10 Best USB Oscilloscopes 2017

NameChannels 
Hantek Portable 2CH Oscilloscope2
Hantek 6022 BE2
DDS 120 USB Oscilloscope2
Picoscope 22082
Hantek 1008C 8-Channel8

There are some items we have reviewed that everybody needs, and others that only certain people will want; this is one of them. After all, what is an oscilloscope? I remember, when I was a kid, one of my friends’ fathers was this rather odd mad-inventor type of person (in fact, he was an inventor, working on classified projects for the military, but I didn’t know that at the time) who had a room in his ramshackle old house full of weird and wonderful equipment. Among these was an oscilloscope, which we used to play with regularly. Probably much to his annoyance!

So, that was my first experience of an oscilloscope, and my next came during a science lesson at school. The teacher explained to us about ‘waveforms’ and such, but I still had no idea what he was on about. I know a little bit more now, as I have friends who use these things and have explained them in simple terms, and they are very impressive and – if you need one – extremely useful tools. The ones we are talking about today are all the latest breed of USB oscilloscopes.

You will want one of these if you already use a standard oscilloscope, but are looking for something more versatile and up to date. You might be an electronics hobbyist, or you may fix or build computers, or you could be a car enthusiast looking to check the electrical and digital systems on your pride and joy. Put simply, an oscilloscope is used to detect and check faults in many different types of system, so you can fix them correctly and have everything up and running again in no time at all! So, before we go on to talk more about USB oscilloscopes, and pretend that we know what we are on about, here’s a bit more about what they do, and how they work.

 

Our Top 10 Best USB Oscilloscopes

1: Hantek Portable 2CH Oscilloscope

The USB oscilloscope has various benefits over the old analogue version, not least the fact it is far more portable. This one is typical of the breed. It weighs just 400g and measures 21x17cm, so is easy to carry around, and it comes with all the software and cables you need to get your data and transfer it to your laptop screen. You get two probes so you can use it on a variety of applications, and it has a bandwidth of 20MHz. It gives you 20 automatic measurements, so is very versatile.

The Hantek brand is well-known in this arena so you know you are getting a quality device, and you can calibrate it manually for added benefit. You can also select several languages, and it comes with adjustable waveform intensity. Now for the downsides: 20MHz is a lot less in terms of bandwidth than some of the more capable devices here, so this one could be considered more of an enthusiast or hobbyists oscilloscope rather than a professional standard. Also, it only works on Windows, and only up to Windows 7. However, at under £60 it’s worth a look if you need one for occasional use.

Pros: Compact, good brand, affordable, various functions

Cons: Narrow bandwidth, only up to Windows 7 OS.

2: Hantek 6022 BE

Our second one from the Hantek brand is, unashamedly, a bigger brother to the one above, with many of the same attributes and some extra features. This one is bulkier at more than 700g, so is not as light as the one above, and you get all the software and cables you need to get your data and transfer it to your laptop screen. You get two probes so you can use it on a variety of applications, and it has a bandwidth of 20MHz. It gives you 20 automatic measurements, so is very versatile.

Real-time sampling is at 48MS/s, you can save waveform data to Excel or send as an email attachment – great for sharing with others for advice – and you also get all the accessories you need. However, 20MHz is a lot less in terms of bandwidth than some of the more capable devices here, so this one could be considered more of an enthusiast or hobbyists oscilloscope rather than a professional standard. Also, it only works on Windows, and only up to Windows 7. At around £80 it’s not bad value, but we really can’t see the benefits of this one over the one reviewed above.

Pros: Hantek brand, affordable, many accessories, email compatible

Cons: Narrow bandwidth, limited scope

3: DDS 120 USB Oscilloscope

Some manufacturers are not ashamed to promote their product as ‘mid-range’, and this is one. After all, there’s no point trying to kid the consumer that what they are buying is more capable than it actually is, as that will do nothing for the relationship. This model, from DDS, is a very neat little design that could be described as ‘no frills’; it’s not a professional level oscilloscope, but one that – like the Hantek models above – is designed for hobby or occasional use and, as such, is perfectly capable.

It’s a 20Mhz model – not a great deal of bandwidth but adequate for the usage it is designed for – and it comes with all the accessories, so it’s ready to go out of the box. It can store the information and transfer it to the screen as required – you get all the cables and software needed to do the job – and it is perfectly capable and easy to use. You can use it on Windows up to Windows 8, but not beyond. What else is there to say? It’s about £45, so good value if it does what you need it to do.

