Welcome Analog Discovery 3! another pocket but powerful digital oscilloscope

Table of contents

RoadTest: Enroll to Review the Digilent Analog Discovery 3

Author: MARK2011

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?: Analog Discovery 2 and a whole Digilent's AD family - for sure - of course! Portable oscilloscopes as Rigol or Picoscope as well as Multicomp USB oscilloscopes, also ADALM2000 from Analog Devices. As Logic Analyzer/Debugger - Saleae and its clones (Sigrok project). Finally: DIY Kits as DSO150 (JYETech) digital oscilloscopes.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Nothing particular because both Analog Discovery 3 and WaveForms are a high-class, refined and easy-to-use set with excellent documentation

Detailed Review:


 Analog Discovery 3:  14-bit 125 MS/s USB Oscilloscope,

Function Generator, Logic Analyzer, Pattern Generator,

and Variable Power Supply



At the very beginning I would like to THANK very much to Element14 and Digilent for the trust and selecting me for the role of tester of such exceptional equipment as an

Digilent Analog Discovery 3


The recently introduced Digilent Analog Discovery 3 is a worthy successor to the excellent Analog Discovery 2 which, despite its still young age, has already gained the status of a true legend.

The excellent Analog Discovery series is equipment appreciated by both amateurs and professionals. It is widely used in electronics enthusiasts' homes, in university laboratories and even in advanced research institutes around the world. Thanks to its new solutions, Analog Discovery 3 is already collecting positive opinions and is becoming a valuable piece of equipment for electronics workshops.


One of the pleasant activities when working with electronics is opening an elegant box with a new, intriguing device. Of course it was the same with AD3. Impatiently awaited, delivered without any problems or delays and well protected against the long journey, and here it is:

Documentation and support

As an extremely popular device introduced by the professional brand Digilent, Analog Discovery devices have excellent support. This of course also applies to Analog Discovery 3.

The introduction of the new Analog Discovery 3 was accompanied by the release of documentation, information-rich manuals and many examples.The advertising and information campaign was accompanied by webinars, training and presentations. Excellent multimedia materials appeared on Digilent channels as well as in popular social media. Everything is easily available on Digilent websites but also on GitHub, such as element14 & Farnell/Newark.

Therefore, I do not see the need to quote and rewrite descriptions and instructions. I hope that when you read it, you will not hold any grudges about it and that this report will remain transparent and not too extensive. I try to include links to particularly relevant descriptions, instructions and examples. This will ensure readability and keep my report informative.

All information about the hardware, available software, manuals  and usage examples as well as Quick Start Guide are available here:


A full set of materials sufficient to carry out advanced work with Analog Discovery 3 is also available in the element14 invitation to this roadtest:


On the one hand, you can stop at the materials from the websites above. It will allow you to boldly discover the wealth of functions and possibilities of Analog Discovery 3.

On the other hand, there are many more websites available that easily describe our device. There are forums for active users, support pages, etc. Entering “Analog Discovery 3” into your browser, it opens a lot of doors, but you definitely don't feel lost and you will quickly find answers regarding the range of possibilities and functions as well as the use of Analog Discovery 3.

Analog Discovery 3 - the most relevant data

As declared above I want to avoid rewrite documentation thus I publish here only selection of main parameters and capabilities

The Analog Discovery 3 is a portable, digital oscilloscope, logic analyzer, waveform generator, pattern generator. 

Using the flexible WaveForms software (supported by Windows, Mac, and Linux), the

Analog Discovery 3 can be used in the lab, in the field, or at home.

Mixed-Signal USB Oscilloscope:

  • Two differential channels with 14-bit resolution at up to
  • 125 MS/s per channel with a +/-25 V input range, 30+ MHz

bandwidth with BNC Adapter

  • FFT, Spectrogram, Eye Diagram, XY Plot views

Arbitrary Waveform Generator:

  • Standard waveforms, amplitude and frequency modulated

signals, direct playback from analog inputs, custom


  • Two channels with 14-bit resolution at up to 125 MS/s per

channel with a +/-5 V output range, 12 MHz bandwidth with

BNC Adapter

Logic Analyzer and Pattern Generator:

  • 16 digital I/O channels at up to 125 MS/s per channel
  • SPI, I2C, UART, CAN, JTAG, ROM logic, custom protocols

Programmable Power Supplies

Additional Features:

  • Additional software instruments including Spectrum

Analyzer, Network Analyzer, Impedance Analyzer 

  • SDK for hardware control in C, C++, Python, & other languages
  • Support for LabVIEW and MATLAB

Short comparison with “older brother” (Analog Discovery 2)

The first thing you notice is the great change in...Sample Buffer Size:

This is the biggest hardware improvement thanks to the Spartan 7 FPGA instead of the Spartan 6. All of the sample buffers for collecting data have doubled in size. Instead of only being able to collect up to 16,384 samples of analog and digital data per channel,  the system can now acquire (or send out) up to 32,768 samples at the full sample rate per channel.

