Rohde and Schwarz MXO4 Oscilloscope

Table of contents

RoadTest: R&S® MXO 4 Oscilloscope

Author: michaelkellett

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?: Tektronix MSO44, Keysight MSOX4054A, LeCroy 4054HD, LeCroy HDO4054, Pico 6424E

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The biggest problems I had were bugs in the Firmware. I don't think that the hardware ever did anything unexpected.

Detailed Review:

MXO4 Overview

The MXO4 is a new Scope family from Rohde and Schwarz. It has been extensively publicised and promoted and all the usual influencers on the web have discussed samples of it.

It's intended to compete with Tektronix, Keysight and LeCroy '4 series products. Since there is no agreement at all about what a '4 series Scope is there are large differences in spec and price between the different manufacturers.

The cheapest base MXO4 instrument is £7327 (200MHz) and the most expensive £21,416(1.5GHz). Options (for built in signal generator, protocol decoders and digital channels) can add £8240). I'll talk more about prices and compatitive position later.

Scopes in this class require custom chips and a very large design effort. The Keysight product is based on a chipset which I think has been around for maybe 10 years - the MXO4 is based on R & S' shiny new chipset and offers some headline grabbing performance figures.

Road Test Structure

Most of the detailed work done with the scope is described in 7 Blogs which I've posted over the last two months.

This Road test Review document is going to explain the scores I've given to the MXO4 and discuss my overall impressions.

The Blogs

Model Supplied for Road Test

The model supplied for the Road Test had the following options:

500MHz bandwidth

Mixed signal logic probe kit

Application Bundle.

From its own settings screen it seems to have all possible options enabled:

K530 doesn't appear to be selectable anywhere.

It's possible that it isn't ready yet - the CAN protocol decoder didn't arrive until January and gained significant additions in April.


This is always hard and is extra difficult for me with this instrument.

I try to use full range of scores, for me 1 is very poor, 2 is poor, 3 is OK, 4 is good and 5 is very good.

The categories for scoring have to cover a wide range of products so are never a perfect fit. I've explained where I interpret rather freely what the category is intended to cover.

Product Performed to Expectations

I scored it 2. Maybe I expected too much. Just about everything I tried showed great potential but was let down by rough edges on built in software or documentation.

Specifications were sufficient to design with

I scored it 3.

This isn't really a scoring category that works for a scope. The spec is quite detailed, no better and no worse than specs from other places.

Demo Software was of good quality.

I scored it 2. There was no demo software. I think there should have been demo software for using remote control features (which are extensive).

Product was easy to use

I scored it 3 but it was edging towards 2.  The basic scope design with the large screen, quiet fan, VESA mounting, nicely working web control, variable colour illumination are all good. The GUI interface is quite good but sometimes clunky. But I would have rated it 4 - except for the bugs. I didn't encounter any actual crashes (although other reviewers have) but I found things that just don't work properly or just are not implented and should be.These make it harder to use.

Support materials were available

I scored it 2 R & S have posted a large number of very short glossy videos about different features of the MXO4. They use very simple and unrealistic set ups and are presented with lots of silly catch phrases. They are not much use. For a product in this class I expected a range of detailed papers and possibly videos explaining properly and in depth how the different features are implemented, There isn't any such support. I'm also going to lump in on here the Help Desk support. It wasn't very good. I think at least two of the replies were stalls (eg ask if he's using the latest code when the issue was that the feature wasn't implemented in the latest code, as was revelaed when it was implemented at a later date.). I had to push toe get the help desk people to actually discuss the issue with someone intenrally who understood the issue.

The price to performance ratio was good.

I scored it 4. This was a hard one. My intial got feeling was that the value for money wasn't very good but when I compared it with the competition I realised that I wasn't being fair. The core scope performance is very good and its not the most expensive in my compare list (very hard to be sure of prices because of the different way that important options are priced.). There is a more detailed comparision  of competitors later.

Comparing with Competition

The concept of '4 series scopes across manufacturers is  a bit strained because there is no agreed definition.

R & S pick out the Keysight MSOX4054A, the Tektronix MSO44 and the LeCroy 4054HD as subjects for what they call Comp Sheets. I think that these Comp Sheets are far too partial (for example they compare a 4 channel MXO4 with a 6 channel Tek and then suggest the R & S is cheaper). My table comes to a different conclusion.


First - the disclaimer - this is a very partial listing. Prices are based on advertised prices fore the closest matching configuration I could find . Don't make final decisions based on this table.

There are several interesting things in this table.

The MXO4 is the clear performance winner

The Pico is by far the cheapest (it has no screen and needs a fast PC to work).

The LeCroy is the only one in the table that is (in my book)  a seriously 1GHz capable 4 channel Hi Res scope. (You need the sampling rate to be 10x the bandwidth for serious analogue work.)

(The table only shows pricing for 500Mhz or close options - 1GHz bandwidth costs a lot more for all the scopes listed.)

The Tek and the Pico are mixed resolution - check them out it you are interested. The Pico is a good scope, the MXO4 is much, much better for small signals. I've never used the Tek.

Not visible in the table:

Compared with the MXO4

The Tek has (on paper) better tools  for looking at large (multi mega sample captures).

The Keysight (on paper) has better tools for integrating segmented data and protocol decoders.

Summing up - would I buy one !

All through my work with the MXO4 and in my blogs I've made it clear that I was very disapointed by the rough edges (bugs and ommisions) in the Firmware and support materials.

Despite this, it is a good scope, arguably a very good scope.

The things that I don't like are almost all fixable.

The good things:

  • Low noise
  • High resolution
  • Digital triggering
  • Filters before triggers (Pco has digital triggering but its pre-filters)
  • Big, high res screen
  • Quiet
  • VESA mount
  • Built in sig gen is good. lots of features and widest bandwidth
  • Web control works very well (for control and downloads)
  • Big (very big) memory
  • Best spectrum analyser on a scope
  • Multiple bandwidth options on inputs
  • Good range of measurements and statistics
  • Extreme zooming and cursor measuring work well

Things that need attention:

  • Fix bugs !
  • Spectrum Analyser needs to support log frequency scale
  • FRA needs to support Linear frequency scale and deal with interference signals better.
  • Needs better way of navigating large captures, 400M points is no good if you can't search it easily
  • Segmented capture needs a tighter integration with protocol and normal triggering to start next segment on next trigger
  • Sequence triggering needs to work on digital channels
  • Manual updates should appear with Firmware updates
  • Much better background tech support with real engineer to engineeer documents and videos

If you need a good general purpose high res scope to use on a daily basis for professional work (it isn't a reasonable hobby proposition for most) the MXO4 is a very serious candidate.

When compared with it the competition all has serious flaws which my table clearly shows.

Unless one of the others has a special feature that you just must have, it looks like the obvious first choice.

If R & S fix all the things in my list it would be a complete no-brainer.

Although this is the end of the Road (Test) I'll go on posting about the MXO4 from time to time.


  • I've been excited all my life about buying a decent oscilloscope and I never make the decision because I don't have the proper knowledge.
    Your comments will help me to have a better judgment when the day comes when I finally make up my mind.

  • Hi Michael,

    Congrats on the review completion and the blogs! They were very useful, and now I have time, I'm looking forward to re-reading them more thoroughly.

    It's been great following along with your work and being able to discuss directly any topics as we worked through it.

    I refused to do anything else this weekend apart from working on the review! I'm pretty exhausted and wondering when is the next bank holiday. : )