Pros: Compact, great for hobbyists, capable, cheap

Cons: Narrow bandwidth, only up to Windows 8

4: Picoscope 2208

This model, from the well-known and regarded Picoscope brand, is on a different level to those we have reviewed so far, and offers a higher performance than them, too. It’s a very neat little design that can easily fit into a laptop bag or backpack, and is one of the most versatile we have seen. It comes with all the accessories you need to get going straight away – including dedicated software so you know you are getting the best out of it – and is a two-channel model for added versatility.

Now, where this one wins hands down is in giving you 200Mhz bandwidth in such a small and neatly packaged device; that is impressive indeed and takes things to a wider variety of possibilities. However, we discovered a problem: this model, the 2208, was recently discontinued by the manufacturer. They do have many other models – across a very wide range of prices and ability – so you may want to check them out, but meanwhile we found a few of these retailing at under £200, so the choice is yours.

Pros: Quality brand, 200Mhz bandwidth, very capable, neat and compact design

Cons: No longer manufactured, but they have a vast range

5: Hantek 1008C 8-Channel

Some USB oscilloscopes can be used for many uses, but occasionally you will come across one that is designed with a specific purpose in mind. This one, from our old friends at Hantek, is just such a model: it is designed for use on automobiles, and is a very versatile device in that specific area. It offers you a full range of diagnostics, so can help you with all problems whatever your vehicle, and is an 8-channel device for multiple tests. It’s compact yet robust, so perfect for the mobile mechanic or home garage enthusiast, and has many possible uses in diagnostics.

This model runs up to Windows 7, so you’ll have to have a laptop running no more than that for success, and is very useful for restorers and mechanics, but we feel that it’s limited potential – or rather it’s intended specific use – may be a hindrance. Put simply, if you are in the market for a vehicle-specific device, this could be the one, and at around £75 you will get plenty of use for your money. If you want something with greater capability, look elsewhere.

Pros: Designed for Vehicle diagnostics, 8-channel, Hantek Brand, good price

Cons: Only for vehicle diagnostics, only up to Windows 7

6: Picoscope 2204a

Back to Picoscope – one of the leading brands in the oscilloscope field – for this model, the 2204A. It’s a smaller brother to the one we have already reviewed, and is typically neat and tidy in design for this brand. It weighs less than 700g so is suitably portable, and easily fits in a laptop bag, and is easy to use, coming to you with all the software that is needed, as well as the cables and relevant probes for full usage across a wide variety of operations. It is also a very popular model, as evidenced by the fact we found it to be sold out at a number of suppliers.

What else is impressive about this one? 10Mhz is enough for home use, but not great, but we are impressed with the 100MS/s transfer rate. It comes with dedicated software that allows it to perform high-end operations not usually achievable by such small and affordable devices. It’s also durable and well-built, so worth a look. At around £100 it’s also not bad value, but we recommend you look elsewhere too, in case you can’t find one!

Pros: Versatile, compact design, twin-channel, sensible price

Cons: Narrow bandwidth

7: Hantek Digital Storage Oscilloscope

Our second one from the Hantek brand is, unashamedly, a bigger brother to the one above, with many of the same attributes and some extra features. This one is bulkier at more than 700g, so is not as light as the one above, and you get all the software and cables you need to get your data and transfer it to your laptop screen. You get two probes so you can use it on a variety of applications, and it has a bandwidth of 20MHz. It gives you 20 automatic measurements, so is very versatile.

Real-time sampling is at 48MS/s, you can save waveform data to Excel or send as an email attachment – great for sharing with others for advice – and you also get all the accessories you need. However, 20MHz is a lot less in terms of bandwidth than some of the more capable devices here, so this one could be considered more of an enthusiast or hobbyists oscilloscope rather than a professional standard. Also, it only works on Windows, and only up to Windows 7. At around £80 it’s not bad value, but we really can’t see the benefits of this one over the one reviewed above.

Pros: Hantek brand, affordable, many accessories, email compatible

Cons: Narrow bandwidth, limited scope

8: Siglent SDS USB Oscilloscope

Now we’re talking! This model is one of the more professional of those reviewed here, and it shows in the specification – and also the price! Not that we think it too expensive for what it is – it’s not, it’s actually not badly priced – but you do have to bear in mind that this one is a cut above those we have already reviewed. Before we go on, let’s just say that you won’t get much change out of £300 for one of these, but look what you get for your money!

