Keysight Oscilloscopes Review

Enables our high-speed compliance measurements for USB and display port HDMI, but GUI needs improvement


What is our primary use case?

Our lab has a 16-gigahertz scope and the 64-gigahertz scope. We have some other test equipment in our labs. We have an area of equipment in the lab that we use for high-speed measurements.

We use them for high-speed compliance measurements: electrical measurements of all the external interfaces, such as USB, display port HDMI, etc., which enable you to use your pen drives or connect your display. 

I personally run less of the measurement side now, I do more simulations, but we always correlate simulations with measurements and we need to get an accurate measurement and an accurate simulation to verify if our design works. Otherwise, all of these devices we build won't actually work in the customer's hand. Keysight is the main test equipment vendor, in our lab. We do have some other vendors but we almost exclusively run on Keysight these days.

Regarding the bandwidth, some of the scopes, like the 64, have a higher bandwidth than what we need with our current data rates, but otherwise, we typically use most of the bandwidth.

How has it helped my organization?

Every product that we sell goes through a regular set of testing. Keysight is our main test vendor so we're using all of their equipment for all high-speed measurements. We rely on the data and we make our design calls, risk-assessment, all based on the measurements that we take with the Keysight equipment. Those need to be accurate, otherwise our design decisions would vary from what the end customer would see in reality.

What is most valuable?

Obviously, it needs to be able to handle accuracy of measurements.

Good customer support is very important, especially when there are new versions of the applications that run on these scopes and we have questions. The specifications of all these interfaces keep changing on a monthly or a yearly basis and we have to also keep up when we're designing our devices, so we'll have a lot of questions: Why is your scope testing it in a certain way? Why am I not seeing what I expect? Why is it looking the way it's looking? We need to be able to get an answer from Keysight: How did you design your application and how can we match with what I am simulating or what I am expecting, if there are any discrepancies. Customer support is very important. Otherwise, I believe all these scopes do standard measurements across the board pretty accurately.

What needs improvement?

They have some software applications but their GUI is not the best. They need to improve on that. I think their software team needs to put in a little bit more work on how they are presenting the application on the scope. They can do all the measurements but if it's cumbersome to navigate through the system, then it makes life a little bit harder. They have to keep fiddling around with their app to get it to meet some visual acuity. Otherwise, it's fine. Once you can work through the app, it actually tests properly. We're not seeing many issues.

The user interface is clunky at times. You might see the box move to one side and you can't minimize it, you can't move it out of screen, and you have to minimize the whole screen and open up the scope screen. It doesn't flow. We do work through that. They need to do a little bit better job in making the UI more user-friendly. They have the stuff built-in, it's just the way it pops up on the screen might not necessarily look nice or it might just move to one corner and you're not able to close it, which is a waste of time.

I would also like to see a more detailed change-notice from version to version, what changed. If they had a more detailed description of what is changing and the reason for it, rather than just releasing, that would be good for us so we know whether or not to upgrade. They release software and we find out something might not match what we were expecting, and then we have to go back to them and they say, "Okay, we'll fix this." If they make any design changes, especially in the app or the way it's tested, they need to inform us as customers of what's changing through some engineering change-notice.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

How are customer service and technical support?

I evaluate technical support on the promptness in which they reply back, the detail. I would expect the application engineer to know what he's talking about have a background on what he's trying to explain to us and also support that with actual facts or specifications. If he is making a claim or statement, I'd like that to be supported with the actual specification and for him to say, "Because it's written this way, this is what we have exactly implemented and this is why you are seeing xyz." 

The speed in which they respond back is very important, especially when all the projects are time critical and we need to have quick turnarounds. I judge them based on how fast and how correct they are and if they can answer all my questions. I like them to try to help me out, work through my problem to an end solution.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

We typically get demos. Keysight personnel will come down and show us some new stuff they might be working on or what we might be interested in. They sometimes loan us some of the equipment so that we can try it out before we buy it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don't see the price lists, but our company does get some discounts. I don't think we buy it for the full price. Depending on your relationship with the company, I think Keysight does have different pricing models. I don't know how it is with respect to any other company or any other team, but they're not cheap. They need to be that effective for our use case.

What other advice do I have?

Make sure you know what speeds you are trying to test. Ask them for a demo. Ask them for some correlation data, some other products that they have measured. Ask for good pricing. Don't go for the highest-bandwidth scope if you don't need it because it's going to cost you more and it really doesn't make any difference in your measurements. You need to see what you are trying to test and buy accordingly.

In terms of a learning curve, I've been using smaller scopes for ten to 15 years so it is not an issue for me. As long as you have a basic understanding of what you are trying to see, what you expect when you try to make measurements, then you can learn the knobs pretty fast. 

You can go really advanced, but you have to understand what you are trying to do, what changes you are trying to make on the scope. Otherwise, you'll get garbage; garbage in garbage out. If you don't have the right inputs you will see something and you will think it's wrong. It's equal parts them doing the right stuff, but also us trying to use the equipment correctly. 

If you know how to design, or what you expect to see on the scope, then mostly if your design works properly on your product, you should be seeing the right things. Then, the ramp-up time is not too long.

As for the solution being field-upgradable, there are some things that we can switch out.

I'd give the product a seven out of ten. They can make it a little bit more user-friendly through the GUI. Otherwise, it's fine.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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