RoadTest: Agilent MSOX3024A X-series InfiniiVision
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?: Tektronix (MSO-3034), LeCroy
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Maybe the product's webpage could provide more links to the drivers, PC apps and other useful documents.
For such a complex product, it took me a while to write the review of the MSO-X-3024A Oscilloscope from Agilent Technologies.
Before starting this review I would like to thank Element14 and their team, Agilent Technologies and last but not least to Ally!
Also, a big Thank You! to Gordon and John for their reviews. Reading them, taught me a few tricks I wasn't aware of.
In this review, I'll try to emphasize more on the features that makes this unit such a useful tool.
The scope came nicely packed in a cardboard box, being well protected inside.
Besides the scope itself, the box contained the following:
There's no written manual coming with the product but I am not complaining for hard-copy one. In the present day, there are so many gadgets around us (smart-phones, tablets, netbooks and PCs) so I don't feel the need to have a printed version of manual with this product. When in need, the search, in an electronic document is much faster and powerful.
The first step just before working with the unit is to check for firmware updates. As expected, Agilent support is very good and there are a few updates available. Just before going into the description details I need to mention that I made the firmware update of the unit. The firmware version, the unit shipped with was 01.10.2011042700 (Release 1.10 of 27th of April).
The Agilent website revealed the latest firmware update (at the time of writing this review) was Release 1.20, 30th of June.
The upgrade process went fine and now the unit shows the new version (1.20). Besides the corrected bugs, there are some improvements as well, such as new options for the Waveform Generator, measurement and triggering new options, improvements and new feature additions. Also, the vertical sensitivity starts now from 1mV/division.
When you first have a look at the features (in the presentation materials from Agilent) of this unit the 2 features having the biggest impact are the 1 million waveform updates per second and the 4Mpts memory. This is a tremendous help when working with high-speed electronic circuits. Anyway, in the detailed description below you'll see there are a lot of very useful features besides these 2 as well.
The boot-up process takes ~32 seconds. The scope uses Windows CE 6.0 for the easiness of interfacing (USB host for mass-storage, LAN and user-interface) while the core of the processing is done within the highly engineered Agilent ASICs.
Here is a snapshot from the manual detailing all the elements on the front of the scope
Pressing the "About Oscilloscope" softkey reveals the specific parameters about the unit.
I got another nice surprise when I saw all the upgradeable features were installed:
Thanks again Agilent!
Immediately after power-up the 2 rightmost softkeys can be pressed for "Training signals" and an "Auto demo" of the product.
These 2 keys are offering the equivalent of a crash-course on how to handle the product. The manual states that the "Demo 1" and "Demo 2" can output demo/training signals with certain licensed features. I guess it would be a great idea if Agilent would provide these options as default on all their units, so the users will have a great tool in helping them accommodate with the features of this scope.
Each of the input 4 channels let you choose the vertical setting from 1mV/division up to 5V/division (1mV/div was added when updating to firmware version 1.20; the previous version (1.10), the unit shipped with started from 2mV/div). When using the 10:1 probes, the vertical interval starts from 10mV/div all the way up to 50V/div. The bigger knob on each of the 4 channels is used for the coarse selection and also for fine selection. To make a fine selection, one has to push the knob. The smaller one is used for offset setting.
The horizontal setting goes from 2ns up to 50s and again the knob goes in fine mode when pressed. In the same area there's the horizontal offset knob (which goes to 0 when pressed) and the buttons used for zooming, searching and navigation through the segments (when using the segmented memory option).
Trigger mode - The triggering mechanism present in this scope is a piece of art. It offers a really wide choice set. Here is a list of triggering choices present:
- Pulse Width
- Rise/Fall Time
- Nth Edge Burst
- Setup and Hold
- Serial (I2C)
Firmware version 1.20 adds new triggering mechanisms besides the ones enumerated above:
- Edge then Edge - allows the scope to arm on a specified edge on any channel, then delay by time, and then trigger on the Nth edge on a specified channel
- OR - trigger on any combination of channels. All channels, both analog and digital, can be included in the specification
The triggering modes available make this scope a highly versatile tool. It does so by helping the user choose the best method to capture the case to study. Also, the scope allows you to use the External Trigger Input present on the back of the unit (named "EXT TRIG IN") with any of the modes in the list above.
Another important option in the triggering options worth to be mentioned is the choice of the Wave Generator as a triggering option. Of course, this option will work if the upgrade option for the Wave Generator (DSOX3WAVEGEN) is installed.
The triggering sources available to be chosen are as following:
- The analog channels - 1 to 4
- The digital channels - D0 to D15 - if the DSOX3MSO option is installed
- External trigger input
- Line - to have synchronization with the mains
- Wave Generator - if the DSOX3WAVEGEN option is installed
Indeed, just looking at the number of available sources for triggering and also counting the triggering modes gives a lot of options for triggering. Very useful indeed!
