Review of Agilent MSOX3024A X-series InfiniiVision

Table of contents

RoadTest: Agilent MSOX3024A X-series InfiniiVision

Author: tronixstuff

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?:

Detailed Review:

Applications you used part in:

Electronics workbench and technical writing.

 

Score 10 10 9 10 10 9 total 58

 

No problems at all.

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Hello element-14 members

 

A few weeks ago with great pleasure an Agilent Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A Mixed Signal Oscilloscope arrived for my testing pleasure. At this point I would like to thank the great element-14 team, including Sabrina, Sagar (and Alistair who has now left element-14) - and of course Agilent Technologies for the instrument itself.

 

Before moving forward please note that this review is a work in progress - the MSO is something that takes time to absorb the functions and their use in various situations. Over the course of regular use the abilities will become more apparent. In the meanwhile if you have any questions or requests please leave them in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them.

 

Initial Impressions

 

Unlike smaller instruments the packaging is plain and non-descript, however the MSO is protected very well for global shipping and arrived in perfect condition. Inclusions will vary depending on the particular model, however all come with a calibration certificate, user guide on CD and a power lead.

 

 

Four passive 300MHz probes are included with the MSO-X3024A:

 

 

Now for a tour around the unit. Coming from a smaller DSO or an analogue model, the first thing that strikes you is the display. 8.5" diagonal with 800x480 resolution:

 

 

The front panel is clean and uncluttered. Each button and knob feels solid and responsive, and if pressed and held down, a small help window appears with information about the item pressed. Note that each analogue channel has independent controls for vertical position and V/div sensitivity. This saves a lot of time and possible confusion when working on time-sensitive applications.

 

Around the back we find the cooling van ventilation on the left, the IEC AC power socket on the bottom-right, manufacturing data and so on. On the far right near the top are separate USB connections for device and host mode, and the external trigger input and output sockets. Apart from the trigger out signal the socket can also be set to give a 5V pulse on a mask test failure or the optional WaveGen sync pulse.

 

 

Below this is a space for a Kensington lock cable, and the optional modules. Included with my example was the LAN/VGA module (more on this later):

 

 

A GPIB bus module is also available for those requiring this type of interface for connection with less contemporary equipment.

 

Finally, there is a compartment on the top of the unit that can hold two probes comfortably, and four at a pinch:

 

 

 

As the unit is basically a small computer, it takes time to boot up, just over thirty seconds. (The operating system is Windows CE version 6.0). The user-interface is quite simple considering the capability of the unit. The six soft-keys below the display are used well, and also can call a separate list of options under each button.

 

When such a list is presented, you can also use the "Push to select" knob on the right hand side of the display to select an option and lock in by pressing the knob in. Below the soft keys from left to right are: BNC output for the optional function generator, digital inputs for logic analyser, USB socket for saving data to a USB drive, probe points for calibration and demonstration use, and four probe sockets. Connections exist that can interface with optional Agilent active probes.

 

Specifications

This instrument falls within the range of Agilent's new Infiniivision 3000-series oscilloscopes. The range begins with the DSO-X3012A with 100MHz bandwidth and two channels, through to the DSO-X3054A with 500 MHz bandwidth and four channels. Furthermore the range is extended with the MSO-X models that include a sixteen channel logic analyser.

 

Some of you will know there is also the Infiniivision 2000-series, and wonder why one would acquire a 3000-series. There are three excellent reasons for doing so:

  1. Waveform      update rate is 50000 per second on a 2000, one      million per      second on      a 3000;

  2. Memory      depth on a 2000 is 100 kilopoints; 3000s have 2Mpts standard or      4Mpts optional;

  3. Eight      vs. sixteen digital channels when specified as an MSO-X model.

 

For a full breakdown of specifications please download the Agilent data sheet located here.

 

 

Getting Started and general use

The process from cutting open the packaging to measuring a signal is quite simple - just plug it in, connect probes and go - however some probe compensation is required, which is explained quite well in the manual. There are strong tilting bales under the front side which can be used to tilt the unit upwards. At this point the unit is ready to go - you can start measuring by using the Auto Scale function and let the MSO-X3024A determine the appropriate display settings.

