Keysight Smart Bench Essentials Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Keysight Smart Bench Essentials

Author: john.porter

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Test Equipment

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?: There are no known direct comparisons. Tektronix suggests a collection of equipment for a "Fundamental Teaching Bench". Rigol suggests a collection of equipment for an "Advanced Education Bench".

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The PathWave BenchVue control applications need refinement and additional features. Test flow is not enabled. The EDU33212A waveform generator is not directly supported by software to create/edit arbitrary waveforms. The waveform generator has severely limited .CSV file import capability.

Detailed Review:

Keysight Smart Bench Essentials Review - John Porter

Are you looking for a set of modern, feature-packed, coordinated instruments for your bench? Keysight’s Smart Bench Essentials (SBE) provides a complete solution of four essential devices, each with their own licensed Pathwave BenchVue software application:

{gallery}The Keysight Smart Bench Essentials

EDU34450A 5½ Digit Multimeter

EDUX1052G 50MHz Digital Storage Oscilloscope

EDU33212A Two-channel Arbitrary Waveform Generator

EDU36311A - Triple-output Programmable DC Power Supply

It is easy to see that Keysight has gone out of their way to match the Smart Bench Essentials instrument aesthetics nicely. All four devices have the same layout: sophisticated black on gray color scheme, large seven-inch color display, and row of six selection buttons. The form factor of the three smaller units is virtually identical, with the power supply understandably larger and deeper. Button layouts and channel colors are consistent across the four instruments. The consistency of the aesthetics, panels and interfaces goes far beyond just looking pretty though - for students, this uniformity encourages an intuitive understanding of the equipment and enables rapid learning.

The Smart Bench Essentials instruments are drawn from Keysight’s entry-level product lines, likely to keep the costs competitive. I really don’t believe Keysight was racing to have the bottom prices though, the SBE are more expensive than some competitors. However, this is quality gear. The instruments inherit technology found in Keysight’s higher end models and sets the SBE above lower cost competitors. The SBE’s performance may even challenge some mid-range models.

Keithley and Rigol have grouped some products into education collections (Fundamental Teaching Bench and Advanced Education Bench) however these distinct products seem to be simply put together and do not exhibit the deliberate consistency and operation of the Keysight Smart Bench Essentials.

Instrument Reviews

To keep this part of the review from reaching 30 or so continuous pages, I have provided separate blogs to present reviews for each of the Keysight Smart Bench Essentials instruments along with blogs for a remote access test case and unboxing. There you can find detailed information along with comparisons, interesting test cases, instrument specific software findings and performance evaluations. Links are here and at the end of this page.

Startup Video

Below I include a short video of the noise and light show when starting up the Essentials equipment. It is a race with a lot of fan noise and clicking! The oscilloscope does not win.

  • Power supply 13s
  • Digital Multimeter 19s
  • Waveform Generator 30s
  • Oscilloscope 46s

Software and Web Interface


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue apps are a key component of the Smart Bench Essentials and add computer management and enhanced data logging to the platform. The apps add value and may be viewed as a 5th instrument in the series. These are licensed stand-alone apps, one app included for each instrument. Keysight has gone to great length to standardize the look and feel of the interface in each of the four apps:

{gallery}Pathwave BenchVue DMM


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Digital Multimeter Startup


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Digital Multimeter Software Main Screen with options


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Digital Multimeter Software Data logging graph


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Digital Multimeter Software Data logging bar


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Digital Multimeter Software Data logging AC

{gallery}Pathwave BenchVue Oscilloscope


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Oscilloscope Main with options and cursor


Keysight Pathwave BenchVue Oscilloscope Measurement options

{gallery}Pathwave BenchVue Function Generator


Main screen with options


Main full screen


Setting Sweep


Burst settings


Sum settings


Save settings screen


Modulation settings


Dual channel settings

{gallery}Pathwave BenchVue Power Supply


Power Supply Main


Power Supply Settings


Power Supply OCP OVP


Power Supply Data Logger Chart


Power Supply Data Logging


Power Supply Data Logging options


Power Supply Email Alert Settings

The Pathwave BenchVue apps can be confused with the BenchVue platform, the latter of which does not support the Smart Bench Essentials power supply, function generator nor DMM at present. The oscilloscope does inherit support in BenchVue but is presently all alone in there. An unexpected bonus to the apps, once they are licensed, is that they also support many other Keysight instruments you may have. In my case, I was surprised to discover the DSOX1102G oscilloscope and 34461A DMM gain new software support.

The four Pathwave BenchVue apps have many common elements, which makes sense considering Keysight has gone to length to standardize the interfaces. I provide additional information for each individual app in the accompanying review blogs (links at the end). Pathwave BenchVue apps complement and strengthen the Keysight Smart Bench Essentials collection with these features:

  • Computer control over each device
  • Added logging and graphing capabilities not otherwise available within the equipment
  • Data entry can be completed easier using the app vs. the device in some cases
  • Communication can be made to the apps using Ethernet or USB connections
  • The Keysight Connection Expert application is used to register and license each of the applications, and a link is provided within each app to reach Connection Expert.

