RoadTest: Tektronix TBS1202B-EDU Oscilloscope
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?: Compared to lab grade oscilloscopes from Tektronix, LeCroy, etc.
What were the biggest problems encountered?:
First a big thank you to Element-14 for the opportunity to RoadTest this oscilloscope.
The video below is meant to be supplemental to the written review.
I conducted my RoadTest of this scope from a perspective of "right out of the box". Comparisons were made with other lab grade scopes, but for the most part I wanted to keep the focus on this particular model and its use. The particular areas of focus are detailed below.
Pros: Easy to use, a lot of features in measurement, fast setup, computer connectivity easy as is printer connectivity, FFT is awesome!
Cons: Made to a little lower quality - I was afraid I would break something, "Multipurpose" knob very touchy in menu control - sometimes when pressing on it to select a function it would change the function before it selected it, software available pretty slim on features
Nice Features: Course work onboard a very nice addition for educators/newbies, Counter function, FFT function, Zoom function nicely setup
Packaging: No big issue here. Tektronix has always shipped their products in ways that keep them safe from the pitfalls of the shipping companies.
Accessories: The scope arrived with two probes, which is helpful as it is a two channel scope. The probes were a good, mid-range probe. Also included were some color bands for probe marking and some close profile/low profile tip adapters. Lastly the shipment included a software CD that contained the manuals and software for interfacing with the scope. However, the software wasn't really on the CD…more on this later.
First Time Setup: This scope is exceptionally easy to setup. Plug in the power cable, connect the probes, and power up. The first time, out of the box, power up takes a bit longer as the firmware is getting all set up. Once that is done, then its off and running. There is a Default Setup and Autoset function that can help you find your way if you get lost. For the first time start up, it starts in default set mode. From there the menus are easy to follow in order to get where you need to go.
Calibration: This scope, like all Tektronix's scopes, comes with a Certificate of Calibration. From there the only items to calibrate are the probes themselves, in the form of a compensation. Like many scopes on the market it has a dedicated output of a square wave for probe compensation. One of the probes that I received was just fine, the other needed adjusting. Tektronix sent along a tool to do just that. Tektronix has always designed their probes to be easy to adjust, and this model is no different. Nothing gets in your way when doing the compensation. Some other models/makers put knobs and things that can make this difficult.
Measurement: I was pleasantly surprised with this scope. I had assumed that because it was the "EDU" model that it would be stripped down in functions and features when it came to measurement. I was very pleased to find that this was far from the reality. The cursor measurement ability was extremely helpful and easy to control. The Math function for channel to channel calculations was also easy to use and helpful - especially in the realm of visualizing that data. The real surprise came from the amount of pre-programmed measurement functions. I expect all of these from a high grade lab scope, and it was great to see it in this educational model. Overall I would not have a hard time using this in my work environment for any measurements.
Calculation: An additional function of this scope that got my attention was the built in FFT calculation. I use FFTs a lot at my work and this scope would help out immensely. Any signal can be seen by the FFT function and its as simple as a button click to get going. By adjusting the horizontal and vertical settings you can adjust the sample rate and reference point respectively. You can focus in on different frequency points by adjusting the horizontal position. If anything, this was the only drawback - I would have very much like to have seen a cursor for use as a marker in this case. But really, this is minor.
Interfacing with a Computer: As stated before, a CD of software was with the system. However, the CD didn't have the software on it. When clicking not that menu function it directed you to the Tektronix web site where you can download the software. I am not surprised by this, however, I would like to see at least one version of the software on the CD. Sometimes we intend this system to be connected to a computer that does not have an internet connection. (GASP! How could that be?!) So to save us the time of going to burn our own CD it could be included. However, one of the main reasons they do this is so they can make you register on the Tektronix web page. Im not a fan of this, but realize it must be done.
Once you get the software, you see that it isn't anything outstanding. It does a good job of getting the waveform data and settings, as well as being able to send the setting back out. However, the screenshot aspect never worked for me (though this is minor because I always use the waveform grab instead) and there was no way to automate data collection activities. However, you can use items such as LabVIEW or just C, C++, C# programming to do such.
In addition to control software, there is software available to change/load new course work software. For educators and new users this is a great feature.
"Tips Window" - on the bottom left of the screen there is a spot where usage tips are displayed. For example, when choosing different FFT windows it will display what window is better for items such as transient analysis, amplitude sensitivity, etc. Other tips are how to use different features for each menu. This is very helpful for new users or those who need refreshers.
Course - The course work available on the scope is great for educational/new user purposes. The scope came preprogrammed with different labs with focuses like learning the scope functions, Arduino, Academic, and MSP-430. There is also a computer software downloadable from Tektronix that allows you to modify or add course material. For a classroom environment, this is extremely helpful.
Zoom - the zoom function, while on many scopes, is nicely setup here. The scope gives you a split display so you can see and control the area you are zooming. More than just a helpful feature, it is easy to use.
Counter - The built in counter function was helpful and a nice feature to have on a scope. Sometimes you have to find a separate tool to do this simple function, but here it is built in.
My use of this scope was focused on digital signal acquisition and measurement as well as analog signal measurement. In all cases, the scope proved easy to use and had a wide array of measurements built into its system. Connecting the scope to a computer was simple as the software install took care of all the drivers, etc. The software for control was somewhat of a letdown as it didn't have any automation ability. However, this can be overcome with writing my own controls in LabVIEW or other environments. It uses a standard VISA type driver.
The scope itself seemed to be made to a lower quality standard. I understand this may happen when trying to get a lower cost scope into the hands of educators. However, at some points I thought that the PCB that mounted the control buttons next to the screen would fall off. However, the scope did survive all the use that I put it through. The menu controls, and other controls on the scope, are all easy to use. The only button/dial that I had problems with is the "Multipurpose" button. When controlling cursors it worked very well, but when navigating menus it would so times be a little harder to control causing me to go past my selection. In other words, it was "touchy".
I could easily see this scope in the home lab, school lab, or even a high grade lab. While it may not have the chops to do it all, its a great bench top tool. A special credit for the education aspect as it didn't skimp on features in its quest for focus on the classroom.
It was a good review. We're purchasing models in this range too, because the price was good for such a brand, the display is of a decent resolution, and trigger flexibility is good. It seems a decent all-round scope. The OpenChoice Desktop app is good too. Very simple admittedly, but quick to use so people are more likely to document more.
You confirmed much of what I thought when I looked into the scope when it was first announced.
Still, for someone's first learning scope, it should be very nice.
I agree about the CD. I used to work in labs where there was no internet connection, so having a CD would save a lot of time for those situations.