Equally important are the other additional options of this scope, such as:
- Analyze function - from Tools section
- Acquire and Display functions - from the Waveform section
- Measure function - Measure section
- The additional Waveform functions - placed on the middle-right side of the scope
These additional options are the ones which are making such a big difference when comparing this scope with some others present on the market.
Let's see why...
This area is located in the right side of the LCD and it features 4 buttons:
- Wave Gen
- Quick Action
The Wave Gen features are going to be detailed in the waveform generator section, so for time being I'll describe the remaining 3 buttons.
The Quick Action button can be assigned to a specific pre-defined function by pressing Utility->Quick Action-> Action. Then, the chosen action is performed when pressing this button. I found this button to be very useful and it would be great if this mechanism can be extended to more buttons. One idea would be to press the Quick Action button and doing so, the Softkeys can be used as Quick-Action buttons. In this way, the user would have the possibility to use more then 1 quick-action when needed. To see why this button is so useful (hence my need to extend it to be able to have more than one - and maybe use the softkeys for this) here is the list of actions, one can choose:
- Quick Measure All - displays a popup containing all the snapshot measurements
- Quick Print - prints the current image
- Quick Save - saves the current image, waveform data, or setup
- Quick Recall - recalls a setup, mask, or reference waveform
- Quick Freeze Display - freezes/un-freezes the display without stopping the acquisitions
- Quick Trigger Mode - switches the triggering between Auto and Normal modes
- Quick Clear Display - clears the display - useful when working with infinite persistence
- Off - disables the action of this button
The Utility button is used for:
- I/O settings - needed to specify the remote control options for the unit: USB, LAN or GPIB; LAN and GPIB requires the installation of the appropriate module (LAN/VGA-DSOXLAN or GPIB-DSOXGPIB)
- File explorer - used for exploring unit internal flash or USB mass storage devices that can be connected to the USB host receptacle on the front or the one on the back of the unit. 2 USB storage devices can be connected in the same time.
o Expand the visualized waveform around its center or the ground
o Set the measurements, statistics and reference waveforms background as transparent or solid
o Load the default label library
o Setup the screen-saver
o Set the default AutoScale parameters
- Set the unit's clock and date
- Choose the source of the TRIG OUT connector on the rear panel of the oscilloscope
- Service Tasks such as:
o User calibration
o Hardware self-test
o Front panel self-test
o Display oscilloscope information
o Display the user calibration status
Then, the Analyze button is very useful thing. It provides the Mask type of measurements. The unit I've received came with the DSOX3MASK option already installed, so I cannot tell what's happening on a unit without this feature.
The Mask tests are a very powerful tool especially when assessing qualitative parameters of an electronic circuit. When checking the reliability of a product, the Mask testing is one of those features that makes this unit a "must have".
This section is placed on the right of Tools section and it contains 2 very useful keys:
- Display key
- Acquire key
The Display key is the one used for setting various displaying options such as:
- Persistence settings:
o Variable - Results of previous acquisitions are erased after a certain amount of time
- Adjust grid brightness
Also, when working with display settings, the small Intensity key, under the "Entry knob" is used to alter the displayed waveform intensity on the LCD, a control which is similar to the intensity knob on analog scopes.
Here are 2 snapshots of the same signal (1st one is using the default 50% Intensity while the 2nd is having an increased intensity)
The Acquire key is the 2nd button in this section and its features are linked with the DSOX3SGM option (the segmented memory option). I can't tell how this button behaves on a unit without this option installed.
This control is also used to specify the acquisition mode (Normal, Peak Detect, Averaging, or High Resolution acquisition modes)
As the scope option suggests (DSOX3SGM), this button is also useful when assessing consecutive segments of acquired data having the same trigger condition.
One use case for such a scenario would be to acquire let's say a signal only when a glitch is present. The trigger should be set to start the acquisition when the conditions for the glitch are met. Then, using the segmented memory, every segment will capture a snapshot of the signal for which we have a glitch.
The user can specify the number of segments to be acquired (the actual number of acquired segments depends on the amount of memory available in the unit). Firmware version 1.20 adds support to acquire up to 2000 segments.
After acquiring a number of segments, the user can navigate, search and replay (forwards/backwards in time) through the acquired segments.
Also, various measurements can be performed on the captured segments by using the Analyze key in the Tools section.
This area is just above the Waveform section and it features the following:
- The Cursors knob
- The Cursors button
- The Meas button
This section deals with the signal measurements, using the cursors.
The cursors can be enabled and selected by pressing the Cursors knob or by pressing the Cursors button and then certain Softkeys.
Of equal importance is the "Meas" button which enables the measurements by pressing it. When, pressed, the user can select the needed measurements and also toggle related features (e.g. display the measurements on either a solid or transparent background).
The measurements options allow the scope to move the cursors to select the best way for signal measurements.
