A portable oscilloscope, also known as a portable DSO (Digital Storage Oscilloscope), or mini DSO, is a tool used to provide an in-depth analysis of electrical circuits. The best portable oscilloscope will have a bright, easy to read display, an intuitive menu system, and will feature a large memory.
A simple multimeter can provide a surprising amount of information when testing basic electronics, but once things get a little more complicated, a multimeter alone won’t do the trick. The main advantage that an oscilloscope has over a multimeter is its ability to display voltage and current over a period of time (Source).
Where a multimeter might show a clean 5.0 Volts when testing a circuit, testing the same circuit with a portable oscilloscope gives you the ability to ‘zoom in’ and see finer detail. In some cases, you may be able to see signs of instability, such as voltage ripple, that simply won’t show up on a multimeter (Source).
There are many different technical factors to consider when picking out a portable oscilloscope. Before buying one, consider its price, warranty, input impedance, maximum measurement frequency, and memory size. It’s also important to consider its weight, as you will be moving it around a lot.
All of the portable oscilloscopes in this review will enable you to precisely analyze circuits, whether you are an electronics engineer working for a large company, or a hobbyist working on projects at home.
What Is A Good Beginner Oscilloscope?
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is A Good Beginner Oscilloscope?
- 2 What is a Portable Handheld Oscilloscope?
- 3 Comparing The Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes
- 4 1. Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL+ 50 MHz Digital Storage Oscilloscope – Best Overall
- 5 2. Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope – Great Value for Money
- 6 3. Kuman DSO 138 DIY KIT Open Source – The Best Budget Oscilloscope
- 7 4. SainSmart Mini DSO203 Handheld Pocket-Sized Digital Storage Oscilloscope – The Best Oscilloscope for Lightweight & Compact Design
- 8 5. LIUMY Professional Handheld LED Scopemeter Oscilloscope – The Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscope Below $100
- 9 6. Owon HDS1021M Digital Handheld Oscilloscope – Most Efficient
- 10 7. Quimet DSO138 Pocket Oscilloscope – Great For Beginners
- 11 8. Allosun Portable Oscilloscope And Multimeter – Most Stylish
- 12 9. Signstek Arm Nano DS202 Mini Oscilloscope – Versatile Design
- 13 10. Signstek UT81B UNI-T LCD Oscillometer And Multimeter – High Performance
- 14 Do I Really Need An Oscilloscope?
- 15 Most Common Issues People Have with Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes
- 16 Features of the Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes
- 17 Factors to Consider Before Buying
- 18 Ready To Buy The Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscope?
The SainSmart Mini DSO203 is a battery-powered, portable oscilloscope that’s perfect for both professionals and hobbyists. It includes a USB port, an 8M in-built USB disk, and SD storage. The SainSmart Mini is fitted with a full color 3” display that allows you to make quick assessments.
What is a Portable Handheld Oscilloscope?
An oscilloscope is a device that can be used for a wide variety of professional tasks that require the user to visualize data that isn’t visible. An oscilloscope displays and graphs electrical signals from a variety of possible sources, letting the user convert invisible signals into visible data.
Comparing The Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes
1. Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL+ 50 MHz Digital Storage Oscilloscope – Best Overall
Plus, this oscilloscope supports two channels. More than that, it also boasts a 7-inch color TFT, LCD display. Not only does this display offer you an exceptional view of waveforms, but the size and resolution of this screen allow you to take precise measurements as well. Similarly, as it is a modern gadget, the SDS1034DL is designed to support the standard interfaces like RS-232, USB Host, and USB Device. Some of the advanced trigger modes among its features include pulse, video, slope, width, edge, and alternate selectable modes.
- Equipped with an excellent TFT display
- Features a quick onscreen menu
- Supporting 6 languages
- Capable of taking up to 20 measurements automatically
- Supports USB host and device, LAN, and RS-232
- Features one-key printing capability
- Its fan is relatively noisy
2. Rigol DS1054Z Digital Oscilloscope – Great Value for Money
- Compact design
- Relatively lightweight
- Equipped with four probes
- Has Aux, USB Host, USB device, and LAN embedded interfaces
- Features a high-quality built
- Has an expandable memory of up to 24 Mpts
- Resetting controls to default can take time
3. Kuman DSO 138 DIY KIT Open Source – The Best Budget Oscilloscope
Some of the parts are pre-soldered to make its assembly a little bit easier. In any case, the product comes with illustrative assembly instructions to help you through. This is a cheap handheld oscilloscope which costs only $25 on average. Therefore, if you love building things and are good at electrical assembly and soldering, it is advisable to consider this option.
- Comes with 2.4-inch TFT Display
- Relatively easy to assemble
- Does not require fancy features to work
- Comes with complete assembly instructions
- The sampling rate is a bit low, at 1 Msps
4. SainSmart Mini DSO203 Handheld Pocket-Sized Digital Storage Oscilloscope – The Best Oscilloscope for Lightweight & Compact Design
Alongside that, it can record lengths of up to 8K. The DSOS204 boasts of a 1 MHz bandwidth. Thus, with such capabilities, this unit is best suited for educational and minimal engineering applications. One could say this is the best oscilloscope for hobbyists as well.
