Best Handheld Oscilloscope

By Walter J. Farrell | LIVING

After spending days looking for the most recommendable handheld oscilloscope we can find, we have arrived at the conclusion of giving the Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope our Editor’s Pick. This oscilloscope simply stood apart from the rest by having all the necessary functions we are looking for. It has 4 channels and a good 7-inch display. It can capture a large capacity of waveforms/second as well as have a good bandwidth and a sizeable sample rate. All of these and more with its user-friendly characteristic.

If you are involved in electronics, then you must have encountered oscilloscopes. This test equipment is known to provide and capture electronic signals that help in understanding issues on certain devices.

And if you are on your way now to do just that, then it helps to get one that properly does the job for you. After all, when the device fails to recognize and give you the kind of findings you're looking for, then trying to solve a certain issue may be for naught.

There are undeniably a number of oscilloscopes around today. Which is why we understand how it is easy to get lost among all of them. So we decided to help.

In this guide, we will reveal to you some of the most recommendable handheld oscilloscopes around. We have considered a number of aspects in order to arrive with the favorable kinds.

Read on to find out…


How Does a Handheld Oscilloscope Work?

An oscilloscope is a device that test and display the voltage signals of certain industrial devices as waveforms or visual representations. These signals are graphed, showing the changes of voltage in a span of time. 

There are two axes displayed on the oscilloscope. The x and y. The x (horizontal) axis represents the time while the y (vertical) axis represents the measurement of the voltage. More than that are the following information oscilloscope can reveal:

  • Voltage and current signals
  • Oddity in the signals
  • Calculation of the signal frequency
  • Variations in signal frequency
  • Noises in the signal

Such devices oscilloscope tests are those that usually convert electrical power to mechanical power such as pumps, compressors, motors, conveyors, robots, and more. The oscilloscopes capture the unseen signals that come from these devices.


What Should I Consider Before Buying a Handheld Oscilloscope?

As a test equipment, it is crucial to find the right oscilloscope in order to point out what needs to be fixed in certain devices. And yes, it can be a challenging task to get the right one. So to help you with this, we have the following buyer’s guide:

1. ​Bandwidth

The scope of your oscilloscope should be at least 25 times the fundamental of your signal. If the scope of your bandwidth is insufficient, then it won’t be able to capture the signal properly. The response would fall with increasing frequency.

This is especially necessary for square waves where the harmonic components extend too many times the fundamental. Having a sufficient bandwidth is needed to capture it properly and also to avoid the square waves to become progressively rounded.

2. Channels    

What this all comes down to is more channels. The more you have of them, the more points in a circuit you can measure at the same time. It is either enough or more, depending on what you need for your oscilloscope to do. You can choose from 2, 4, 8, or 16. All of which you have to consider below:

  • 2 or 4 channels – allows you to view and compare signal timings of your waveforms
  • 8 or 16 – furthers he functions above by helping debug a digital system with parallel data

Still, no matter how many channels you choose, they must have good range, linearity, gain accuracy, flatness, and resistance to static discharge.

3. Sample Rate

In line with the bandwidth, the sample rate should be at least double the bandwidth. This is in accordance to the net Nyquist sampling requirement, which is typically at least 2.5 times the bandwidth. A fast sample rate can capture waveforms more in detail. This means less information you will lose.

4. Memory Depth

The memory depth simply pertains to the capacity the oscilloscope has to capture more signals under a longer span of time. The more time you can capture at the maximum sample rate, the more the sample rate enables you to retain the full bandwidth of the oscilloscope. Basically, you need a wider the range of time bases.

5. Scopes Resolution

The resolution is simply the number of levels at an A to D converter. The latest trends in oscilloscope have more than eight bits of resolution. Such oscilloscopes are at 2 to the 8th or have 256 levels. A ten-bit oscilloscope, furthermore, is at the 2 to the 10th or has 1024 levels.

In simpler terms, the higher the levels of resolution there is on the oscilloscope, the more it can represent small signal details that are often overlooked with low-resolution oscilloscopes.

6. Update Rate

Digital oscilloscopes these days have what they call a waveform update rate. This shows the responsiveness of the oscilloscope to capture signals and process and display them on the screen of the instrument.

So what you need is an oscilloscope that has a fast waveform update rate. It should have a shorter processing time for less blind time in order to see a more live display of the signals your target system is doing.

7. Easy to Use

Ultimately, the oscilloscope you choose should be easy to use, even for users who only need it occasionally. 