 

However there is no fun in that - the vertical scale can be manually adjusted between 1 mV and 50V per division, the horizontal between 2 nanoseconds and 50 seconds per division. These values can be selected rapidly or (by pressing the knob in) in a fine method for more precise values. If working with more than one channel, each can be labelled using a pre-set description or select a label from a list. One can also alter the display between X-Y, horizontal and roll modes.

 

Each channel has separate controls for coupling - DC/AC but no GND, as the earth point is shown on the LCD. Impedance can be 1M or 50 ohm. One can also limit bandwidth to 20MHz to remove high-frequency interference.

 

Capturing data is very easy, you can save images as .png or .bmp files in grey scale or colour , data in .csv form and so on. You can also assign popular functions to a "Quick Action" button - one press and it is done. I used this as a "save bitmap" button to send the screen image to the USB drive. If the optional LAN/VGA module is installed screens can be captured by the host computer via the network. Finally there is a very basic file explored available to find files on the USB drive as well.

 

Waveforms can also be stored and used later on as references for other measurements. When reviewed they appear as an orange trace - for example R1:

 

 

The horizontal zoom mode activated using keys to the right of the horizontal control is very useful. Agilent call this "Mega Zoom" and it certainly works. Consider the following screen shot - the 32.768kHz square-wave from a Maxim DS1307 real-time clock is being measured.

 

 

The time base is 10uS per division - and using the zoom we can get down to two nanoseconds per division and investigate the ringing on fall of the square-wave. This is great for investigating complex signals over short periods. Awesome.

 

Capturing infrequent events is made simple by the combination of the one million waveforms per second sampling rate, and the use of infinite display persistence. In the following example a clock with very infrequent glitch is being sampled. By setting persistence to infinite, as soon as the infrequent glitch occurs it can be displayed and held on the screen. For example:

 

 

Triggering

There is a plethora of triggering options available. Standard modes include: edge, edge then edge, pulse-width (customisable), pattern trigger (for logic analyser - you can create your own patter of high, low, or doesn't matter with comparison operators for duration), hex bus trigger, OR trigger, customisable rise/fall time trigger, nth edge burst trigger which allows  you to nth edge of a burst after an idle time, runt trigger on positive or negative pulse, setup and hold trigger, on video signals (PAL, PAL-M, NTSC, SECAM), and USB packets. Phew. Furthermore, if you have any of the optional serial decoding licenses, they include triggering on the matching bus type (see later).

 

Math modes

Performing math waveforms on analogue channels is done via a seperate Math button, and the operations available are addition, subtraction, multiplication, differentiation, integration, square root and FFT.

 

Waveform statistics

When the time comes to further analyse your measurement data, there area variety of measurements that can be taken, and they can be displayed individually, such as in the following:

 

 

or all in a summary screen:

 

 

Or you can manually use the cursors to determine information about any part of a wave form, for example:

 

 

You can also locate very rare events by taking advantage of the one millions waveforms per second update rate and the intensity control. By changing display persistence to infinity those very rare glitches will be caught when the next occur, and not when the MSO 'flukes' a reading. For example:

 

 

Logic Analyser

Everything required is included with the MSO-X3024A for the sixteen channel logic analyser, including a very long dual-head probe cable:

 

 

as well as sixteen grabbers and some extension runs:

 

 

Setup and use was surprisingly simple, just connect the probe cable head to ground, insert grabbers onto the ends of each channel wire, and connect to the signal pins to analyse. You can have all sixteen channels and the four analogue channels active at once, however the screen would be somewhat busy. You can adjust the height  for each digital channel. However with two analogue  it is fine:

 

 

As always there are many forms of customisation. Automatic scaling is available the same as analogue measurement. You can set the threshold levels for high and low, and presets exist for TTL, CMOS, ECL and your own custom levels. Digital channels can also be combined and displayed as a data bus, with the data values shown in hexadecimal or binary - for example:

 

 

