PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories

Author: colporteur

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?: No experience with multi signal oscilloscope. Last time I operated an oscilloscope was twenty five years ago. A lot has changed since that time. I thought of going and finding a PC Oscilloscope reference as filler for this box but thought, no that is not fair. I recognize some of the other RoadTester have the experience to provide these details.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Setting signal triggers. The issue is not related to the equipment but rather the operators lack of experience. The equipment provides a lot of options. If the operator does not have sufficient knowledge to use the features, then you can't blame the equipment.

Detailed Review:

Introduction

The PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope is part of the PicoScope 6000E Series fixed-resolution and FlexRes oscilloscopes that provide 8 to 12 bits of vertical resolution, with up to 500 MHz bandwidth and 5 GS/s sampling rate. A PicoScope 6424E 4 channel oscilloscope, two 8 channel TA369 MSO Pods and a PQ215 probe holder kit were provided for the RoadTest Review.

 

 

The 6424E is a PC oscilloscope. Early oscilloscopes were stand-alone instruments with no signal processing or measuring abilities. Later oscilloscopes began to use new digital technology to introduce more functions. They were highly specialized and expensive pieces of test equipment. PC oscilloscopes combine the measuring technology of a scope device with the convenience of the PC.

 

Summary

The evaluation of the gear provided was documented over a series of eight blog posts. With an additional blog post added to explore some electronics theory provided by the E14 Community.

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Unboxing (Probe Positioning System)

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: The Application

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Methodology

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Unboxing & Setup of PicoScope

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Not Satisfied

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Linux

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: TA369 MSO Pods

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Application Objective

PicoScope 6424E Oscilloscope + Accessories: Workbench Wednesday Practice

 

The approach used to gather the intelligence on the equipment for the review, was to use the scope to investigate the operation of servo motors on a Raspberry Pi. A shipping error resulted in the wrong oscilloscope being shipped. While the error was being rectified the probe positioning system was assessed.

 

The probe positioning system is a kit designed to assist the oscilloscope operator in creating a bench setup for positioning of scope probes using a series of holders that enable hands free testing. The kit worked as designed but didn't leave the operator confident it would not fit into his environment.

 

The oscilloscope was used to first display the output of an Arduino Nano using a script designed to drive a servo motor. The scope clearly showed the waveforms generated by the Nano didn't meet the signal specifications required to run a servo motor.

 

A move to using the oscilloscope on the servo scripts for the Pi, displayed the outputs that lead to uncovering operator error that was causing the scripts to not produce the output required to drive a servo motor. Once the script issues were resolved, additional scope functions were used to demonstrate the reasons a single board computer like the Pi can struggle with servo's operating correctly.

 

The scope was then paired with an 8 channel pod to examine the digital output from an eight bit counter. A short detour was taken to examine the features in the Linux version of the software. Enthusiasm of the evaluator resulted in one final test using the oscilloscope to examine the Miller Plateau of a MOSFET device when it the FET gate is triggered.

 

Evaluation

I feel the products are designed by a company that knows the environment that an oscilloscope is used in. The equipment is transported in a rugged hard polymer padded case to protect the equipment and house the components to use it. A quick removal of some of the foam in the case there is capacity to hold the two MSO pod kits. No need to carry stuff separate and risk misplacing it.

 

The software installation was painless with supporting documentation in the Quick Start Guide and User Guide to provide assistance. The document does indicated the performance of the software depends on the horsepower (my term) of the PC but doesn't provide guidance on what that needs to be.

 

The USB 3.0 cable provided was substantial. It was not some cheap cable but rather very robust. It was also long! Ample long to extend from the scope sitting on my desk to the PC that was located under the desk.

 

The Quick Start Guide provided some foundational information and online links to software and documentation resources. I was impressed when the links worked!

 

The software was easy to install and worked as intended. The User Guide contained the details needs to get the scope up and running plus, provide additional resources to explore investigating more complicated signal patterns. The interface was intuitive. After a short session measuring some signals it was fairly easy to start exploring options. The operator struggled with triggers. There is a lot of knowledge and understanding needed to trigger a scope consistently. Lack of current experience coupled with a device that aims to give you the greatest possible functionality, made the task more difficult.

 

After the scope made short work of resolving the servo motor issues, it's Persistence mode and masking filters capabilities were used to explore the same servo issue but using more advanced features of the scope. On reflection, I see this a a very big positive. The scope had the simplicity to help solve a problem but also had additional capabilities to gain further knowledge. With the operator limited knowledge, it was made to appear easy.

 

The Linux software tour was a bit of a disappointment. Some of that emotion can be attributed to the operators primary operating system being Linux. I had hoped to find Linux at least equal to the Microsoft product. In the MS Windows Software, I was one of the cool kids in the E14 community that provides fancy screen shots of the scope outputs, complete with all the setup parameters. I couldn't do that in Linux:( Discovering that not all enhanced features (i.e. copying images) are available in Linux was a let down. The scope worked well in Linux. It just didn't look as pretty, support all the features and have some of the enhancements found in the Microsoft product. The software worked and worked reliably in Linux.

 

Not having any knowledge of the MSO pod the documentation provide the necessary support to overcome the obstacle and enabled probing of an eight channel digital signal. The components of the MSO pod kit were designed by someone that knew what was needed for the task at hand. Grabbers to grab signal points and clips to provide grounds were all included. The equipment deserves some kudos when a novice can setup the equipment to scope the signal and produce a manageable display the very first time.