​How We Assessed and Evaluated these Handheld Oscilloscopes?

We scoured through a number of electronic shops as well as online shops in order to find the most recommendable oscilloscopes around. And as expected, there were a number of them, making the entire process overwhelming and confusing.

So we began our quest by trimming down those readily and commonly available oscilloscopes. We referred to review websites, user comments and feedbacks, and forums from those who tend to use the device more like AnandTech and All About Circuits. Those with more negative comments are directly eliminated from our list.

Still, even with those, we need to narrow down the number of oscilloscopes we have. Here, we began establishing the common buying criteria like the one we have above on the buyers’ guide.

We then applied scores to each of the remaining oscilloscopes and then aggregated the scores. We sorted them out and crossed out those with the lowest until we only have our top 5.

To further evaluate the final oscilloscopes we have, we conducted again a more rigorous product-testing. We tested each oscilloscopes out for hours in order to arrive at the final ranking.

And thus, we have the results below.

But before proceeding to the results, it must be noted that we did not receive any inducements from brands, vendors, and/or manufacturers throughout the entire process we conducted.

Everything written below are independent from any bias.


​​Product Reviews

1. Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscopes – Editor’s Top Pick

The Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope tops our list with its overall delivery and efficiency. It is innovative and contains many special features, specifications, and a broad analysis capability that made it stood out among the rest.

This device has 4 channels, which comes with a 7-inch digital display. It also has what they call the Rigol’s UltraVision technology, boasting together an optional analysis function, decoding, and 12Mpt deep memory.

It can capture up to 30,000 waveforms per second. The bandwidth is 50MHz and its real time sample rate is 1G Sa/s.
When it comes to looks, this oscilloscope has a benchtop body style and colored grey. We like how everything is just a touch of a button and vey easy to use. Furthermore, it comes with an American Standard Power cord as well as USB connectivity and 1.5m USB cable.

On the downside, though providing a very good device that delivers its functions well, we find that the Rigol Digital Oscilloscope has an internal noise. This could affect the MHz range. So you must be wary of how it looks like on the screen.

What We Liked

  • 4 channels
  • 7-inch display
  • Rigol’s UltraVision Technology
  • 30,000 waveforms/second
  • 50 MHz bandwidth
  • 1G Sa/s
  • Easy to use
  • USB Connect

What We Didn't Like

  • Internal Noise

​Our second pick is the SainsSmart Mini Handheld Pocket-Sized Digital Storage Oscilloscope. It delivers the functions well but this time with a much bigger screen and a stylish look.

This device has 4 channels (2 analog channels and 2 digital channels), an analog bandwidth of 8MHz, and a maximum sample rate of 72MSps. Its sample memory depth is at a maximum of 4K. This is great considering it is pocket-sized.

It has a full color 3” TFT LCD display and pixels 400x240. The interface is very comprehensive through the 6 buttons or switches plus the colored menu control system.

Through this screen, you can view the integrated square/sine/triangle/sawtooth signals it generates. The waveforms as well as the upgrade firmware can be stored in the built-in 8M USB disk.

Speaking of USB, this device operates on a rechargeable battery that can be powered through USB connection.

Going to its drawbacks, the reasons why this device is at the second place are due to its bad manual, one of the probes does not fit well in the sockets while all of them do not lock in, there is a lag when it comes to displaying the signals (a price to pay, we suspect, for the many things it tries to measure).

What We Liked

  • 4 channels
  • Portable
  • Bigger screen
  • Stylish
  • Easy to use
  • USB connect

What We Didn't Like

  • Bad manual
  • Problems with probes
  • Low bandwidth and sample rate

The third one on our list has fewer channels than the first two but nevertheless works well and even has great capacity levels. The Siglent Technologies’ Digital Oscilloscope is a reliable oscilloscope that people will find agreeable.

It has 2 channels but has a higher bandwidth with 200 MHz. The real-time sampling rate is also high with a maximum of, like the first one, up to 1Gsa/s. Furthermore, its IRecord length is up to 14 Mpts and standard serial bus triggering and decode. The waveform capture rate is up to 400,000 wfm/s.

This device comes with a wider screen, 7-inch TFT LCD, that has a color temperature display and 256-intensity grading. So you will definitely tell apart which signal is which. It also has multiple interface types such as: USB Host/USB Device (USB-TMC), Pass/Fao; Trigger Out, and LAN (VXI-11).

Another thing about this oscilloscope is that it has a history function. This allows you to look back on the previous signals you have captured.

