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Dave Young of Young Circuit Designs is publishing a series of articles and videos on element14 every other week to describe his experience in upgrading from his trusty Tektronix TDS2024B to a new Tektronix MDO3104. See his other articles in the series:

(a) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #1: The 70% Test with a Tek MDO3000

(b) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #2: Digital Decoding and Triggering for Analog Analysis

(c) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #3: Trace Persist and Analog Triggering

(d) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #4: Computer Connectivity and Remote Control

 

Mixed Domain Oscilloscopes, (MDOs, aka Mixed Signal Oscilloscopes or MSOs) make the present a very tempting time to look at upgrading a scope. Manufacturers like Tektronix, Agilent, and LeCroy have all released units that utilize technology advancements in miniaturization, memory, communication, and computational power that industries like cell phones have enjoyed for years.


This article series will focus on reviewing the Tek MDO3104Tek MDO3104 next to my trusty Tek TDS2024B. The 2024 is a solid unit; 4 channels, 200MHz, with a color screen that I got used in 2010. It has been my go to scope since then, and we've built some excellent circuits together (and a few little weekend-crappers). Thanks to Tek's quality, I'm sure I could run with my 2024 for at least 10 more years. Some may fairly point out that the 3104 is in a different class from the 2024 and not suitable for comparison. But scopes are a lot like boats: a new boat always means a BIGGER boat. Comparing my current scope with the capabilities of a nicer product line is representative of what engineers everywhere are considering: 'Is now the time to upgrade?'

 

The first performance characteristic to consider is the 70% test: look at how the unit performs when testing it on situations that cover 70% of my scope usage. Can I face going back to a smaller screen after tasting the large screen? Are the new fancy features not useful in normal conditions? Will switching to the new unit piss me off? It doesn't matter how sweet a new tool is, if I can't use it as effectively as my old equipment both will end up living on my bench consuming space.

 

In this video, I'll have the two scopes next to each other and look at the following situations:

  1. Power both units on, compare the screens and appearance.
  2. Compensate the probes.
  3. Connect it to some power supply signal to look at the switching noise.
  4. Connect it to an audio circuit kit that BlueStamp Engineering students enjoy. Show the input and the output.
  5. Capture the signal on a thumb drive as an image and a *.CSV data file and examine it on a computer.

 


The good news is that Tektronix didn't screw anything up in making their new scope like hide the trigger controls behind a menu tree. Without reading a manual I was able to do everything I needed to do for this initial test. Clearly the 3104 belongs in a different class than the 2024, and yet both units were able to complete all of my simple tasks. It would be easy to justify stepping up to the nicer unit in improved productivity and usability. However without having a project that requires the increased bandwidth or additional features, putting off the purchase for a year wouldn't result in an engineering mutiny either.


As any engineer knows, only covering 70% of the use cases makes for a tool that can't get the job done. Future articles will show more complex situations and show the two units cruising at a more rigorous clip. Stay tuned!

Dave Young of Young Circuit Designs is publishing a series of articles and videos on element14 every other week to describe his experience in upgrading from his trusty Tektronix TDS2024B to a new Tektronix MDO3104. See his other articles in the series:

(a) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #1: The 70% Test with a Tek MDO3000

(b) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #2: Digital Decoding and Triggering for Analog Analysis

(c) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #3: Trace Persist and Analog Triggering

(d) Tek MDO3104 Scope Upgrade Series #4: Computer Connectivity and Remote Control