 

I did notice the scope was susceptible to electric noise from a fan I had sitting on the workbench. The scope picked up the electrical interference generated when the fan was turned on. I can't say if this is normal or not. I moved the fan away from the equipment and the issue did't come up again.

 

The ease of use of the oscilloscope gave me confidence to explore FET switching waveforms. It took me sometime to master the trigger setup but in the end I got to see what the bald engineer was talking about. The equipment was easy to set up and easy to use. I think that counts for something.

 

Post Project Review

I was impressed with the product. I went back over the scoring a few times trying to find the Russian judge that was giving all 10's. I could have docked for ease of use but that was the operator not the equipment. I couldn't find fault to lower the scores.

 

The support documentation was first rate. The website provided valuable resources. Two items that score big on my list. The equipment worked and allowed me to investigate the problem, find the root cause and resolve the issue. The equipment was so easy to set up and use that it encourage me to look for other things to explore. When I got into trouble, I RTFM and managed to find my way ahead. I can use the scope in Linux. Not as pretty as MS Windows but for actually doing the job, it works.

 

I appreciate the opportunity that I was given to evaluate the equipment. The gear provided was substantial investment for a vendor at just short of $15K in Canadian dollars, if purchased through Newark. With an outlay to that extent I didn't take the RoadTest review task lightly. It has been 25 years since I put an oscilloscope through it paces. I was concerned at the start about being able to complete a review. With strong support from the equipment and resources available from the vendor, it now appears easy. My thanks to the committee for selecting my application.

 

Update December 13, 2020

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. -Seneca

 

Being prepared for an opportunity is a big part of being lucky. We rarely know when an opportunity is going to happen. If the opportunity doesn’t happen, there was potential. When it does present itself, you can be ready to act if prepared.

 

This RoadTest prepared me for an opportunity that was delivered in a fundraising letter from my Alma Mater. I have gifted the equipment from this RoadTest to the Red River College electronic program. COVID19 health and safety protocols have thrust an immediate requirement on the college to supply remote learning on almost all their programs. Instructors have been scrambling to adapt their courses to the new paradigm of delivering lectures remotely.  Trying to develop remote learning solutions with legacy resources has been a challenge.

 

The PicoScope was the preparation waiting for the opportunity of remote learning. Instead of positioning cameras to capture test equipment output for student to view, the PC based PicoScope is ideally designed to fill the need. The instructor can display the output of the oscilloscope to the students with ease. The program is now looking at how to enable students, to not only see the scope output, but make adjustments for the lab setup.

 

The technology makes remote real-time screen deployment possible. Sessions for the students in the electronics program will resume in January with the promise of new things to come, as the college instructor further explores the capabilities of the equipment during the holiday break.

 

I was proud to have earned the oscilloscope. Again, thank you E14 Community for the opportunity. As I watched the other RoadTesters explore the equipment's capabilities I realized, I would never be able to take advantage of it’s full potential. It is a wonderful piece of equipment that can only be utilised in minds and hands more capable than mine.  Donating the equipment, to a program that gave my a career start some 40 years ago, has left my work bench empty but spirit full of joy that I was prepared to help.

Anonymous
  • Thanks MK for the acknowledgement. I reflected on the value of making the post.

     

    A fork in the road in 1997, had me follow a career path that involved more computer systems than electronics. Up to that point I was designing, installing and maintaining ground based aviation electronics systems for navigation and communication.  Office closures left me finding alternate work, that at first blended computer systems and electronics and then purely computer systems.

     

    I knew my oscilloscope knowledge ended around 1997 and made sure to confessed this in my application. I wanted to pick-up where I had left off. The Picoscope review seemed an ideal project. It took me sometime to get my test equipment legs back under me. I find this evident in the basics of my use of the equipment in the review. I reflect on my criticism of the test bed and see what you did with it as adding value.

     

    I did try to push some of knowledge curve by exploring persistence mode and some other functions. I knew I had only scratched the surface of the product. Your review went much further. I confess, I had some envy after viewing your review. It also convinced me that such a tool in the hands of a professional, would be better than sitting on my work bench looking for a reason to use it. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to diminish the program or the product by my actions of finding another home. I got satisfaction from the review process. I also got to learn.

     

    The college had a real need. The instructor had physical cameras setup taking screen shots of equipment that he was uploading. He deserved credit for his initiative in finding solutions to remote learning. My email with him lately has been about what he is doing with the equipment and what his plans are for the next term in January.

     

    I miss seeing the scope on the bench. I will miss bragging to people that come for a visit. The equipment is in a much better place now and that gives me a good feeling just the same.

  • Re your December 13th update.

     

    That's a really nice thing to do !

     

    MK

  • Well done for finishing your review. You have provided some interesting blogs along the way, that I have enjoyed reading, to support your findings.

     

    Kind regards

  • Thanks for the commentary.

     

    I agree with the time factor. For myself a RoadTest Review is a project that I need to schedule and keep to the schedule. I find the blog post and my faithful desktop note pad are the key to capturing perceptions, emotions and observation for the final review. Writing that review takes some time as well.

     

    Good luck on your completion. I look forward to the learning.

  • Good stuff Sean.

     

    I've a few more blogs to do before I'm finished - it takes at least as long to write things up as to do them.

     

    MK