PICOSCOPE 2204A -  USB Oscilloscope - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: PICOSCOPE 2204A -  USB Oscilloscope

Author: cybermah

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?: I was in the market for a low priced oscilloscope. When researching scopes, I looked at portable scopes, some that have screens and some that dont. The one I was leaning towards was a hantek 6022bl.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The laptop I was using this product with was a little under powered for it. The scope still worked, but I feel that a new laptop with a usb3 connector would have greatly improved its performance.

Detailed Review:



First of all I would like to thank Picoscope and Element14 for giving me the opportunity to review this oscilloscope.  It is a great product and very well build.  The fabrication and  accessories are a nice quality and don't feel cheap at all.  The device is nice an small package and will fit in your shirt pocket to take it with you of course you will need a laptop to run it.



The highlevel specs on this scope are:

    • 2 channel scope
    • 1 channel signal generator
    • 10MHz
    • 100 MSPS

The detailed specs and features can be seen in this datasheet




The PicoScope 2204a came packaged in a small box along with accessories.  The accessories were 2 probes, a number of color identifiers, software and quick start guide.






Setup was really easy.  Basically you just connect the probes to the scope and the scope to the included USB cable then to your pc.  Then all you have to do is install the software and you're ready to start using the scope


Now there are three ports on the scope, two are for the scope channels and the other is a signal generator.


The probes P6060's X10/X1 60 MHz.  they come with changeable color identifiers.




The package came with the software included, but I decided to go to the website and download the latest version instead of installing the one that came with it.  Once of the best features I found with the software is its the same software for any of the Picoscope models.  So once you're familiar with it you can jump right in with any of their scopes when you want to upgrade.


Once I had the software running I started clicking buttons to see what I could do.  Other than the obvious scope functions, you have a signal generator,  a spectrum analyser, even a serial output reader.  This software seem to have a number of features, unfortunately I will only be evaluating the basic ones plus not all of them will even apply to this model.


Test 1 Scope:

  • Setup

    • Picoscope software running
    • connect the signal generator to channel A
  • Test

    • For  this test I wanted to see how the scope functionality works.
  • Procedure

    • Connect channel A probe to the signal generator.
    • Start the Pico software.
    • Click on the signal generator button  to setup the signal settings
    • image
    • Click on the Scope button
    • The screen should show the scope output of the signal generator
    • image
  • Conclusion

    • The scope seems to be able to show the waveform properly, although I did have an issue trying to lock in the waveform.  It keep scrolling back an forth.  The easiest way to lock it in was to hit the stop button at the bottom of the screen.  I tried a number of different setting in the signal generator with the same result.  I'm hoping it was because of my laptop wasn't running at peak performance.  Another pc or laptop with a USB3 may provide different results.
    • Another nice feature is the zoom, you can use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom into a specific area.
    • If you were trying to figure out what setting to start with, press the lightening bolt button and it will auto setup.


Test 2 Spectrum Analyzer:

  • Setup

    • Picoscope software running

    • connect the signal generator to channel A

  • Test

    • For  this test I wanted to see how the spectrum analyzer functionality works.

  • Procedure

    • Connect channel A probe to the signal generator.

    • Start the Pico software.
    • Click on the signal generator button  to setup the signal settings
    • image
    • Click on the Spectrum Analyzer button
    • The screen should show the waveform the signal generator settings.
    • image
    • image
  • Conclusion

    • The spectrum analyser worked better then expected.  It showed the proper output for what I had setup the signal generator.  When adjusting the settings in the signal generator, the spectrum output would follow every time.
    • The zoom allows you to read the waveform much easier.and you could really see that it was reading the signal properly.


Test Custom Software

  • Setup

  • Test

    • To see how easy it is to use an external program to interface with the scope.  I decided to use Java.  I found a sample app online and attempted to get it to work with the scope.  The sample app I found was built for a model picoscope 2000, so some modifications are require to work with the 2204A
  • Procedure

    • Connect the scope up to the pc
    • Install a 32 bit java.
    • expand the zip file
    • to get the sample app to work I had to modify PS2000.java
      • This change is required because the model 2204a contains a character.  The change will strip the "a" off the end.
      • image
    • Recomple this class
    • Replace it in the jar.
    • Create a directory called C:\Output  this is require to write data.
    • Run the app, first setup your java env to point to a 32bit version of java.
    • image
    • This sample app has a simple menu, but it does allow you to change some settings.  Play around to try different things.
    • Here is a sample of what it will write to file:

Time (ns) Channel A (mV)
94720 -174
97280 -174
99840 -174
102400 -349
104960 -349
107520 -174
110080 -349
112640 -349
115200 -349
117760 -349
120320 -349
122880 -349
125440 -349
128000 -349
130560 -349
133120 -349
135680 -349
138240 -349
140800 -349
143360 -349
145920 -349
148480 -349

  • Conclusion

    • This is probably the feature I was most interested in.  With just using the sample software that I downloaded from git. I was able to see that I could adjust many settings.  I could easily log the output to file.
    • I used java to test this functionality, but you could use C, C++, Perl or pretty much anything you want.  I think it would be really cool to log the output to a website for remote monitoring.



Final Conclusion

I was in the market for an oscilloscope and I was mainly looking for a bench top scope, but while researching them, I came across some USB scopes on eBay.  The problem was I've read a lot of other evaluation sites that basically said most of them were not performing up to spec.  When I was select to evaluate the Picoscope 2204a, I was excited to try a USB scope before committing on a USB or bench scope.  After using the 2204a, I would have to say it would be well worth the money.  It preformed better than expected, and I would recommend a Picoscope any day.  It was great to find out that the same software works with all of their models and you wouldn't have to learn a new interface when you upgrade. Plus the fact that you can write custom software to control the scope, make it an even better value.




  • Very nice road test report.


    You did something I had not yet thought of tackling and that is to use the Java interface to directly access the data from the Picoscope.


    Now that I have seen it done, I will have to consider using it for more embedded applications.