The Pathwave BenchVue apps are in need of some refinement and enhancement. I have noted areas for improvement below. There are some significant omissions that I hope to see addressed in later revisions:

  • Test automation should be added. Don’t expect the Pathwave BenchVue apps to give you BenchVue Test Flow functionality, it is simply not there - at least not yet. Keysight has advised that they plan to include Test Flow capability in the future
  • Remote learning connection software is not included. Even though the EDU33212A webpage strongly implies that you can use the function generator app to “connect and control your function generators through the cloud”, you cannot. There is no cloud based remote access for any of the SBE instruments at all, unless you separately buy the PathWave Lab Operations for Remote Learning application or put your devices on the Internet yourself (not recommended, see my test case here)
  • It is exceedingly difficult to create useful arbitrary waveforms with the current software. The function generator app does not support creating and editing arbitrary waveforms for the EDU33212A Waveform Generator though it appears to have support for other waveform generators. Additionally, the EDU33212A is not supported by Benchlink Waveform Builder though you can select another model, 33500, to allow a basic .ARB format waveform to be created. CSV file support exists but is constrained to the point of futility. I explain further, along with workarounds within my function generator blog here. Keysight has advised they are looking at revisions to add clarity to the SBE pages
  • The Oscilloscope app covers basic functions, however, is lacking the ability to manage advanced features. Often it was necessary to control the oscilloscope directly. The DMM app is also missing some controls.
  • Network connection to the devices can be flaky at times, requiring a reboot of the equipment or re-establishing connection using the Keysight Connection Expert application. USB connection seems solid.
{gallery}Pathwave BenchVue Setup and Issues


Pathwave BenchVue Connection Dialog


Pathwave BenchVue Connection Expert


Pathwave BenchVue process to add a license


Can't find instruments


Pathwave BenchVue - Cannot Edit ARB Files

Web Interface

Keysight hits the mark with great execution of the built-in web interface on each instrument. The web interfaces accurately represent each device’s panel and provide direct control of all functions. The display updates with a short delay and shows the same graphic image as on each instrument. In almost every case, I preferred the web interface over the BenchVue application – it is implemented very well and is reliable. The VNC implementation on the EDUX1052G is solid and reasonably quick. While I couldn’t turn the equipment on/off or move cables from the web, I felt that I could manage each device effectively. The security of the web interfaces needs attention however, and would benefit from SSL encryption. You do not want to put these instruments directly on the Internet without controls in place.

{gallery}Web Interfaces




Oscilloscope Web


Oscilloscope Web Image Capture


Oscilloscope VNC


Waveform Generator Web


Power Supply Web

Educational Evaluation

Although I am no longer a full-time student, I continue to learn something new every single day and am always seeking out innovative ideas. I have been an instructor in a past career. So, it was natural for me to consider how the Keysight Smart Bench Essentials can empower those new to electronics engineering and their instructors.

The Smart Bench Essentials instruments deliver a complete lab configuration, easy to learn yet powerful enough for advanced experimentation as each student progresses. Clearly, this is where Keysight has focused their sights, and they do not miss. Each instrument considers a student’s perspective and supplies help to guide them along. The common interface of the panels and software enables students to become familiar and comfortable with the series quickly.

Holding almost any button on any of the instruments brings up an informative context specific help menu to explain what the function does and how to use it. I found this immensely helpful throughout my testing, and I know that students will as well. The instruments are perfectly matched for educational facilities and for students learning electronics concepts.

Understanding how to effectively use an oscilloscope can be particularly challenging for new students. To provide additional support to instructors, students and those seeking to learn how to operate an oscilloscope, Keysight includes several built-in training signals with the EDUX1052G. This is perhaps one of my favorite features of the EDUX1052G. These can be used to present a variety of signals and conditions that an engineer can expect, without the need of external circuitry. Keysight also provides the free “Educator’s Training Kit for 1000 X-Series Oscilloscopes Lab Guide and Tutorial for Undergraduate Electrical Engineering and Physics Students”. This guide is essentially a series of 14 guided lab assignments that leverage the built-in training signals to create a variety of common scenarios for measurement and analysis. The guide, combined with the training signals, is a top-quality instructional tool. If you are new to the world of oscilloscopes, running through these labs with the EDUX1052G will help you quickly develop into a proficient oscilloscope operator.

{gallery}Training Signals and Educational Material


Training Signals


Triggering on, Capturing, and Analyzing an Infrequent Event - what is that waveform?


Triggering on, Capturing, and Analyzing an Infrequent Event - found glitch by setting pulse width


Noisy Sine Wave - Triggering on Wave and on rising edges of Noise


Formerly Noisy Sine Wave - Now Appears Clean, Triggered using HF reject and Averaging

Collaboration between students and between educational facilities has become standard practice. The global pandemic has, in many ways, moved instruction from the classroom to the home. Engineering programs were no exception. Tools that enhance collaboration and accessibility will excel in this environment - the Keysight Smart Bench Essentials makes great steps forward however does not deliver remote capability on its own. Institutes may want to consider the PathWave Lab Operations for Remote Learning to implement remote instruction.

Links to Reviews and Blogs


In summary, Keysight’s Smart Bench Essentials successfully delivers an industry leading educational workbench through a series of coordinated high-quality instruments. Students, instructors and hobbyists will find the Smart Bench Essentials to be encouraging and intuitive for beginners, while supporting the needs of more sophisticated users. These devices bring value!

Keysight has placed considerable purpose into developing a full educational package with the Smart Bench Essentials, and they deliver with a solid set of essential instruments. Further development is needed to apply polish to the Pathwave BenchVue apps and augment their capabilities. The series falls short on promises for interoperability at present. Distance learning software is available however not included. I hope to see software updates soon and eager to see the possibilities these may bring.

I was thrilled to be provided this opportunity to evaluate the Smart Bench Essentials and extend my thanks to Element 14 and Keysight for the exciting journey. Please let me know if you liked this review! If you have any questions, post them below and I will do my best to answer.

Smart Bench Essentials – well done Keysight!


  • This looks like it was a lot of work. So, first, a big thank you for you efforts. I think both of you had some challenges with Benchvue. I'll pass your review on to the sponsor. Thanks.

    Randall Scasny

    RoadTest Program Manager