For a start, 200Mhz bandwidth far eclipses any of those listed here so far. That’s professional level – or almost, at least – for a sensible price. Also, 1Gs/s transfer rate is very impressive. This one has its own screen as well as the USB output, but beware it is not a particularly portable model: it weighs more than 3kg, so is clearly well-built to mean business! Would we buy it? That depends on what you want: if you are a home hobby user, you don’t need it, but for more serious use, it’s the one to look for.

Pros: 200MHz, 1Gs/s transfer, professional level, well built

Cons: Heavy, do you need it?

9: DSO138 Digital Oscilloscope Kit

Now for something different! If you are good with a soldering iron, and like building things, why not build yourself a digital oscilloscope? This one comes with all the parts ready to assemble, some of them pre-soldered for ease of assembly, complete with full instructions, probes and everything you need for your own, cheap digital oscilloscope. It also comes with its own screen, which is vital as it is not USB-compatible. When assembled it is a very basic oscilloscope, but still useful for hobbyists.

The specifications are actually quite impressive for such a cheap item – it’s around £25 for the full kit, everything included – so if you want a small, cheap oscilloscope for basic occasional use, and you are handy at building things, it may be a choice for you. Also, it’s a great gift for kids who like building things, and is excellent training in soldering and electrical assembly. Not for professional use, then, but a neat package that is not expensive.

Pros: Cheap, great gift, fun, easy to assemble

Cons: Has to be assembled, no USB interface, not powerful

10: Kuman 2 x 100MHz Clip Probes

We seem to have exhausted the possibilities when it comes to USB oscilloscopes – which is why the previous one was not actually a USB oscilloscope – so number 10 is, in fact, an accessory set. It’s a pack of very capable, high-quality probes for use with your oscilloscope, and it’s actually a pretty handy pack to buy as you never know when your probes may fail.
These are well-made probes, with up to 100MHz capability, and would be a good addition to your tool kit, and at little more than £15, they are not expensive, and that’s about it!

So, there you have it, a choice of USB oscilloscopes plus accessories, so you can make your choice. Before we sum up, let’s have a look at some of the important features to consider.

How It Works

This is one of the most specific items we have reviewed; by that we mean that it has a set purpose, and is useful mostly to those who know that they need one. Now, we’re not experts in oscilloscope development, but we can tell you they have been around a long time, and have been used in many applications. During WW2, for example, they were instrumental in the development of the radar, and there are many notable uses across the years.

The development of the oscilloscope has gone hand-in-hand with that of digital technology, hence the USB oscilloscope we talk about here. Gone is the need for the screen on the actual device itself – instead, you plug it into a laptop or tablet, and the computer screen displays the data. That data is the waveform of an electrical impulse over a given time (yes?) and can tell the observer a lot about what is going on. The device can be used to analyse many different aspects of the wave, and is essential in fine-tuning systems so they run smoothly.

So, do you need a USB oscilloscope? Well, if you are already reading this review – and want us to get on with it – the chances are you know what they do, and you know that you need one. If you are currently using a traditional analogue oscilloscope you are behind the times, so one of these will certainly be of use to you. We will try and give you the best of the technical specifications with each model – that’s what you need, after all – so no more nonsense, let’s have a good look at the top 10 USB oscilloscopes available right now.

Important Features to Consider

To be fair, you have to want a USB oscilloscope to be reading this review in the first place, so it’s likely you know what to look for. But just to be sure, let’s have a quick recap.

  • Bandwidth – This is the all-important factor, as it determines the scope of your oscilloscope (excuse the pun). Those listed here range from 10 to 200 MHz, so have a closer look before you make your choice.
  • Size – If portability is important, you need to take a close look at the size and weight of the device you choose. Some of these will fit neatly in a backpack or laptop nag, while others may be too bulky or heavy, so choose carefully.
  • Price – Cost is always a factor when buying any item, and no less so with one of these, and the price range across the board here is quite broad. Consider what you need, and then sort out your budget and you should be fine.

There’s a few of the main things to consider when looking to buy a USB Oscilloscope, so all that remains now is for us to wrap things up!

Let’s Wrap It Up

As we have already said, a USB oscilloscope is a device that you need rather than one you want, so it’s difficult for us to make a recommendation without the knowledge as to what you are going to do with yours. However, we will say this: if you want one solely for home or hobby use, one of the Hantek devices should do the job; they are affordable, capable and versatile, and designed for the purpose. If, however, you need a more powerful model, and you can afford it, the Siglent model offers professional-level solutions at what is a sensible price, so is certainly worthy of consideration.

That’s our conclusion, so we hope that we have helped you find the USB oscilloscope for you!