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3 Series MDO Mixed Domain Oscilloscope - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 8
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 9
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 10
The price to performance ratio was good: 9
TotalScore: 56 / 60
  • RoadTest: 3 Series MDO Mixed Domain Oscilloscope
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Test Equipment
  • Was everything in the box required?: No - The main connection lead for the digital input leads was missing along with one of the fixed probe tips for the passive oscilloscope probes
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: A desktop review was carried out to identify other scopes of a similar functionality to the 3 Series MDO.
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: Compatibility with previous file types and across other Tektronix instruments was a little troublesome at times. The waveform generator was a little limiting in terms of memory depth and features for my specific tests.

  • Detailed Review:

    Introduction

     

    Welcome to my review of the 3 Series MDO from Tektronix. I have created some blogs regarding the use of the instrument in my specific applications, which can be viewed for more information.

     

    Blog 1: First Impressions of the 3 Series MDO

    Blog 2: Rotor Reflectometer Calibrations with the 3 Series MDO

    Blog 3: Partial Discharge Data Collections with the 3 Series MDO

    Blog 4: Flux Probe Analysis with the 3 Series MDO

    Blog 5: Cable Partial Discharge Experiments with the 3 Series MDO

    Blog 6: Serial Port Decoding with the 3 Series MDO - posted after end of review

     

    To go along with the blog, I have also published my RoadTest application. I felt I have been reasonably successful in meeting my intentions. Four out of the five tests have been completed successfully, there have been some issues along the way, but these have been resolved enough to allow a meaningful assessment of the performance of the 3 Series MDO to be carried out. The fifth test on high voltage cabling has been a huge disappointment for me, but I do not believe this is totally the fault of the oscilloscope. It is more likely be an issue with my particular computer setup and my lack of programming knowledge to find a work around.

     

    Due to circumstances, I have carried out the majority of the roadtest using a demonstration unit supplied by Tektronix Europe and as that came with one of their demonstration boards, I decided I would base a lot of this roadtest around the functionality of the oscilloscope with the demonstration board.

     

    The 3 Series MDO is a new member to Tektronix's latest family of touch screen digital scopes and joins the new 4 Series MSO alongside the existing 5 and 6 series MSO's. The screen capture from the manufacturer's website, gives a brief overview of the range.

     

    Tektronix Scope Family

     

    You can see that the 3 Series MDO comes in at the bottom end of the range but still starts at a hefty £3,130 for a basic 2 channel, 100 MHz unit. The roadtest unit sits at the top of the 3 Series MDO range coming as a 4 channel 1 GHz unit with digital inputs, spectrum analyser and arbitrary waveform generator options. Looking at the comparison, it is clear to see that the 3 Series lacks behind all of the family members in all categories, by significant factors. It is however, still an incredibly powerful package on offer from Tektronix.

     

    The Package

     

    The oscilloscope arrives as a rather large box, that soon takes up a lot of desk space. The package was a form of foam filled padding, which isn't my favourite style for electronics apparatus, but on initial review of the instrument it all looked to be in good order.

     

    Scope arrival

     

    The package arrives with four 500 MHz passive probe kits, 16 channel digital probe kit and an N-Type to BNC adapter for use with the spectrogram. The unit arrived with the 1 GHz bandwidth, 16 digital channels  3 GHz spectrogram and arbitrary waveform generator options all installed.

     

    Firmware wise, the basic firmware is fully functional, the digital voltmeter license can be obtained by registering the unit on the Tektronix website. The power analysis, audio, automotive, computer, embedded and USB triggering and analysis options all have a time-limited evaluation license enabling a full review of the instrument to be carried out.

     

    Scope kit contents

     

    A traceable calibration certificate to national standards is included within the roadtest package and the unit is sealed with calibration stickers.

     

    The oscilloscope is dominated by the size of its screen, it certainly towers above the oscilloscope that is my main work horse out on site as seen below. It is almost the same depth though, so sits on a bench top equally as well as the Rigol unit does.

     

    Comparison to a more standard scope

     

    Alternative Oscilloscopes

     

    There is a surprising amount of 1 GHz bandwidth oscilloscopes out on the market, so when picking some comparisons for the 3 Series MDO, I went for oscilloscopes carrying a similar price tag to the roadtest unit. All of these oscilloscopes come with an array of options for the package, that make pricing more subjective, the price I have provided is for a basic 1 GHz bandwidth oscilloscope without any of the options.

     

     

    {tabbedtable} Tab LabelTab Content
    General Characteristics

     

    General specifications comparison

     

    The 3 Series MDO seems to come out middle of the range of the few I have selected. It is slightly more expensive that the RTM3004, but dose offer that slightly larger screen, but that is negated by the Wavesurfer 510, that offer a larger screen than the 3 Series for even less money than the RTM3004, but it comes in at twice the weight.

