Best Oscilloscopes Under $500

Best Oscilloscopes Under $500 [2024 Buying Guide]

Oscilloscopes are a fundamental instrument in electronics, designed to visualize electrical signals with precision. They captures voltage waveforms over time, allowing users to analyze signal characteristics such as frequency, amplitude, and waveform shape.

Whether troubleshooting circuits, testing electronic components, or exploring complex waveforms, an oscilloscope serves as a critical tool for engineers and hobbyists, providing invaluable insights into the behavior of electrical signals for a myriad of applications.

Before we begin our review, let’s discuss some key factors to consider when choosing an oscilloscope.

Best Oscilloscopes Under $500

In this section I’ve gone ahead and reviewed what I think are the top performing oscilloscopes for both functionality, features and price. I should mention that all the scopes I’m about to list are readily available on Amazon.com at a great price-point.

#1. Siglent Technologies SDS1104X-E Digital Oscilloscope

Siglent Technologies SDS1104X-E 100Mhz Digital Oscilloscope 4 channels Standard Decoder, Grey

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The Siglent SDS1104X-E has an impressive set of features and innovative technologies, and all components featured in have been ensured to meet the latest leading specifications for most users beginners and veterans alike. This is why the Siglent is often considered one of the best oscilloscopes under $500.

One of the key highlights of the Siglent SDS1104X-E is the ability to perform broader analysis, combined with very versatile and powerful functionalities. You get four different channels that utilize the 100-200 MHz frequency zone, and each channel is color-coded to prevent you from mistakenly using the wrong channel.

Key Specs:

  • This product has 4 channels and suitable for car analysis
  • Waveform capture rate is 100,000 wfm/sec
  • It has 100-200MHz bandwidth
  • It has an FFT (Fast-Fourier transform) math function
  • Sample rate in real-time is1 GSa/sec
  • Memory depth is 14 Mpts memory
  • Large 7-inch TFT displays

Pros

  • Rich set of features, versatile functionalities
  • Relatively affordable price
  • Highly portable and compact
  • Very reliable

Cons

  • The most expensive option on the list
  • Steep initial learning curve

Our Verdict

The Siglent SDS1104X-E is simply one of the best oscilloscopes under $500 for so many of the reasons listed above, it is simply the best in its class. This is a top-tier oscilloscope suitable for users with demanding requirements and a need for advanced functionality. Its strengths lie in its high performance, versatile features, and the ability to handle complex signal analysis tasks with precision.

#2. Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E Digital Oscilloscope

Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E 200 mhz Digital Oscilloscope 2 Channels, Grey

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The Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E is a powerhouse in electronic measurement, boasting a 200MHz bandwidth for high-performance signal analysis. Designed for accuracy and versatility, it features a large 7-inch display, advanced triggering capabilities, and a fast sampling rate.

With two channels and a range of measurement functions, the SDS1202X-E is ideal for engineers and hobbyists seeking detailed insights into electronic waveforms. Explore the cutting-edge features of this oscilloscope, delivering unparalleled precision in waveform analysis and diagnostics.

Key Specs:

  • This product has 2 channels
  • Waveform capture rate is 100,000 wfm/sec
  • It has 200MHz bandwidth
  • It has an FFT (Fast-Fourier transform) math function
  • Sample rate in real-time is1 GSa/sec
  • Memory depth is 14 Mpts memory
  • Large 7-inch TFT displays

Pros

  • High bandwidth for accurate and detailed signal analysis
  • Fast sampling rate
  • Large display for clear spacious viewing of waveforms
  • Very reliable

Cons

  • More expensive than entry level oscilloscopes
  • Larger and heavier than the scope reviewed above
  • Not touchscreen

Our Verdict

The Siglent Technologies SDS1202X-E 200MHz Digital Oscilloscope stands out as a powerful tool for electronics enthusiasts and professionals alike. The extensive features, including versatile triggering options, advanced math functions, and multiple interfaces, make it a comprehensive solution for diverse applications.

#3. Hantek DS05102P Digital Storage Oscilloscope

Hantek DSO5102P Digital Storage Oscilloscope USB 100MHz 1GSa/s 40K,2 Channel,2CH

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If you are looking for a fairly competent oscilloscope in its class that is also quite affordable, the Hantek DS05102P is one of our recommendations for the best oscilloscopes under $500.

With that being said, the Hantek oscilloscope offers a fairly large 7-inch display, providing a convenient way for its users to view and analyze the display. It works in the 100 MHz range, and although it only features 2 different channels, it’s still quite versatile with a USB port that provides more options.

Key Specs:

  • 2 channels
  • 100MHz bandwidth range
  • Features 4 different math functions
  • 800 x 480 pixels display resolutions
  • It has various automatic measurements
  • Sample rate in real-time up to 1GSa/s
  • Multiple trigger modes
  • Great display, Record range up to 40K

Pros:

  • Relatively affordable price, one of the best oscilloscopes under $500
  • Well-built, relatively compact and durable
  • A decent set of features, very versatile
  • Large 7 inch color display
  • Up to 40K record range

Cons:

  • Ships with 220V cord
  • Firmware a bit confusing

Our Verdict

The key highlight of the Hantek DS05102P is the very big and clear display that offers up to 40K record length, and although it only offers 2 different channels, it still provides fairly decent and versatile performances. Intuitive vertical and horizontal controls so users can easily use them to control and transfer the waveforms and analyze the produced data.