 

Options

Both the 2000- and 3000-series Infiniivision units have a variety of options and upgrades available either at the time of purchase or later on. Agilent have been clever and built in the software options already - they are "unlocked" by entering a licence key given after purchase. You can also upgrade the bandwidth after purchase - for example if you started with a 100MHz a licence key purchase will upgrade you to 200MHz , or 350 to 500MHz. However if you wish to upgrade a 200MHz to 350/500, this needs to be performed at at Agilent service facility. Surprisingly the logic analyser upgrade that converts a DSO-X to an MSO-X is user-installable. For more information on the upgrade options and procedures please visit http://bit.ly/pZ6hu1.

 

Memory Upgrade (DSOX3MEMUP)

Increase the total memory depth to 4 Mpts interleaved.

 

LAN/VGA Module (Agilent DSOXLAN)

This options really opens up the MSO to the world. VGA output is very simple - no setup required. Just plug in your monitor or projector and you're off -

 

 

The educational benefits of the LAN/VGA module are immediately apparent - instead of having twenty classmates huddle around one MSO while the instructor demonstrates the unit, the display can be show on the classroom projector or a large monitor. The MSO display is still fully active while VGA output is used.

 

LAN connection via Ethernet was also very simple. The MSO can automatically connect to the network if you have a router with DHCP server. Otherwise you can use the Utility>I/O>LAN Settings function to enter various TCP/IP settings and view the MSO's MAC address.

 

Once connected you can have complete control of the MSO over your network. Apart from saving screen shots:

 

 

There is a "simple" remote control interface that contains all the controls in a standard menu-driven environment:

 

 

Or you can have a realistic reproduction of the entire MSO on your screen:

 

 

The full remote panel is completely identical - it's "just like being there". The ability to monitor your MSO from other areas could be very useful. For example using the mask testing in a QC area and watching the results in an office; or an educator monitoring students' use of the MSO.

 

Furthermore you can view various data about the MSO, such as calibration date and temperature drift since calibration, installed options, serial number, etc. remotely via the web interface.

 

Segmented Memory Option (Agilent DSOX3SGM)

This options allows you to capture infrequent multiple events over time. For example, you want to locate some 15 mS pulses that occur a few times over the space of an hour. All you need to do is set the triggering to pulse-width, specify the minimum/maximum pulse width to trigger from, then hit Acquire>Segmented, the number of segments to use and you're off. When the pulses have been captured, you can return and analyse each one as normal. The unit records the start time and elapsed time for each segment, and you can still use zoom, etc., to examine the pulse. For example:

 

 

Embedded Serial Triggering and Analysis (Agilent DSOX3EMBD)

Debugging IIC and SPI buses are no longer a chore with this option. For example with I2C just probe you SDA and SCK lines, adjust the thresholds in the menu option and you're set. Apart from displaying the bytes of data below the actual waveform, there is a "Lister" which allows you to scroll back and forth along the captured data along with correlating times. In the following example a Maxim DS1307 RTC IC has been polled:

 

 

The Lister details all - in the example we sent a zero to address 0x68, which caused the DS1307 to return the seven bytes of time and date data. This is an extremely useful option and will come in hand when working with a range of sensors and other parts that use the I2C bus. The SPI bus analysis operates in exactly the same manner. Adding this option also allows triggering on IIC data as well.

 

RS232/UART Serial Decode and Trigger (COMP/MSOX3000-232)

This option allows RS232, 422, 485 and UART decoding and triggering, as well as the use of the Lister to analyse the data. For example:

 

 

CAN/LIN Triggering and Serial Decode (DSOX3AUTO)

Again, allows decoding of automotive CAN and LIN bus signals, and the use of the Lister. For example:

 

 

 

Audio Serial Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3AUDIO)

And not surprisingly this is an option to allow decoding of and triggering from I2S digital audio data. For example:

 

 

Mask Limit Testing (DSOX3MASK)

This is another interesting and useful option, idea for quality testing, benchmarking and so on. First you create a mask by measuring the ideal waveform, and then feed in the signal to be compared with the ideal mask. Mask limit testing can operate at up to 280000 comparisons per second. You can view pass/fail statistics, minimum sigma and so on, for example - a perfect test:

 

 

then a change of frequency for a few cycles:

 

 

Furthermore you can specify the number of tests, change source channel, specify action upon errors, etc. Finally you can create and save to USB your own mask file for use later on - which can also be modified on a PC using any text editor software. Or for other monitoring options the external trigger socket on the read of the MSO can be configured to give a 5V pulse on a mask test failure.