All of the minimum sample buffers have been increased as well. Previously on the Analog Discovery 2, if you selected Configuration 4 to increase the Logic Analyzer and Pattern Generator to their maximum sample size of 16,384 samples per channel, the analog channels suffered quite a bit with the analog input channels on the Oscilloscope, dropping down to a 512 sample buffer size. The analog output channels on the Arbitrary Waveform Generator suffered even further, going to only 256 samples. Configuration 3 was even worse, dropping support for the Logic Analyzer and Pattern Generator entirely to let the AWG have 16,384 samples. now all systems both analog and digital will have at least 2,048 samples to work with no matter what configuration is selected.

With the Analog Discovery 3, we can control the two power supplies as their own AWGs.

Digital Loopback

New to the Analog Discovery 3, users can now digitally capture and view analog data between the Oscilloscope and Arbitrary Waveform Generator

Hardware Filters

Sample Rate 

Analog Discovery 3 can adjust it’s System Clock Frequency away from the default value of 100 MHz to as low as 50 MHz and as high as 125 MHz, allowing samples to be taken at faster rates (while using the higher frequency clock of course), whereas the Analog Discovery 2 was forever stuck at 100 MHz. Why not just simply lock in the system clock frequency to 125 MHz and call it a day you ask? While a tempting idea, due to how sampling (or generating) frequencies are derived, achieving some of the more familiar frequencies such as 50 MHz at the higher 125 MHz is not feasible in hardware. So the default of 100 MHz is left but can easily be changed in the Clocking tab of the Device Options.

DIO Pin Settings

Digital Discovery, the Analog Discovery 3 can change the internal pull resistor type for all of its digital I/O pins.


Noise buffer on the Oscilloscope is now its own dedicated buffer and is at 14 bit resolution rather than 13 bit resolution, and the Scope inputs themselves also support 15 and 16 bit resolution if you are using a lower sample rate.

Audio jack:

The audio jack is no longer embedded in the Analog Discovery 3. The functionality that it offered is now instead present in the Audio Adapter+ with it’s pair of mono/stereo inputs and pair of mono/stereo outputs.

(based on: https://www.elektronikfokus.dk/blogs/whats-different-with-the-analog-discovery-3/)

The software - stunning WaveForms

Regardless of constantly improved hardware solutions, the success of the AD series would not be possible without the truly stunning functionality of the Waveforms software.

This entire report could be devoted to the description of this software, but that is not my intention. However, I count on your patience. That's why I recommend extensive descriptions of the waveforms function on the Digilent website and great examples of applications in tutorials.

WaveForms is the virtual instrument suite for Digilent Test and Measurement devices.


WaveForms SDK should be mentioned here, while the WaveForms application offers a refined graphical interface, the WaveForms SDK provides access to a public application programming interface (API) that gives users the ability to create custom PC applications.

All informative details I found at that link:


Test environment preparation


I included a description of preparing the installation of WaveForms software in my roadtest report of ADP3450 Analog Discovery Pro USB Oscilloscope


Despite the obvious development of software functionality and capabilities, the main installation steps remain unchanged. Of course, it should be emphasized that this process is extremely simple and intuitive.

Regarding hardware, one significant issue arose. Analog Discovery 3 was basically designed to connect to a computer and be powered via USB3.

This caused a bit of confusion when the test started because my “lab” laptop used for all tests is not the latest and does not have a USB3 port. Luckily there is no problem using the USB2.0 port. 


Nevertheless, I checked whether I would have to use USB for communication and the auxiliary power supply socket. However, this was not required in the tests I conducted.

Moreover, the obtained kit is sufficient to perform most tests. ​A great convenience is the connection of a BNC adapter and a pair of probes. This, of course, primarily ensures a significant improvement in the quality of measurements.

The supplied measurement probes are of good quality. However, I am concerned about the durability of the GND cable.

Unfortunately, this may be the Achilles' heel of the probe if it is used intensively and especially carelessly.

For my tests, I also used a simple laboratory generator, a PWM generator and an old waveform generator circuit based on the NE555 chip.

In my digital protocol research, I built an RGB/IR monitoring circuit using an Arduino board and an RGB converter BH1749NUC.

Roadtest plan vs reality

preparing to the tests i hoped to conduct all exercises from guides tutorial

The reality turned out to be a bit more complicated and I had to limit the number of functionalities tested.

In addition to basic exercises with an oscilloscope and waveform generators, I focused on exploring the study of logical signals, which were based on  Data Logger; Logic Analyzer;Pattern Generator and Protocol Analyzer I used some of capabilities of invaluable Script Editor

For more advanced tests, I planned to use the interesting functionality of Waveforms, which is the Curve Tracer.