The measurement popup will contain a maximum of 4 measurements. If more measurements are being added, the popup content will scroll down and the oldest measurements are deleted. Pressing the "Meas" button again will hide the popup window, but the measured parameters are still displayed on the lower right side of the LCD
In case more than 4 measurements are required for a signal, the "Snapshot All" option can be used. By doing so, a popup window containing a summary of measurements will be displayed on the screen. Another option to access this feature is to use the "Quick Action" button configured for this. So, the "Quick Action" button is very useful. It would be great if more such buttons would be available. A suggestion for this is written in the conclusions section below.
In order to have the logic analyzer enabled, the DSOX3MSO licence must be installed. The logic analyzer kit (N6450-60001 Digital Probe kit) features 16 digital channels along with accessories.
The logic analyzer has the capability of working with a few families of digital circuits such as:
- TTL - with +1.4V threshold
- CMOS - with +2.5V threshold
- ECL - with -1.3V threshold
- User defined - variable from -8V to +8V
Some other important features include:
- Triggering when a certain data pattern is found on the bus(defined by the user and being comprised of a combination of data lines). The user defined bus pattern can have its data lines in one of the following states:
o Logic "0"
o Logic "1"
o Rising edge
o Falling edge
o Don't care "X"
- Displaying the chosen data lines as a bus
o 2 buses are available
The Waveform Generator is a very nice feature of this scope. Of course, in order to have it, the DSOX3WAVEGEN licence must be installed.
The generator can deliver signals having frequencies of up to 20MHz.
To start the generator, the user has to press the WaveGen button in the Tools section. Once the signal generator has started, the button will be lit in a nice blue shade.
The manual lists the following signals as the Wave Generator options:
However, after upgrading the firmware to version 1.20, some other options were added to the Wave Generator such as:
- Sine Cardinal
- Exponential Rise
- Exponential Fall
- Gaussian pulse
All the other settings pertaining to the Wave Generator are made by using the Softkeys.
Another important feature is the output of the synchronization signal on the TRIG OUT connector, in the back of the unit. The trigger out signal supports a few options:
- Waveform Generator Sync Pulse
The Wave Generator output signal has the following characteristics:
- 20mVpp to 5Vpp for open-circuit loads
- 10mVpp to 2.5Vpp for 50ohms termination
- Logic levels
o CMOS (5V, 3.3V, 2.5V)
The protocol analyzer has a few decoding options which can be bought separately as licence upgrades. The supported decoding options are:
- CAN/LIN decoding using the DSOX3AUTO licence
- I2C/SPI decoding using the DSOX3EMBD licence
- I2S decoding using DSOX3AUDIO licence
- UART decoding using DSOX3COMP licence
The protocol analyzer offers the "Lister" where you can find the decoded information along with the timestamps. The Lister content can be saved on a USB mass storage device as CSV data.
The Training Signals and Auto Demo presentation needs a separate section because it is a very useful topic.
The Auto Demo is the equivalent of a nice product presentation highlighting the most important features of this product.
The presented features are:
- The Update Rate (1 million waveform updates per second)
- MSO capabilities
- The Serial Buses
- The Segmented memory
- Mask Test
- Wave Gen
The demo signals can be used to show(advertise) quite a few of the features of this scope. In this way, the potential users can asses the need for certain upgrade licenses.
Here is the list of training signals presented in this mode:
- Sine with noise
- Phase shifted sine
- Sine with glitch
- Amplitude modulated Sine Wave
- RF Burst
- Repetitive Pulse with ringing
- Single-shot Pulse with ringing
- Clock with infrequent glitch
- Runt pulses
- Edge transition violation signal
- Setup & Hold violation signals
- Analog & Digital signals
- Digital burst
- Digital burst with infrequent glitch
- Edge then Edge
- CAN & LIN
The interface of this product is well done. To enumerate a few things I personally liked about it:
- each of the 4 analog channels have their dedicated knob and the fine setting can be used just be pressing it
- In order to operate easily on this scope you have to use both your hands. This might be an issue for someone whose holding a probe with one hand and trying to play with the user interface in the same time
- The "Back" button is well placed. Being placed on the lower left side, it allows easy canceling by using the left hand
- The "Entry" knob is used very often, though sometime, when having to select an option just above the softkeys, it might be easier to press the softkey a number of times. The only time you cannot use the softkey to select a certain option is when the parameter above the softkey accepts a multitude of values (e.g. when setting the trigger holdoff).
Thank you for your patience in reading this review. I will come up with further additions to this review as I will use this wonderful tool in my projects.
Thank you again Element-14 and Agilent Technologies for this great opportunity!
Agilent released firmware version 2.0 for the 2000A and 3000A series of scopes.
The changes in this version compared with 1.20 are tremendous. To name just a few of them:
- math functions added
- power measurements
- and last but not least, the arbitrary waveform generation capability.
and also a nice review from cheerful Dave Jones:
I'll post my updates on this one soon.
Thank you, DAB!
It seems for this product, the best way to show its true capabilities is to put some movie clips. Right now, I am putting a list of boards and appliances that I have in order to capture a few interesting real-life cases. Among these boards is the VC5505, a DVB receiver and some 8-bit MCU boards (from various vendors).