- Compact, pocket-sized design
- 3-inch full color TFT display
- Comes with a rechargeable battery
- Fitted with a USB port
- Has a 8M in-built USB disk
- Equipped with an integrated Sine/ Sawtooth/Square signal generator
- Supports USBflash disk and SD card storage
- Relatively lightweight
- It has just one probe
5. LIUMY Professional Handheld LED Scopemeter Oscilloscope – The Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscope Below $100
No products found.If you are looking for a good value for money, then your preferred portable oscilloscope should be as versatile as the LIUMY Professional Oscilloscope. Though affordable, this unit serves as an oscilloscope as well as a multimeter. Likewise, it comes with rechargeable batteries which makes it one of the best portable oscilloscopes today.
While the product is meant for modest applications, its features make it worth every penny. Its most notable feature is its automatic waveform capture capability. Meanwhile, the 200 Ksps real-time sampling rate, pocket-sized design and LED backlight screen are other features that make this pocket-sized oscilloscope appealing.
- Appealing, compact design
- Relatively lightweight
- Equipped with rechargeable batteries
- Offers a 200 Ksps real-time sampling rate
- Ideal for night and travel use
- Easy to use
- Does not offer color modification of traces
6. Owon HDS1021M Digital Handheld Oscilloscope – Most Efficient
You will find it suitable for both AC and DC operations raging up to 400 volts at 20amp current max. It also features a bright TFT-LCD display of 3.5 inches that gives you a clear view of the measurements and waveforms on it. Created using safe EN 6010-1:2001 standards, you can expect it to function at 40 MΩ resistance and 100 μF capacitance securely.
- Decent battery life
- Protective cover for the case
- Accessories included
- Lacks customer support service
7. Quimet DSO138 Pocket Oscilloscope – Great For Beginners
On top of that, the record length in this device is of 1024 points. The TFT-LCD display is adequately sized at 2.4 inches. It comes with instructions that are easy to understand. Furthermore, you get a source code with it that lets you customize it as per your own convenience.
- Simple to use
- Incorporates a USB port for installing firmware updates
- Precise functioning
- Does not include a testing pin
- Not suitable for advanced operations
8. Allosun Portable Oscilloscope And Multimeter – Most Stylish
The Allosun oscilloscope is an accurate device that offers a record length of up to 6000 points. Furthermore, the device includes an active and fast comparator to keep the display stable.
- Impressive battery life
- Usability is not that simple
- Does not keep a record of tested waveforms
9. Signstek Arm Nano DS202 Mini Oscilloscope – Versatile Design
Furthermore, you can store recorded waveforms in its 8M memory chip for keeping track of your data. The DS202 gives you a decent sample rate of 10MHz with 1MHz analog bandwidth.
- Stylish design
- Multipurpose utility tool
- Does not come with a manual
10. Signstek UT81B UNI-T LCD Oscillometer And Multimeter – High Performance
- Simple to use
- Updates on this device are slow.
Do I Really Need An Oscilloscope?
Oscilloscopes are essential tools for engineers or technicians in the fields of automotive, telecommunications, medicine, and the sciences. They can help you quickly assess electrical signals, specifically distortion, amplitude, frequency, and rise time. Oscilloscopes can be general-purpose but can also be designed for specific functions.
Most Common Issues People Have with Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes
- Poor Battery Life: One of the common mistakes people make with getting a portable oscilloscope is to not consider battery life. You should expect the oscilloscope you purchase to last as long as you need it to. To avoid running into power issues, make sure to find a model with a long battery life that lasts longer than you estimate needing.
- Slow Processing: The speed and type of processing is a feature which many people don’t consider. Also known as sampling rates and modes, certain models are better at processing and projecting your data than others.
- Hard to Read: Getting portable devices of any sort isn’t necessarily the ideal solution. Especially if the device’s portability makes it more difficult to use. If you are too concerned with the portability of an oscilloscope, it is easier to end up with a model that is difficult to read.
Features of the Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes
In order to find an oscilloscope which works well with your needs, there are many different variables to consider. The last thing you want to do is purchase the wrong model. In order to help you shorten your research and find the best portable handheld oscilloscope for your needs, here are the features which you should look for:
Efficient Data Collection & Projection
The bandwidth, sampling rates, and modes are important features to consider before you purchase any oscillator. These are what tell you how quickly and accurately your data sets will be recorded and projected. The sampling rate for the device you purchase should be about three times its bandwidth. A nice model’s bandwidth range will typically be around 50 MHz to 200 MHz and come with a sampling rate of around 500 MSa/s.