But even with those functions, we can’t help but point out some faults on this device. One is the struggle with doing boxcar averaging or setting the trigger position on the screen without affecting some other functions. The second is regarding its power switch, which is faulty and had to be plugged in and out again and again.

What We Liked

  • 200 MHz bandwidth
  • 1G Sa/s
  • 14 Mpts record length
  • 400,000 wfm/s
  • Wide screen
  • Color display and intensity grading
  • Multiple interface types
  • History function

What We Didn't Like

  • exclamation-triangle
    Few channels
  • exclamation-triangle
    Boxcar averaging
  • exclamation-triangle
    Faulty power switch
  • exclamation-triangle
    Setting the trigger position

The LIUMY Professional Handheld LED Scopemeter Oscilloscope truly has the look of a handheld device with its small walkie-talkie like frame. Yet, though small, it contains necessary functions for an oscilloscope to be good.

This device is a multimeter with a 200Ksps A/D automatic waveform capture function. It can capture in Positive sawtooth wave, anti-sawtooth wave, sqaure wave, and triangular wave.
The sampling speed is also fast in this device with 200K SPShigh-see and a high analog bandwidth with 0~10kHz. Also, it has 4 channels.

It has a LED backlight and a storage/readout of up to 5 waveforms and 100 sets of measurement values. The LCD with LED backlighting makes this device suitable even in dark places.
This product comes with a portable bag, 2 test lead, and a hFE tester. It runs with 4 1.5V AA battery that can go up to 50 hours of total use.

However, this device also has its own issues. First, the manual is hard to understand. Second, there is no way to turn off the sounds on the buttons. The LCD contrast is not as good as expected with the backlighting turning off every 30 seconds. The scope function only displays the waveform, so it is not as friendly to new users.

What We Liked

  • Portable
  • Multimeter
  • Fast sample rate
  • High analog bandwidth
  • LED backlighting
  • 4 channels
  • Add-ons

What We Didn't Like

  • Bad manual
  • Noisy buttons
  • Poor display
  • Bad scope functionality
  • Not new user friendly

Another one from SainSmart, its DSO Pocket Size Mini Digital Storage Oscilloscope (DSO202) rounds up our list. It is probably the most portable one that we’ve tested adding to its charm and earning the fifth place. To simply put it, it is very basic and reliable.

As one may expect, this pocket-sized oscilloscope could only afford 2-channels and 1 operation channel. Nevertheless, it functions very well and serves to be very friendly to both new and old users.

The analog bandwidth is 1MHz. Its maximum sample rate is 10MSa/s with a maximum sample memory depth of 8K. It has an built-in signal generator for sine, square, triangle, and sawtooth wave.

It only has 1 button and a touch area that allows users to operate through multiple simple gestures like one-click or double-click. The screen is a 320x240 color display. It has a 8M memory card and is powered with chargeable Lithium batteries. Also, it supports SD card, USB flash disk, and USB charging.

For its cons, the small size can also be an issue just as it is an advantage. It can be a challenge for those who have bigger hands or those who would like to see the screen it bigger. It also only has 1 probe. Furthermore, the touch sensors may not be as responsive as we would have liked it. Lastly, the manual is not as easy to understand.

What We Liked

  • Portable
  • Enough sample rate, memory, and bandwidth for its size
  • Touchscreen
  • User friendly

What We Didn't Like

  • Too small
  • 1 probe
  • Glitch on touch sensors
  • Difficult manual


Our Recommendations

After everything said and done, we have come to the final part of our article. Here, we acknowledge the top three devices, which respectively go in order: Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscopes, SainSmart Mini DSO203 Handheld Pocket-Sized Digital Storage Oscilloscope, and Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E 200 mhz Digital Oscilloscope.

Undeniably, the Rigol Digital Oscilloscope took our top spot for its variety in functions. Not only that, it serves to offer more in capacity and reliability asked for in a great oscilloscope.
It has 4 channels, a wide screen display, more waveforms capture per second, a reliable bandwidth, a huge sample rate, and a USB connectivity. All of these and more with only its internal noise getting in the way.

For the second and third placer, while the SainSmart Mini DS0203 and the Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E are both great and offer reliable functions, they are held back by some aspects. The former has problems with its probes as well as having low bandwidth and sample rate. On the other hand, the latter has issues with power switch and some other necessary functions.

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About the Author

Walter J. Farrell is an accountant who is very passionate about sharing his knowledge on high tech gadgets. He started AuthorityAdviser to help people know more about the products that are currently a hit in the market.

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