Supersized-Screen Scopes Pack the Power

June 4, 2019
These versatile oscilloscopes provide 11.6- and 13.3-in. capacitive touchscreens with a wide range of options for versatile measurements through 1.5 GHz.

Oscilloscopes are among the most useful of electronic test instruments, and the latest two series of scopes from Tektronix deliver more than the usual amount of measurement power through 1.5 GHz into vertical packages that fit almost anywhere. Despite the slim silhouette, the 3 Series mixed-domain oscilloscopes (MDOs), with their 11.6-in.-diagonal capacitive touchscreens, and the 4 Series mixed-signal oscilloscopes (MSOs), with 13.3-in.-diagonal capacitive touchscreens, show traces without fatigue. Up to 12-b vertical resolution is available in the larger oscilloscopes. Both oscilloscope series also come with a host of options to make them even more powerful and versatile.

The 3 Series MDOs and 4 Series MSOs are designed for ease of use, with a settings bar that appears on the bottom of the display screen. By tapping on that part of the screen, it’s possible to turn on channels, add waveforms (such as math and reference waveforms), enable digital channels (if available), and enable any of the additional measurement functions that might be incorporated as options. Such options include the spectrum analyzer, the arbitrary function generator, and the digital voltmeter.

Leveraging User Input

These new oscilloscopes have been designed with the slogan “built from the engineer up” to explain the many features, options, and upgradability. By working closely with users, who consistently asked for larger display screens, both series of oscilloscopes were designed with the largest possible, bright display screens that would still allow ease of placement for the instrument.

The smaller of the two oscilloscopes, the 3 Series MDOs, have been put to the test on a variety of work surfaces: on top of different types of desks, on workbenches, even on the floor. By designing the instruments around a capacitive touchscreen with clear, visual triggering, the oscilloscopes can be made easily upgradable in terms of function and performance. They’re also easier to “future-proof” than earlier models of digital storage oscilloscopes. The scopes can be remotely upgraded at any time without returning them to the factory, and they feature a smaller footprint for more convenient placement on a laboratory workbench (Fig. 1).

1. The 3 Series MDOs are the smaller of the two new lines of oscilloscopes, with an 11.6-in.-diagonal capacitive touchscreen to show results.

Because the 3 Series MDOs are only 5.9 in. (149 mm) deep, several of them can fit closely together on a workbench. The product line includes models with two and four channels and instruments with bandwidths of 100, 200, 350, 500, and 1000 MHz. A decision on bandwidth at purchase time is totally noncommittal, however, since the four lower-frequency models are upgradable to higher frequencies, ultimately to a 1-GHz bandwidth. Upgrades to 500 MHz can be performed without returning an instrument, while an upgrade to 1 GHz does require that the instrument be returned to a Tektronix service depot.

All 3 Series MDOs show measurements on a bright 11.6-in.-diagonal capacitive touch display screen with 8-b vertical resolution and 1920- × 1080-pixel resolution for clarity. When teamed with an automated power supply, these MDOs make quick and reliable measurements of voltage, current, power, switching losses, harmonics, ripple, and modulation across a designated range.

What may be as enticing about these MDOs is the number of available options, such as including up to 16 optional digital channels with 121.2-ps timing resolution. Additional options make it possible to include spectrum-analyzer functionality from 9 kHz to 1 GHz or 9 kHz to 3 GHz. This is not just an “add-on” spectrum analyzer, as evidenced by low phase noise of typically −101 dBc/Hz offset 100 kHz from a 1-GHz CW carrier and typically less than −122 dBc/Hz offset 1 MHz from the same carrier. Crosstalk from the oscilloscope channels to the spectrum analyzer is at least 40 dB for frequencies below 800 MHz and better than 60 dB for frequencies above 800 MHz. 