 

If you have the LAN/VGA module you could place the MSO on in a lab or factory situation and monitor the testing over the network using a PC - very handy for QC managers or those who need to move about the workplace and still monitor testing in real time.

 

20MHz Function Generator (DSOX3WAVEGEN)

The "WaveGen" function is a versatile option that offers a highly controllable 20 MHz function generator. It offers eleven different types of waveform: sine, square, ramp, pulse, DC, noise, sine cardinal, exponential rise and fall, cardiac and gaussian pulse.

 

The frequency can be adjusted between 100mHz to 20 MHz in 100 mHz steps; period from 50ns to 10s; full offset, amplitude and symmetry control; as well as logic level preset outputs (such as TTL, CMOS 5V, 3.3V etc.) Finally the WaveGen can be operated independently to normal measurement tasks, which is useful for ideal vs. actual comparisons and so on. Output is from the BNC socket at the bottom-left of the front panel. Sync is also availble from the rear BNC socket.

 

Initial Conclusions

There is no doubt that the Infiniivision 3000-series are a great line of instruments. The waveform sample rate, memory size and bandwidth options are very competitive, and the ability to add various options is convenient and also helps lower the final cost for purchasing departments. (Start with the base model then hit them up for the options over time)

 

However there are a few things that could use improvement. Although the display is excellent - the right-hand column with "Agilent" at the top is always displayed. This is a waste of LCD space and there should be an option to turn it off, allowing waveforms to be displayed across the entire screen. If a $400 Rigol can do this, so should a $5000+ Agilent.

 

Furthermore the ground demonstration terminal suffers from metal fatigue very quickly, it already is somewhat chipped and may need replacing if you used it quite often. Finally, it would have been nice to see Agilent include the a carry bag - already people have asked to borrow the unit and to wander around with it in the box is somewhat awkward.

 

Overall this is a very well specified and optioned instrument. The display size, sample rate, memory depth and waveform update rate are well above the Tektronix MSO/DPO2000 series, as demonstrated in this video:

 

http://www.element14.com/community/roadTests/1029

 

And against a Tektronix MSO3054 the comparable Agilent MSO-X3054A is almost US$3000 cheaper (RRP at 26/09/2011).

 

And those who rely on their test equipment will have the peace of mind that Chinese discount suppliers cannot give you - Agilent support exists and will not ignore you once a sale has been made. It doesn't take long to find a tale of woe on an Internet forum from someone who imported their own "high-spec" DSO via eBay or direct east-Asian sellers only to find there are no firmware updates, competent English-speaking support or warranty of any kind.

 

The saying "Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten" certainly holds true - and at the end of the day combined with the mix of standard and optional features at various price points - the Agilent Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A rises to the top echelon of test equipment.

 

As stated earlier if you have any questions or feedback please leave this below. Higher resolution images are available here http://www.flickr.com/photos/tronixstuff/sets/72157627828887514/.

 

Thank you once more to element-14 and Agilent Technologies for this fantastic opportunity and the MSO-X 3024A.

 

John Boxall.

'tronixstuff'

Anonymous
  • Indeed, some manufacturers do that, but it doesn't mean it's correct. The address is still a 7-bit value, with the exception of 10-bit addresses.

     

    Being able to only display an 8-bit address is obviously an error, while having the option to switch between the two is an attempt at making it easier for the engineer to deal with crappy datasheets (really makes you wonder who's in charge of deciding what to put in the datasheet).

