Hello community members!
I have spent a few hours exploring the , just enough time to get acquainted with its general behavior. I set it up next to an oscilloscope I know very well; the Tektronix MDO4104-3. The photo below shows the two instruments on my bench.
My review, when posted, will include comparisons between these two oscilloscopes. The two instruments are not direct competitors. A 4000 series instrument has different features than a 3000 series instrument, so I don't expect them to match in terms of specifications. For example, the Tektronix 4000 series scope has a 1 GHz bandwidth. The Keysight has a 350 MHz (upgradeable) bandwidth. However, both are mid-range tools that are well suited for use in many day-to-day troubleshooting, education, and engineering development tasks. On that basis I think it is fair to compare the two tools.
In this post I will discuss a quick list of pros and cons that I have noted through my initial early use of the .
As you can see, the is slightly smaller than the Tektronix 4000 series instrument. The pro here is that the 3000T takes up less space on the bench while providing nearly the same range of capability as the larger Tekttronix scope. The has a built in waveform generator (which arrived fully enabled, thank you Keysight!) that appears to be very capable. The Tektronix instrument does not have a waveform generator, but it does have a 3 GHz spectrum analyzer that is tightly integrated with the time domain channels. So both instruments have capabilities beyond the standard voltage vs time function provided by all oscilloscopes. These extra levels of functionality save bench space because they can eliminate the need to acquire separate instruments, like a waveform generator, or a spectrum analyzer. However, in my experience, when extra functions are squeezed in, compromises are usually part of the bargain. A standalone waveform generator or spectrum analyzer can have much better performance specifications, but you may not need the extra performance, so the option to have multiple instrument functionality integrated in one package has appeal.
I have encountered two downsides to the smaller size of the . First, take a look at the size and spacing of the knobs and buttons on the two scopes in the photo above. Knobs and buttons on the Tektronix instrument are laid out spaciously. I don't have huge hands, but my hands are big enough that I need a bit of open space to wrap my fingers around controls without bumping into adjacent controls. The Tek layout accommodates my hands nicely. The more compact spacing on the Keysight scope has proved to be a little too tight. The trigger level and general purpose knob for example are positioned close enough that my fingers have rubbed against one when I was intending to operate the other. The other size related downside is linked to the weight distribution of the Keysight package. Like many modern bench instruments, the is light. It is also packaged in a way that puts most of the mass on the right hand side of the instrument. There is so little mass on the left side that in my experience, pushing buttons on the left side (like power, or the soft keys under the screen) causes the instrument to pivot backwards. In the configuration shown in the photo I am not using the tilt feet. The scope is resting on its four plastic feet. These feet do not provide enough grip to hold the instrument in place on the smooth bench surface when buttons are operated on the left side. I have been thinking about adding some high grip pads to the feet to keep the scope from sliding around on my bench.
Knobs and buttons
Every vendor has a way of laying out the controls on their instruments. As a user, you become familiar with how controls are labelled and laid out on each vendors front panel. The general high level layout of these two 'scopes is similar: screen on the left with soft buttons underneath, probe inputs along the bottom on the right, vertical controls above the probes, horizontal controls to the top right of the screen, everything else somewhere in between. Then there are individual vendor characteristics, kind of like the quirks in each of your friends. Tektronix uses a color sequence of yellow, blue, pink, green to identify channels 1 through 4. Keysight uses the color sequence yellow, green, blue, pink. Tektronix put vertical scale knobs above the BNC channel inputs, Keysight put vertical position knobs above the BNC connectors. These vendor layout choices are just something users need to learn and adapt to. One approach isn't really much better that the other. However, there is one control implementation approach that Keysight uses that I think is clearly superior to Tektronix. That approach is the generous use of "push for" and "push to" buttons on the Keysight 3000T series. Every knob on the 3000T has a context specific "push" function that is very helpful. The vertical and horizontal scale knobs each have "Push for Fine" functionality and every vertical and horizontal position knob has a "Push for Zero" functionality. I think these are great time saving features. My Tek 4000 series has only one "Push to set" knob on the trigger level.
The screen on the Tektronix scope is larger. This extra real estate is valuable when multiple channels, cursors, or measurement windows are vying for pace. However, the Keyight 3000T instrument has touch screen, and to me, that can be a wonderful benefit. Oscilloscopes are visual tools. They allow humans to effectively "see" electronic signals. It is the ability to see a proxy representation of a signal that make oscilloscopes truly indispensable tools for technicians, technologists, engineers, scientists, and educators. All of the knobs and buttons on the right side of these 'scopes are there to facilitate the users exploration of signals; to zoom in or out in the time or voltage domains, to specify trigger and coupling conditions, the enable measurements. Even though I know the layout of the controls on the Tek 4000 series 'scope very well, I have to move my eyes from the screen to the control panel ever so briefly to locate the control I want to use. That distraction, however brief, can be eliminated through the careful design of a touch screen interface. I need to spend more time exploring the touch interface on the Keysight 3000T series before I submit my formal review. My early experience has been a mix of good and not so good. The good is that I can scroll though a waveform record by dragging my finger across the screen. I can set up trigger zones by, for example, dragging a finger around the overshoot on a pulse. Both are very nice barrier free ways to interact with signals. Then there are things like the positioning of the menu back button in the extreme bottom left corner of the screen (see photo below). I have mostly resorted to using the physical back button below the screen because, and again, I don't have huge fingers, but, . . . I have to turn my finger sideways and snug it right up against the screen bezel to have any hope of hitting the target area for the on-screen back button without also hitting the target area for the adjacent button on the right. So, that layout decision might benefit from a rethink.
The Road Test scope came with a LAN/VGA module. I often have my Tektronix 4000 series connected to an external 27" monitor through its VGA interface. The larger screen helps ease eye strain and is of great benefit when discussing waveforms with colleagues or students. So, I was excited to connect the Keysight 3000T series to the 27" monitor. I was a little surprised that a newer instrument like the 3000T was not equipped with an HDMI interface because VGA is a disappearing standard. I was more surprised when I saw the image on the 27" monitor. The screen image is letter-boxed (black bands on top and bottom), so some of the available space is not used. There may be a setting on my monitor, or in the 'scope to correct this, I hope.
I am working on a big (well, big for me) upgrade project for my solar PV system. I used the early stages of this upgrade project in my review of the B&K DAS240-BAT data logger. I plan to put together an overview of the components of the upgrade project, which is now about half complete, in a blog entry. The Keysight will be put to use on several aspects of the upgrade so I can provide real use-case commentary in my review. In the meantime, I will be spending much more time with the getting to know it better, learning what it does best, and what it could do better.
All the best,