In addition, the 3 Series MDOs maintain low displayed average noise levels (DANLs) across their full spectrum-analyzer measurement ranges. For the lowest-frequency measurements, from 9 kHz to 50 kHz, the DANL is typically less than 100 dBc/Hz. From 50 kHz to 5 MHz, the DANL is less than −130 dBc/Hz. From 5 MHz to 2 GHz, the DANL is typically less than −136 dBc/Hz, and from 2 to 3 GHz, less than −120 dBc/Hz.

An optional serial bus decoder handles PC, PCI, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, UART 2.0, CAN, CAN FD, LIN, FlexRay, MIL-STD-1553, ARINC429, and audio standards. If that isn’t enough, an optional function generator can also incorporate as many as 13 predefined waveform types, with 128-kb arbitrary generator record length and a 50-MHz waveform generator operating at a 250-Msample/s arbitrary generator sample rate. Including its 13 predefined waveform types for easy reference, this arbitrary waveform generator is able to provide quick test signals when needed.

In addition, a digital voltmeter/frequency counter comes free when a new MDO is registered. It can perform 4-digit DC, AC RMS, and DC + AC RMS voltage measurements as well as five-digit frequency measurements.

Each 3 Series MDO provides series bus decode, trigger, and search functions and is capable of a waveform capture rate of better than 280,000 waveforms/s. Each instrument is well-equipped with control/data ports, with four USB 2.0 ports and one Ethernet connection.

Jumbo Screens

The 4 Series MSOs feature a larger 13.3-in. (338-mm), TFT color capacitive touchscreen with 12-b vertical, 1920- × 1080-pixel resolution (16-b vertical resolution in high-resolution mode) and sampling rate of 6.25 Gsamples/s on all channels. Available with four or six FlexChannel inputs, these compact instruments measure just 9.8 × 17.7 × 6.1 in. (249 × 450 × 155 mm) and weigh just 16.8 lbs (7.6 kg) for easy movement and placement in a work area (Fig. 2). Models are available with bandwidths of 200 MHz, 350 MHz, 500 MHz, 1 GHz, and 1.5 GHz, with all narrower-bandwidth models readily upgradable to the widest bandwidth of 1.5 GHz without ever leaving the workbench.

2. The 4 Series MSOs provide bandwidths as wide as 1.5 GHz on a larger, 13.3-in. display screen.

Oscilloscopes in the 4 Series provide standard 31.25 Mpoints record length and 62.5 Mpoints record length as an option. Featuring a standard manufacturer’s warranty of three years, they benefit from a new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and the FlexChannel technology developed previously for the company’s 5 Series and 6 Series oscilloscopes. The 4 Series MSOs, which feature a waveform capture rate of better than 500,000 waveforms/s, provide serial bus decode, trigger, and search functions and come with five USB 2.0 ports for control and data interconnections (Fig. 3).

3. The 3 Series MDOs and 4 Series MSOs (shown here) leave room for other instruments, even on the most crowded test benchtops.

As with the 3 Series MDOs, the 4 Series MSOs are available with an enticing collection of options, including power measurements and Spectrum View software to deliver the functionality of a spectrum analyzer. For example, Spectrum View allows an operator to put peak markers on a measured waveform for ease of analysis. An optional 50-MHz single-channel waveform generator can also be built into a 4 Series MSO as an option.

As these innovative and handy test instruments demonstrate, not all test-equipment updates or upgrades require a trip by the equipment back to the factory. In the cases of the 3 Series MDOs and 4 Series MSOs, many of the performance and functional updates can be made without the instruments ever leaving the test bench. The large screens and small footprints of these oscilloscopes is going to make it hard for them to leave a test bench, once they have found their proper place. But if they do leave the bench, large handles and sturdy packaging mean that they will travel well.

P&A (MSRP): $3,850 and up (3 Series), $7,550 and up (4 Series).

Tektronix Inc., 14150 SW Karl Braun Dr., P. O. Box 500, Beaverton, OR 97077; (800) 833-9200.

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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