    Analogue Specifications

     

    Analogue comparison

    Analogue wise the 3 Series MDO is at the smaller end in the memory depth department and in comparison its waveform update rate is quite a bit lower, except when compared to the RTM3004. It has 8 bit vertical resolution as per all the others, apart from the RTM3004, that has 10 bit. Maths and trigger functionality is fairly similar, except that the 3 Series MDO can only display 1 math channel.

     

    The time base accuracy specified seems to be quite a bit worse than the other oscilloscopes in the table.

    Digital Specifications

     

    Digital comparison

     

    Digital wise, the 3 Series MDO seems to come in the middle of the range again. It has a high sample rate, but that is offset by the lower memory. It does have a good range of decoding options although the input voltage range is a little lower in comparison to the other units.

     

    Input rate matches the Wavesurfer and is at the bottom end of the selection.

    Spectrum Analyser / Waveform Generator

     

    RF / AFG Options

    The 3 Series MDO comes into its own with the spectrum analyser. The Keysight, Rigol and Leroy units appear to utilise the main analogue channels for RF, where as the 3 Series and RTM3004 have specific inputs.

     

    It also has a higher frequency capability for the waveform generator and the longest record length and sample rate.


    These comparisons are often subjective and will come down to personal choices and a compromise between the functions available across the instruments.

     

    The screen on the 3 Series is just that little bit bigger, which may sway some. The built in spectrum analyser offers significant advantages for those requiring RF waveform analysis. The arbitrary waveform generator is probably one of the better ones built into an oscilloscope in comparison to the others looked at.

     

    Initial Issues

     

    I have covered these in detail within Blog 1. In brief, the unit supplied for the roadtest suffered from intermittent operation, but did seem to overcome the issues over a couple of days. Looking around the unit in detail, revealed some damaged screw heads and incorrectly fastened screws on the rear grill. A review of the package supplied, showed that the connecting lead between the digital inputs and the two channel leads was missing along with a probe tip for one of the passive probes.

     

    Loose case screw

     

    With these issues, Tektronix requested the unit back to them and provided one of their demonstration units for me to carry on the roadtest with. In some ways I was against this as to me, the build quality and performance is all part of the roadtest, however, the advantage was that the demonstration unit came with one of their signal demonstration boards, which is very nice for looking at the various functionality of the oscilloscope.

     

    The same quality issues were not present with the demonstration unit, it does have a few knocks and scrapes, but this is to be expected. Out of curiosity I checked over the probe contents that arrived with the demonstration unit.

     

    Demo Unit Passive Leads Demo Unit Digital Leads

    Compared to the roadtest unit, there was a mixture of extra and missing bits. Missing was the accessories with the colour identification bands, only one passive probe has its colour band, and the earth adapter lead for use with the micro-grabbers, the extra long earth lead was within one of the passive probe kits. Somehow, there seems to be an extra package of 10 micro-grabbers and hook tip with probe shroud. In reality, probably typical for a demonstration unit, although it does ask if someone has checked and replenished the kit before sending it out?

     

    The part of the digital leads missing from the roadtest unit can be seen under neath the element14 blue man in the picture above, without it, the digital leads cannot be connected to the oscilloscope.

     

    Basic Layout

     

    The most noticeable thing with the layout for me is the lack of controls for each individual channel. A lot of oscilloscopes appear to me to have very cluttered control panels, with controls for each specific channel and various functions. The 3 Series MDO has a much cleaner approach to the controls with just one set of channel controls that are selectable for each of the input and internal reference /maths channels. This may not suit all, but for me, I did not have any real negative issues utilising these controls during any of my testing.

     

    This snapshot from the 3 Series MDO data sheet provides a nice overview of the front of the oscilloscope.

     

    3 Series MDO Front

     

    The only rotary switches that have a detent to them are the two larger 'scale' switches, one for vertical and the other for horizontal scaling. All the other rotary switches have a smooth operation to them. All except the horizontal scale switch also have a push button function to centre the traces or select different options.

     

    I found the front panel to be well laid out and fairly intuitive. The majority of the functions on the switch panels can also be carried out using the touch screen and I would frequently go between using the button and then touch screen controls.

     

    The slight issues I had with the layout of the front panel was a bit of obstruction of the buttons around the USB ports when a larger USB stick is plugged in. This is easily resolved by utilising a smaller USB stick however, I tend to loose these easily so stick to larger USB sticks.

     

    Front USB port use

     

    All the main input channels are located along the bottom of the front panel. The remote connections, sync, waveform generator and mains connections are at the back of the unit. As I use the waveform generator quite a bit, the location of it becomes a nuisance. If the oscilloscope was permanently located on a bench, then a lead could be left plugged in to it.

