Thanks to element14 and Rohde & Schwarz, I’ll be one of the three lucky people from the community to receive a fully-specced-out RTM3004. It was just as exciting as you can imagine, as it’s not every day you get a package like this. As a result, I even made preparations to welcome the package to my room.
So, for those who missed out and those that are genuinely curious as to what is included in the box, I’ll cover the unboxing in detail. I hope you all enjoy the photos and commentary.
Rather interestingly, my unit arrived a day early by UPS having travelled half-way around the world from Newark element14 (USA) and enduring prior shipment from Rohde & Schwarz to Newark. It definitely looked a little tired from the journey, with all corners rounded and a few minor dents into the box. The box is sealed well using reinforced tape, so it doesn’t seem to have been tampered with, even if some tears are beginning to appear. Surprisingly, the box doesn’t seem as big or quite as heavy as I would have expected.
Looking at the underside, it looks like there is some more damage to the carton. I suppose that’s to be expected given the amount of handling involved in getting this particular unit to me – but I’m hoping it survived unscathed.
Orienting the outer box the right way up, cutting the tape and flipping open the top reveals a few brochures and a box.
The brochures advertise the range of products and services offered by Rohde & Schwarz as well as some recycling data.
Moving the cardboard box to the side first, underneath is a copious amount of egg-crate foam. I have a good feeling about this.
Removing the top piece of egg crate foam gives us a clear idea of just how the RTM3004 is packed – very well in an anti-static bag with a good amount of foam-cushioned clearance from all sides. As a result, it should probably survive even the clumsiest of couriers.
Going back to the cardboard box on the top, opening it up reveals all of the goodies – including the license keys (for reference) for all the options which are already pre-entered permanently into the unit’s memory (when ordered from the factory).
Once laid out, we can see there’s a few documentation items, four 500Mhz 10:1 passive probes, two RT-ZL04 400Mhz 8-channel logic probes, an accessory case and two IEC power leads – one for EU countries and the other for US. This might be localised depending on which country you order it from – in my case in Australia, I had to use my own IEC lead. Packing lists are included so you can check for completeness. You might have noticed a lack of certificate of calibration – this is because Rohde and Schwarz offers them by online download using the device ID of the instrument.
I thought the accessory case was a nice inclusion to have, especially since digital logic probes are known for having many small wires and clips which can easily get lost otherwise. They even went as far as to include desiccant packets just to make sure it’s “fresh”. Good work Rohde & Schwarz!
Let’s take a look at the probes – each of the four RT-ZP10 probes comes as a complete kit in its own resealable plastic pouch with a zipper-closure for convenience.
The contents include a manual, the probe, a set of channel-identifying plastic collars, a pincer clip, a ground clip, an adjustment tool, an alternative tip and grounding spring.
A look at the BNC end of the probe shows that it has an additional contact, probably for better grounding (which is of critical importance for higher frequency signals).
The probe itself feels solidly built with a thin and comfortable-to-use shaft. The tip itself has a wonderfully sharp tip, making it a joy to use for closely spaced connections and has a springy feel which makes it easier to keep the probe precisely positioned when holding it by hand. The shaft also has a marking to inform the user as to how far they need to push the pincer tip to get it to click into place.
The coax is also relatively flexible and easy to route. I can definitely feel the Made in Germany quality exuding from the whole probe assembly.
Unpacking just one of the two logic probe kits provides a lot of parts. This includes the parts list, identification card, connection diagram, set of logic line labels, interface cable, the probe unit, eight “channel” cables”, eight test clips, eight short ground leads and two long ground leads.
To my excitement, each of the provided logic clips were even finer than those of the pincer tip on the regular probes, which should make reliable clipping to certain wider-spaced chip leads a possibility.
The interface cable uses connectors which are similar in appearance to HDMI, but with more connections. The connectors seem to be made by Samtec, with the cable made of what appears to be 11 coax channels.
The logic probe interfaces to the signals via the 16-pin interface – a signal and ground line for each of the eight channels provided by the pod. There are two additional connections for ground, if not using a per-channel ground connection.
The channel break-out cable can be connected to a position (it’s keyed so it can only go in one direction) and provides a “socket” which can accommodate a standard header pin for the signal. The ground is provided via a standard header pin at the “bulge”, to which a “short” lead can be attached to the pin, leading to another socket for ground connection.
That’s what it looks like once plugged into the pod. The channel break-out cables did feel rather thin, so I think it’s best to take care when hooking them up or disconnecting them.
The pod is Made in Czech Republic. It feels fairly solid as well and doesn’t budge when squeezed. As it didn’t come apart even after a little gentle prying, there’s not going to be a teardown unfortunately.
Onto the main attraction – the RTM3004 main unit itself. The most striking feature is the large 10.1” capacitive touch-screen which takes up most of the area of the front panel. The glossy screen is beautiful, but it is quite reflective too and would probably attract some fingerprints in ordinary usage. The more traditional buttons-and-knobs interface is retained for many of the most important features, grouped by their functions. Along the bottom, there is the soft power button, a USB host port, probe compensation output, pattern generator output, arbitrary waveform/function generator output, demo signal output, external trigger input and the four analog channel inputs. These channels contain additional contacts underneath to support active probes with the Rohde & Schwarz probe interface.
The rear of the unit has the auxiliary output, a USB device port, a LAN port and a fused IEC power socket with hardware power switch. There is also a Kensington lock slot and an eyelet above it. A handle is integrated into the moulding. The design of the casing features relatively large honeycomb patterned grilles to ensure good ventilation, coupled with a large fan which should reduce noise. You might wonder what the panel just below-center of the image is – apparently it’s unused and cannot be opened.
