individual measurements on this side so we can see them all at the same time and scroll up and down and we're currently in the vertical menu so I can move over to the horizontal menu as well so we can look at them phase difference between two signals if I go over to, cursor, and we can turn cursor mode on and have a look at how that's handled. So I currently have a hundred kilohertz signal on the scope and I'll just go into manual cursor mode and we'll see what's happening there, okay so yeah just as you would expect we have our floating box that shows our data between the cursors, so that shows the position of each cursor and also the differences between so we could we could take a difference in voltage measurement, to say I mean while this going to do it for us automatically, we can take a peak to peak voltage measurement, here we've got five volt different and that is, that checks out as we have a five volt peak-to-peak on the function generator, and just by pressing that cursor key again we can cycle through different capture modes we can bring up the two XY mode so we have a solid two solid lines for x one two dotted lines for XY so it can actually now take some point measurements so I can bring my solid line to the to the bottom of this trough, cycle to the next and bring it to the top of this trough at the top of this peak over here, and then if I press it again, okay so now we've gone to a mode where we lock the two together and we can move curses A and B at the same time and now I've gone back to the vertical, so if I want to move that horizontal, how might I do that, of course I can select the horizontal mode now and now I've got cursors a-and-b this I can bring cursor A down to meet at that trough, and bring cursor B up so now I have full point data for both cursors a and cursors be for this trough and this peak and then the differences in measurements are shown of course in its floating box.
And very quickly we'll just look at some of the utilities so if we go to the acquire menu, this is where we change things like how signals are acquired this is the acquisition menu, so here we have important settings like anti-aliasing and also we can manually set the memory depth so you might want to do this I guess because it changes the window time for a given signal if you have maximum memory depth selected all the time it takes a bit of time to throw that data back and forth, so you might have a capture a signal here and then here and then here or is if you set the memory depth to something lower you can bring those visible windows closer together, it's nice that that's included.
We can go up to the storage menu, of course, other digital storage oscilloscope the name implies that it can store a data so we can store things as pictures with the PNG format, and presumably other formats, but of course we have the option for Rigol's traces & waves I think that's a proprietary format so you view that with a free piece of software but then of course you can go to straight down to a CSV file with raw data that you can then analyze with Excel, MATLAB, octave, whatever you like.
The display menu yeah we just get like intensities and brightness and display types so vector and presumably raster, and the utility menu where we can change things like just how the scope works so sound feedback, language, what else have we got now you have a self-calibration mode and then just other various options.
The 1054Z has what we call deep memory it has 12 MB as standard and the depth of in oscilloscopes memory effects both how long it can capture for at a given sample rate but also how much you can essentially zoom in to a signal at a given sample rate so just as an example, I've generated a 20 megahertz signal on the function generator and the scope is currently set up with a 100 microsecond time division, that means that the entire screen is only showing about 1.2 milliseconds but 1.2 milliseconds versus 20 megahertz these are these are wildly different orders of magnitude so if I capture a single, a single sample, if I zoom out you can see there's my sample but if I zoom in, so now the time division is going down and down we're going down from I think it was 100 microseconds before now we're zooming in to about 100 nanoseconds now if I bring the intensity up you can see we can still recover the periodic waveform zooming in from 100 microseconds to 100 nanoseconds. so we've been able to effectively jump down by three orders of magnitude in time, so just to reiterate what we're looking at it's actually a captured signal I can remove the measurement probe from the scope, you can see the waveform is still there so this is a waveform that we captured in single-shot mode and it's now saved in memory so we can zoom in and we can we can pan around of course by, by moving around it's a periodic signal so it all looks the same but this is the benefit that deep memory gives you is that you can you can take a reading of the low-frequency signal but then you can also choose to zoom in to see high-frequency noise that might be superimposed upon that signal.
There you have it the Rigol DS1054Z this is a great first scope I mean I can't believe that I'm saying that a four-channel, deep memory scope is entry level that they'd be 1,000Z series that Rigol released, really really with the game-changer for entry-level scopes I remember my first scope was only I think ten megahertz 2-channel and it was the equivalent price and this is only talking, like six or seven years ago. So these, usually I would have recommended a four channel deep memory scope for like a really serious maker, or in a shed lab environment but now the price of these things is just that this would make an excellent first scope. If you have one of these scopes yourself and you like to share your thoughts we'd love to hear from you in the comments section or our forums I'll catch you next time.