Understanding Oscilloscopes

Let’s refresh our understanding of what makes an oscilloscope tick. Think of an oscilloscope as a window into the invisible world of electrical signals. It captures voltage changes over time and displays them graphically on a screen. But not all oscilloscopes are created equal. Here are some key specifications you should be familiar with:

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Oscilloscope

Best oscilloscope considerations.

Analog vs Digital

Most of the best oscilloscopes under $500 are digital. They are extremely accurate at emulating the accuracy of analog scopes and can offer additional features like portability (analog scopes are generally bigger and heavier), colored digital display, single-shot ability, higher average bandwidth, and so on.

Bandwidth

The bandwidth of an oscilloscope system dictates the maximum frequency that the instrument can accurately measure. The higher the bandwidth, the more expensive the oscilloscopes will be.

In general:

  • If it’s an analog oscilloscope, get bandwidth at least 3 times higher than the highest frequency (sine wave) you want to measure
  • If it’s a digital oscilloscope, choose a bandwidth at least 5 times the highest clock rate in the system

Sample Rate

The sample rate of the oscilloscope determines how detailed the waveform can be displayed in a digital oscilloscope. Commonly measured in MS/sec or GS/sec, MS stands for mega (1 thousand) sample and GS stands for giga (1 million) sample. In general, you should aim for a sampling rate that is 2 times bigger than the max frequency we are willing to measure.

Memory Depth

Memory depth is essentially calculated by multiplying the sample rate with time across the display. An oscilloscope capture sample points in its memory and the amount of memory will determine how long the oscilloscope can store the signal before it must dump or delete it.

Type of Probes

The oscilloscope can be divided into two parts: the scope and the probe. In most cases, we usually pay more attention to the scope but don’t really consider the probe. Different scopes might only be compatible with certain types of scopes, and here are some common types you can consider:

  • Passive probes: included with most oscilloscopes, suitable for most ground-referenced measurements
  • High-voltage differential probes: useful to take safe, accurate differential and floating measurements
  • Logic probes: used to deliver digital signals to mixed-signal oscilloscopes.
  • Current probes: used to measure current—as the name suggests—- and can also enable the oscilloscope to measure changes in power

Ease of Use

Here are some factors that might determine how intuitive and easy to use an oscilloscope is:

  • The built-in help menu, so we don’t need to read a separate manual
  • Larger display and the ability to zoom/amplify the waveform, so we can view waveforms and measurement data at the same time
  • How easy it is to control the oscilloscope including features like larger knobs and voice control

Criteria for Selection

Now that we understand the specifications, how do we choose the right oscilloscope for our needs? Here are some factors to consider:

Performance Requirements

Assess your typical use cases and determine the necessary bandwidth, sampling rate, and channel count. Don’t overbuy features you won’t use, but ensure your scope can handle your future projects.

Budget Limitations

We’re focusing on oscilloscopes under $500, so we need to strike a balance between affordability and functionality. Fortunately, there are excellent options available in this price range.

Intended Use Cases

Consider the types of circuits and signals you’ll be working with. If you’re primarily dealing with digital signals, you may prioritize a higher sampling rate. For analog circuits, focus on bandwidth and sensitivity.

Future Expansion Possibilities

While you may start with basic requirements, it’s wise to choose a scope with room for growth. Look for models with upgradable firmware or expansion slots for additional functionality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are oscilloscopes used for?

Oscilloscopes are used to visualize and analyze electrical signals in various electronic systems. They display voltage changes over time, allowing engineers and technicians to measure characteristics such as amplitude, frequency, and waveform shape. They are essential tools for troubleshooting, testing, and designing electronic circuits.

What are the two main types of oscilloscopes?

The two main types of oscilloscopes are analog oscilloscopes and digital oscilloscopes. Analog oscilloscopes use cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) to display waveforms directly, while digital oscilloscopes convert electrical signals into digital data for display and analysis on a screen.

Are oscilloscopes still used?

Yes, oscilloscopes are still widely used in various industries and applications. They remain essential tools for electrical engineers, technicians, hobbyists, and researchers for tasks such as circuit debugging, signal analysis, quality assurance testing, and educational demonstrations. Despite advancements in technology, oscilloscopes continue to play a crucial role in electronic instrumentation.

Why are oscilloscopes so expensive?

Oscilloscopes can be expensive due to several factors. These include the complexity of their design and manufacturing, high-quality components required for accurate measurements, advanced features such as high bandwidth and sampling rates, and ongoing research and development costs to stay at the forefront of technology. Additionally, specialized applications may require customizations, further driving up costs.