To the left, it’s just vents, whereas the right side has vents as well as the two logic probe pod connections. Of the whole unit, this is probably the only slightly weak part, as pressing on the plastic near these connections results in an audible creak, whereas the rest of the case is practically solid.
From the top, there’s not much to see – the handle is moulded into the case and doesn’t “swing out” as with some other units.
From the underside, we can see the rubber feet, two flip-out plastic feet and a calibration seal.
It’s almost an unworthy comparison to place a Rohde & Schwarz product next to a Rigol, but seeing as the DS1102E is the only “standalone” bench-top oscilloscope I have on hand to compare with, it will have to do.
What’s most striking about the comparison is just how the 10.1” screen dwarfs the 5.7” screen on the Rigol. The RTM3004 is both taller and wider and its colour is a more appealing white-grey, making the beige Rigol look dated by comparison. The solid colour areas with label text behind the buttons make the grouping of the buttons/knobs more apparent at a glance compared to the borders used on the Rigol.
From the side, we can see that the much-more-capable RTM3004 is pretty “fit” too, being equally slim if not slightly slimmer than the Rigol. Even with so much more capabilities packed in the case, the RTM3004 won’t really eat up any more depth on your bench.
It was at this point that I realised that the RTM3004 was probably feeling a little offended being compared with the DS1102E … so I packed the Rigol away … but not before taking one screenshot.
Looking at the 320x240 resolution of the Rigol overlaid on a 1280x800 resolution of the RTM3004 really shows how little you’re seeing on an entry level oscilloscope. I know it’s an unfair comparison comparing an entry-level oscilloscope that’s 1/36th the price to the RTM3004 (and vice-versa), but seeing as most of the community members would have had some experience with entry-level units, this would help put things into perspective in a way that everyone might understand.
I was getting a little ahead of myself, as that composited screenshot came from a later point during review testing. The first thing to do after getting it out of the box is to set it up. This wasn’t difficult at all, because as soon as you plug it in and flip the switch on the rear, it’s a matter of hitting the soft power button on the front. Literally no more than ten seconds later, the oscilloscope is showing its first trace.
The next thing to check was the firmware – my unit shipped with 01.200, but a new version became available within the review period, thus I upgraded to 01.300 (along with the front controller to 01.011). This was as easy as downloading the firmware file from Rohde & Schwarz’s site, loading it onto a FAT/FAT32 formatted USB key, inserting it into the front panel USB port and going through the menu to the Firmware Update option. From there, it was a matter of following the instructions, waiting for the unit to reboot, agreeing to update the front controller firmware and waiting for it to reboot once more.
Another necessary task is usually to assign each probe to a channel, put on the coloured collars for identification and align them using the probe compensation output on the oscilloscope to ensure a proper response. For this purpose, I was quite impressed that the RTM3004 has an “app” to do this that guides you through the process.
The alignment process was straightforward with a colour-coded bar in the centre and an indicator showing whether your probe is under or over-compensated. As long as the marker is within the middle two ticks, the probe is properly configured.
Finally, before doing any serious work, it’s always a good idea to do a self-alignment procedure to ensure all the channels have their gain, offset, skew, etc compensated as best as possible. The self-alignment “app” reminds you to remove all inputs and takes about 13 minutes to complete.
The wording on the screen is a little strange (note the use of the word perpetually), as well as the warm-up time of 20 minutes on this screen vs. 30 minutes in the datasheet, and a discrepancy between the claimed self-alignment time of up to 20 minutes vs. manual claimed time of 15 minutes and actual time of 13 minutes. I’ve suggested to Rohde & Schwarz to revise this in the future.
In all, the RTM3004 main unit came very well packaged against damage using copious amounts of egg crate foam, which was not in vain as this particular unit endured a long shipping process which entailed dents and tears in the cardboard and yet comfortably survived. The main unit made a very strong impression with its large 10.1” glossy touch-screen dominating its front panel real-estate. A complement of traditional buttons and knobs covers the most important features, separated by function. The bottom edge is flanked by an array of ports, representing the impressive abilities of the RTM3004 especially with optional features unlocked. The unit feels well built for the most part, with only a slight creak in the plastic near the digital logic ports. The large honeycomb vents and fan should mean low noise and good airflow.
The unboxing process was pleasurable, as packing lists are included to check for completeness and thoughtful inclusions such as the accessory case are bundled in. Each of the probes are separately packed in a complete kit and many of these kits contain more components than might actually be needed at any one time. The quality of the included passive 500Mhz probes was quite impressive, feeling precise, slim and comfortable to hold with quite flexible coax and a fine sprung tip. They were also well matched with the inputs, making manual compensation adjustment unnecessary. The digital logic pods were also very solidly built, with their connection ribbons being relatively thick and hefty. The break-out leads, however, were a little thin but were still very much serviceable. The included clips are, however, extremely useful for accessing the “legs” on DIP and broader-pitched SMD chips owing to their fine shape and are a very welcome inclusion.
For its capabilities, it impressed me with its relatively compact size and low weight. Compared to my entry-level Rigol DS1102E, it offers so much more without consuming more bench real-estate in real terms. Set-up was a breeze, aided by a modern touch-enabled interface, resulting in no hassles with firmware upgrades, probe compensation adjustment, taking screenshots or running a self-alignment.