Plenty of Channels
If you need your oscilloscope to measure multiple signals at the same time, find a model, which has enough space for you to work with. There are many different portable handheld oscilloscopes which come with more than one channel. Although models with more than one channel are usually a little more expensive, you might need one.
Designed for your Particular Task(s)
Oscilloscopes come in many different styles which are best used for particular tasks. Dual-beam oscilloscopes, as an example, can simultaneously project two different signals on two different screens. Finding the best portable handheld oscilloscope for your needs requires you to consider how and why the device will be used. This will help you find a model that is best suited and designed for your particular jobs.
Portable, Lightweight & a Long Battery Life
Finding an oscilloscope that is portable and lightweight is one of the most important specifications for many people. The best way to handle this is to consider the space have ready and find a model, which won’t turn into a burden. A portable oscilloscope also should weigh less than 10 pounds and have no dimensions which stretch much longer than a 12-inch ruler. Think about how long you will need to use the device, and make sure that battery life will be enough.
Factors to Consider Before Buying
Although portable handheld oscilloscopes are useful devices, choosing the right one is not easy. If you are looking forward to buying the best handheld oscilloscope, here are some of the considerations you should make.
1. Types of Oscilloscopes
The right type of portable oscilloscope will mainly depend on the intended application. Additionally, you should also consider the number of signals you would like to track simultaneously using the gadget. While trying to figure out the best oscilloscope type to buy, it will also help to estimate the amplitude range of the signals you will be measuring. Alongside that, you should try to figure out the ideal oscilloscope display as well.
- Dual Beam Oscilloscopes
Would you like to have a device that can display the waveforms of two different signals at the same time? Most of the gadgets within this category feature a pair of screens where two electric signals can be displayed simultaneously. There are some real-time digital oscilloscopes that are designed to offer you the same functionality.
- Digital vs. Analog Oscilloscopes
Conventional analog oscilloscopes are relatively affordable, but modern digital handheld portable oscilloscopes have more features to offer. For instance, the best digital gadgets are equipped with color screens and feature improved capabilities, simplified controls, larger storage capacities, and faster processing capabilities. However, if you are looking for affordability, analog oscilloscopes will do.
2. Sampling Rate and Modes
Sampling rate and sampling modes are other important considerations you need to make while shopping for these gadgets. For sampling modes, you will have to choose between real-time sampling and equivalent-time sampling (ETS) options. The ETS oscilloscopes reconstruct signals from the single shots it has collected.
Thus, this type of oscilloscope is best suited for recurring signals. Meanwhile, the real-time sampling oscilloscope models are suited for most industrial applications. The sampling rate refers to how fast an oscilloscope can process an electric signal into digital data that you can read from its display. As a guide, the right sampling rate for your preferred unit should be 3 to 5 times its bandwidth.
While choosing the best bandwidth, you should aim at minimizing the loss of amplitude for incoming signals. For best results, it is advisable to go for a bandwidth that is at least twice the frequency of the unit. If you will be primarily using the gadget to measure high-frequency signals or pulses, it is advisable to go for the devices with high bandwidth.
Alternatively, such professionals should buy a digitizer. Should you opt for a device that has a lower bandwidth than needed; the results will be warped, hence useless.
This is the precipitating event that commences the sequence of measuring an incoming signal. With a good portable handheld oscilloscope, you should be able to distinguish signal events that preceded and followed the main event. Not only does triggering prevent the onboard memory from getting clogged with useless data; but it also allows the device to capture more accurate, useful, and strategic data. For more complex applications, your preferred model should have more than the common trigger options.
The display is another thing you have to be very careful with. This being the case, the resolution offered by your preferred gadget should allow you to view the displayed waveforms. For small signals, you will need an oscilloscope that has a relatively high resolution. The various high-resolution oscilloscope models are considered to be good at displaying dynamic signals.
Consider the number of signals you want to be displayed when choosing an oscilloscope. One channel is enough to recognize the presence of a signal within the normal range, while two channels are efficient for signal and correlation reading. On the other hand, four channels are perfect for a simultaneous view.
Ready To Buy The Best Portable Handheld Oscilloscope?
The choice of the right portable handheld oscilloscope can be a tricky one. Not only are there many models to choose from, but you also need to get a unit that has the features you need.
Based on the intended application, your preferred models should have the right resolution, triggering features, bandwidth, and sampling rate. Some professionals are looking for a compact oscilloscope that is packed with all the essential features.
In such a case, the Siglent Technologies SDS1052DL would offer a good value for your money. However, if you are a student, you must be looking for a trendy yet compact and pocket-friendly design.
Therefore, the SainSmart Mini DSO203 will be a great choice. This model feels and looks like a conventional tablet device. Regardless of your preferences, the various considerations discussed in this guide will help you choose the right portable handheld oscilloscope.
From monitoring electrical signals, let’s move over to monitoring of angular speed of a chainsaw, with our Reviews of Top Chainsaw Tachometers.
ASH Green says
Thank you so much for such an informative piece of information 🙂