     

    Rise and Fall Time Measurements

     

    I have a small fast pulse generator from Leo Bodnar Electronics with a nominal 40 ps rise time output. Actual measurements for my unit are 35.68 ps rise time and 31.53 seconds fall time. Should be fast enough. Looking through the specifications for the oscilloscope, I can find a calculated rise time of 400 ps with the channel set to 100 mV/Div and 50 Ohm input impedance. I therefore set up the pulse generator to give a 400 mV peak to peak output and connected up to the oscilloscope.

     

    Pulse generator set up Pulse rise time testing

     

    The pulse generators quite compact and whilst plugging it directly into the channel input of the oscilloscope is possible, it is made a little awkward due to the recessed nature of the channel inputs. I found myself handling the pulse generator board a lot more and pushing on the BNC mounting area of the PCB.

     

    Pulse generator connection

     

    The specification from the manufacturer does not give the ratio for the rise time measurement, by default it is set to 10/90 %, so I took a set of readings at this ratio and then repeated for a 20/80 % ratio. Naturally, I forgot to set the channels to 50 Ohm input impedance, so had to repeat everything anyway. To aid with measurements, the statistics can be displayed on the measurement screen, or can be moved to the measurement bar at the side to allow the full screen to be used. This suggests why the measurement bar is limited to 4 different measurements as enabling the statistics takes up more room.

     

    {gallery} Rise time setup and measurement

    Time ratio settings

    Rise time ratio settings

    Enabling statistics on measurement bar

    Enabling statistics on measurement bar

    Pulse generator output

    Pulse generator output

    Channel 2 10/90 % rise time

    Rise time measurement for channel 2 at 10/90 % ratio

    Channel 2 rise time at 20/80 %

    Rise time measurement for channel 2 at 20/80 % ratio

    Channel 3 fall time at 10/90 %

    Fall time measurement for channel 3 at 10/90 % ratio

    Channel 3 fall time at 20/80 %

    Fall measurement time for channel 3 at 20/80 %

     

    Full table of results below;

     

    Rise time measurement results

    The measurements were reasonably consistent across the channels, however neither the 10/90 or 20/80 ratio were found to be that close to the calculated specification. This may be something to do with my test methodology as it is not something that I am particularly experienced in carrying out.

     

    Tektronix Scope Demo Board

     

    The demonstration package arrives with the Tektronix MDO Demo Board 1 that generates a variety of signals for capturing on the oscilloscope. I believe that the board can be purchased, I have seen a couple on eBay for around the £300 mark. I have no idea what it costs brand new.

     

    Tektronix Demo Board

     

    A brief set of instructions is included with the board that gives a layout and instruction set for each signal that defines the location of the signal on the board, circled in the screenshot below. This makes setting up and taking measurements a bit easier.

     

    Demo board layout

    Demo board instruction example

    The board requires dual USB ports to provide power to it and can be powered directly from the oscilloscope with the lead supplied with the board. The majority of the time I powered the board from a mains to USB adapter to free up the front USB ports to save data to a USB stick.

     

    The board does appear to be made primarily for the MDO 4000 series of scopes and contains signals that the 3 Series MDO does not have built in acquisition modes for. The 3 Series MDO however, does include the demonstration functions within the utility menu of the oscilloscope, so can be set to capture some of them automatically, the others require manual setup of the oscilloscope. The screenshot from the oscilloscope below shows the signal demos available on the 3 Series MDO.

     

    Demo Board Menu on Oscilloscope

     

    For some reason, the Demo Setup Recall would not work on the demonstration unit I have been loaned as shown in the video below. This unit has firmware version 1.6.0 installed, the original RoadTest unit I was sent has version 1.4.26 and since this has not been collected yet, I pulled it back into service to show the operation of the demo board.

     

     

    Fast Pulse Demonstration

     

    In keeping with the rise time measurement carried out with the small pulse generator, the demo board also has some fast edge pulses available. The first is a clock timing signal that forms part of the automated measurements demonstration on the oscilloscope. The demonstration places three measurements onto the measurement bar as seen below.

     

    Clocking Timing Signal Measurements

     

    The time base can be adjusted to acquire a rise time measurement, but there is no value given for this.

     

    Rise time measurement of clock pulse

     

    The second signal is fast edge signal, which is described as a capacitively-coupled signal with a 1.5 ns rise and fall time. I had to use an averaging acquisition mode to remove the noise on this signal and get a steady capture.

     

    {gallery} Fast Edge Pulse Demonstration

    Fast Edge Pulse

    Fast Edge Pulse Signal Capture

    Fast Edge Pulse without Averaging

    Fast Edge Pulse without Averaging Acquisition

    Rise time measurement

    Rise time measurement with results table

    Fall time measurement

    Fall time measurement with results table

     

    The rise and fall times measured were just under 1 ns, which is quite a way out from the specified 1.5 ns from the demo board instructions.