The Curve Tracer is a test equipment used to analyze the characteristics of discrete electronic components, such as diodes, transistors, and thyristors.

In our case,  inside of the WaveForms application we have an instrument for above measurements.

In the case of Analog Discovery Pro,practically no additional equipment was needed.  Analog Discovery  2, or 3 have only 2 pairs of channels (GEN & SCOPE) thus additional circuits with fast relays are required.



Transistor Tester Adapter

Above device doesn't look difficult to build, but not wanting to waste the limited time on construction, I asked the Roadtest organizers for help in obtaining a Transistor Tester Adapter.

And here once again a big thank you goes to element 14 and Digilent. 

Shortly after my request, they promptly sent the tester. 

Sincerest thanks!

Basic tests of Analog Discovery  3 and WaveForms

  • Using the SCOPE

I hope the following video depicts basic functions of Analog Discovery  3 and WaveForms, acting as the oscilloscope. 

First testing “circuit” based on long wire connected to Channel 1 and acted as the “antenna” collected all garbage from the “air”.

Of course the signal is mostly noises induced from the AC net.

Basic use of the scope

In the video you can see the benefits of using measurement tools

Measurements using “Quick Measure Cursors” are particularly convenient


  • Generate signal using Waveform Generator

WaveGen and Scope in practice.

Waveform Generators are used to apply specified analog signals to circuits, anything from DC signals, sine waves of varying frequencies,

AM/FM modulated signals, and more.

Using configuration panel, we can select various waveforms starting from sine from default set of  “Simple” signal

to more and more complicated by edition of signal parameters.

+XY window lets us see and use Lissajous figures


Generate custom signals.

the wave can be defined through several different methods, including through mathematical functions, through a data file

(including CSV, TXT, and various audio files), or as a variant of one of the default functions.

e.g. the signal waveform can be edited in a graphical editor as below

or using scripts

 “Play” panel allows the user to import then play back a saved file, including audio files.

Sweep and modulation signal types

“Sweep” panel is used to play a dynamic signal where the frequency and amplitude changes within a set amount of time.

configuration of linear frequency and/or amplitude sweep is provided.

“Modulation” panel allows to create amplitude- and frequency-modulated signals.

The first column defines a high frequency carrier signal, the second column defines another signal that modulates the frequency of signal of the carrier,

the third lets modulate the amplitude of the carrier.

  • Examine waveforms from external generators

In this test I wanted to check quality of signal of cheap DIY 2MHz generator of sine/triangle waveform


Further measurements



And one more generator assessment-

Check how much the signal from the primitive generator based on NE555 is distorted

  • Logic protocol analysis

To use and test  functions: Logic Analyzer;Pattern Generator and Protocol Analyzer 

for capture, view or generate digital signals,

I prepared simple arduino project using the BH1749NUC -- RGB/IR monitoring transducer with i2c protocol.  

i2c hardware

Using the Protocol Analyzer

Protocol Analyzers are used to send, receive, and spy on transactions in a variety of different digital communication protocols.

Check capabilities of the  logic analyzer

Logic Analyzers are used to easily capture and view digital signals

Visualize the I2C protocol as analogue signal using oscilloscope

Benefits of  scripts and the Script Editor

Last not least >>> definitly one of THE BEST!:

  • Using the Curve Tracer

The Curve Tracer instrument inside of the WaveForms application allows you to work with the Transistor Tester Adapter and uses the relays of the platform

to perform the specific measurements. It can also be used with devices having two waveform generator channels and either two differential oscilloscope inputs.

As I mentioned earlier, thanks to the support of element14 and Digilent, I did not have to build a transistor measurement module myself.

I was provided with the new Transistor Tester Adapter. Thanks to this, I could conduct tests of transistors quickly and efficiently.


Apart from problems with obtaining the Ic/Vbe characteristics, working with Curve Tracer and the transistor tester adapter is a real pleasure

  • Conclusions and summary

The Analog Discovery 3 roadtest time inevitably ended, although I managed to get to know quite well that  multi-function, portable USB Oscilloscope/ Function Generator/ Logic Analyzer/ Pattern Generator/ Variable Power Supply, my interest and desire to use this tool in my work is growing. 

I haven't been able to test many functions yet, for some of them I lack knowledge and practice to use, but I can confidently confirm that we are dealing with another  outstanding/ superior  tool.

Despite so many functions and diversity, I never felt lost when using Analog Discovery 3.

The operation is intuitive and the manuals supported by examples are excellent. In addition, forums and support are ready to help.

On behalf of many users, both amateurs and professional electronics engineers, I can say, thank you Digilent for being here with us, thank you for developing the Analog Discovery series and especially thank you for the new, brilliant device the  Analog Discovery 3.