     

    Edit: To answer Mark's question, it doesn't matter if you're only left with 3 bits, any value can be represented in any base and the number of bits is absolutely meaningless from that point of view. This means that the address is fully represented in hex, it just happens that it can't go above 127 (dec).

  • Hi Mark,

     

    Not to steal John's thunder, but in my experience there isn't a standard when it comes to specifying I2C addresses. Some manufacturers list the address as an 8-bit value as you have listed - in this case the device has 2 addresses, one for read and one for write. Often though the address is given as a single 7-bit value to which a single R/W bit is appended. For instance the datasheet for the Microchip MCP4017 lists the address as "0101111" followed by a R/W'.

     

    I can't speak for the MSOX3024A, but I can tell you the MSOX-2024A allows you to select whether you want to display the address as 7 or 8-bit. The Saleae logic analyser I use for serial protocol decoding also has this option, as do the latest MDO3000/4000 scopes from Tektronix.

  • John,

    I looked up your review specifically to see if you had included discussion of the I2C decode feature on the MSOX3024A.  I see that you have.  And, I must say, you have put together a great reivew that was easy to read and provided all the detail I was looking for.  I have used both Agilent and Tektronix oscilloscopes with bus decode features and I wonder if you could give your opinion on a difference I've noted in how the two manufacturers handle I2C bus addresses.

     

    On Tektronix 'scopes, I2C addresses are entered as full 8-bit hex values, so the R/W' bit is included in the hex value.  On Agilent scopes, I2C addresses are entered as 7-bit hex values (with an assumed 0 in the MSB position), and the R/W' bit is tacked on as the letter R or W.  You can see this in your review when you show a screen capture of the MSOX3024A decoding communication with Maxim's DS1307 RTC.

     

    Obviously, both approaches work, but the Agilent approach stikes me as a little odd.  Here is why:  Most data sheets I've seen provide I2C addresses as 8-bit values with the R/W' bit included as the LSB.  For example, Maxim refers to the DS1307 address as 1101000 followed by a R/W' bit of either 0 (for write) or 1 (for read).  Put that all together and you get 11010000b = D0h for write and 11010001b = D1h for read.  These are the values a user would enter into a Tektronix 'scope to detect and decode I2C communication with a DS1307.  On the other hand, as shown in your screen capture for the Agilent MSOX3024A, the I2C addresses for the DS1307 are shown as 68W and 68R.  These values correspond to the 7-bit I2C address follwed by an R or W to denote an 8th bit.  Now, a hex digit should, to me, represent 4-bits of binary.  Agilent seems to be using an octal digit followed by a hex digit, follwed by a letter.  I find that confusing and awkward.  I asked an Agilent rep about why I2C was handled this way, but never got a response.

     

    What has been your experience?

    Mark

  • Great review,

    it's very helpful to see this scope put through it paces.Not quite sure I can justify a 3000 series,but you made the decision that much harder not to.

     

    thanks

  • You went far and wide with your information and an awesome review I feel, with the information and photos you supplied along with the explanations of what you were testing at that time greatly influences what people decide!  Thank you for the awesome review.

  • Well this baby is still ticking along very nicely. If anyone has any more questions let me know.

  • All the options are already programmed into the custom Agilent ASIC, however the customer needs to purchase individual license keys to activate them, or test them with 14-day demo licenses. . The review unit supplied by Agilent and element-14 has all the options activated . Waveform data can be saved onto USB as screen images either in .png, .bmp or as .csv text data.

  • This is a very comprehensive review. I wish everyone who will roadtest the products can have this detailed verification of the features. It is really nice to read this kind of user's perspective document rather than a product brochure. Points out directly to the needed features. It's good that element14 has chosen you to review this scope. I like the features where saved measurements can be used as reference, infinite display persistence, the lister for the I2C/SPI and the mask limit test.

     

    By the way, I have some questions. Were the hardware modules included in the package or you bought them separately? Also, what are the available report generation tools or report formats that it has (pdf, doc, html...etc)?

     

    Thanks for the review.

     

    - Ren

  • Have just rewritten and updated the review to take into account the new v2.0 firmware and other notes.