Tektronix Oscilloscopes Review

High sampling rate enables it to clearly render the envelope

What is our primary use case?

I'm using it for teaching students, familiarizing them with the oscilloscope. I want them to spend some time looking at waveforms.

The main signals that we measure are pretty simple sine waves. The interesting waveforms are the succession of waveforms in a simple power supply, where you have the rectified AC and then the filtered AC, so you have to measure the DC and then you have to know how to use AC coupling to show the ripple clearly.

We don't utilize the full bandwidth. We get up to a couple of megahertz.

How has it helped my organization?

The waveform that was particularity badly rendered by some early digital oscilloscopes which we had in the laboratory was a one megahertz carrier, modulated at 500 hertz. To show the envelope requires a fairly substantial sampling rate and this scope has a nice, high sampling rate.

For this introductory electrical engineering lab, it's pretty well-suited to my needs. A lot of students will copy the waveforms onto a memory stick and put them into their reports. That interface exists.

What is most valuable?

One of the features that I look for is five subdivisions per division, because I want students to count divisions on the scope. I don't want them to just read numbers off the screen, I want them to get a feeling for what the waveforms are doing. When I was looking for a scope for that lab, that five subdivisions per division was important. 

It's also important to me that we can turn off the automatic setting feature of the oscilloscope.

What needs improvement?

I wish we could turn off the automatic measurement feature of the oscilloscope, for teaching purposes. 

 This probably sounds weird, but I think it important that students get familiar with the waveforms and actually count divisions.  This gives a feel for how many digits are really significant, that noise can be part of signals, that it helps to increase the sensitivity to fill as much of the screen as possible  and maybe notice artifacts.  e.g. Students might be asked to measure frequency response of a circuit with a uA 741 op amp.  If the signal level chosen is too high and students don't actually watch the waveform they may not realize the numbers come from the slew-rate limit and not the frequency response.  I actually recognized the problem of the seductiveness of digital displays in another lab where students used a lock-in amplifier with both a digital display and a d'Arsonval meter.  The voltage went through large changes in value, and students were happily writing down the numbers when the instrument was on a totally inappropriate range.  So for the first electrical-engineering lab I think forcing the students to rely on measuring the waveform themselves and not relying on the scope to do it for them gets them started well.  

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

How are customer service and technical support?

We've had mostly good technical support. The first time I called Tektronix about the difficulty turning off the automatic measurements, I got a "read the manual" response. They had sent the wrong manual, so that didn't work so well. 

Another problem we had was instability that developed in the position controls - we're talking about a dozen oscilloscopes in the laboratory - and they were all developing this problem. They ended up having to replace the front panel which contains the circuitry on all of those scopes. That was a little disappointing.

On the whole, I expect Tektronix equipment to be highly reliable and, indeed, there has been virtually no other maintenance that they've required.

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

They have academic pricing which is helpful. We were very fortunate to have a head of the department who recognized the importance of having high-quality equipment in the lab.

What other advice do I have?

I have been using Tektronix scopes since about 1962. I would recommend the product to a colleague.

The user interface is fine. It has knobs. There was a phase where the oscilloscope designers - and this may have been Hewlett Packard, Agilent, Keysight - tended to have one big knob and then you had to push various buttons and you had to have the buttons pushed the right way for the knob to do whatever you wanted it to do. These scopes are a reversion to the old scopes where you have an individual knob or button for each function, and that has helped.

In terms of being upgradable, there are modules one can get. We do have a power module for some people who sometimes share the oscilloscopes.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
1 Comment
Curtis JonesReal UserTOP 10LEADERBOARD

The scope in this note is the Tektronix DPO3012. (I couldn't remember the model number at the interview in the lobby outside the exhibit hall at Designcon 2019. Thought my comments were transcribed pretty well here!)

24 February 19

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