     

    Fast Signal Acquisition Demo

     

    One signal of interest to me is the fast acquisition function demonstration. This is viewed on the Rare Anomaly signal and set by the Fast Acq demonstration.

     

    Rare Anomaly Instruction

    The setup for this turns on screen persistence and you can just about see the rare signals building up on the screen as the blue tracer behind the main set of three pulses of the overall signal.

     

     

    {gallery} Fast Acquisition Demo

    Fast Acquisition Signal Demo

    Screenshot of Fast Acquisition Signal Demo

    Fast Acquisition Demo Vertical Channel Setup

    Vertical Channel Setup for Fast Acquisition

    Horizontal channel setup

    Timebase settings for Fast Acquisition

    Fast Acquisition Trigger Setup

    Trigger Settings for Fast Acquisition

    Fas Acquisition Sample Settings

    Acquisition Settings for Fast Acquisition

    Fast Acquisition Screen Persistence

    Screen Persistence Setting for Fast Acquisition


    The FastAcq has four palettes available to help distinguish the signals. Personally I found that the Spectral Palette offered a slightly better representation of the signal. The Inverted Palette starts out okay, but can become very busy for this particular signal if left for too long.

    {gallery} Fast Acquisition Palette Options

    Fast Acquisition Palette Options

    Palette Options available fro Fast Acquisition

    Fast Acquisition Spectral Palette

    Spectral Palette Option for Fast Acquisition

    Fast Acquisition Inverted Palette

    Inverted Palette Option for Fast Acquisition

     

    Other than enabling the Fast Acquisition mode, none of the other settings of the oscilloscope are that specialised. I did find out investigating this signal, that the volts / div can actually be set to any preferred value within the overall range by entering it into the scale box. The demonstration setup sets this to 600 mV/Div, which is not one of the default range values that are selected by the rotary switch. However, double tapping on the vertical scale box, provides a keypad to enter any desired value, as shown below.

     

    Vertical channel setting using Keypad

     

    As can be seen from the screen captures above, the rare anomaly signal has a half size pulse and a narrow pulse embedded within the signal and the 3 Series MDO offers runt and pulse width triggers to help isolate these. I looked at the runt trigger first.

     

    {gallery} Runt Trigger Demonstration

    Runt Trigger Screenshot

    Signal captured with Runt Trigger

    Runt Trigger Options

    Runt Trigger Options Available

    Runt Trigger Settings

    Runt Trigger Settings Used

    Auto Pulse Measurement

    Automatic Pulse Width Measurement of Initial Pulse

    Runt Pulse measurement setup

    Setting up the width pulse measurement between cursors

    Runt Pulse width measurement

    Runt Pulse Width Measurement


    To get the runt trigger to function, fast acquisition mode and screen persistence are turned off. The runt trigger has a number of options, I found that most stable one to use on this occasion was the 'runt occurs' option, which allows lower and upper threshold values to be set. The lower threshold is set below the runt pulse amplitude and the upper above, so that the pulse crosses the lower threshold value and not the upper.

     

    The instruction sheet gives the width of the runt pulse as 100 ns, that I tried to measure with the measurement function. Initially, the measurement function is set to find the first pulse on the screen and as the runt pulse is the third with the train, its width is not measured. The initial pulse was measured as 49.93 ns, which matches the instruction sheet value of 50 ns.

     

    The only way I could get the automatic measurement of the width of the runt pulse was to set the measurement to occur between cursors. The width was then measured as 74.90 ns, which is quite a bit lower than the specified 100 ns. Of course, there is always the option to utilise the cursors to make the measurement of the pulse width.

     

    The next part of the demonstration signal is to capture the narrow pulse with the anomaly. For this, the trigger is set to a pulse width type, since the width is known, the trigger type can be set to between two values known as 'inside range' trigger.

     

    {gallery} Pulse width Trigger Demonstration

    Narrow pulse capture

    Capture of the narrow pulse

    Narrow pulse trigger setup

    Trigger setup to capture narrow pulse

    Narrow pulse screen

    Narrow pulse width measurement with cursors

    Automatic measurement set within cursors

    Automatic measurement of narrow pulse width between cursors

    Narrow pulse measurement table

    Measurement table activated


    The same technique to measure the pulse width between cursors was used for the automatic measurement of the narrow pulse as using just the cursor measurement produced a value of 45ns. The specification is 25 ns from the board and the automatic measurement came out at 25.25 ns. Using the cursors in this fashion allows the auto measurement to function, but I cannot find a way to switch off the measurements on the cursors, so for me they detract from the auto measurement on the side bar, which is the more accurate value.

     

    The measurement table can be turned on, but does take up a lot of the screen with values that are not actually measured as they belong to the bus and harmonic measurements.

     

    I did try to capture the time between the anomalies, which is specified as 838.8 ms, for both the runt and narrow width pulses, but proved a bit too challenging. Turning the time base to 100 ms/div gives enough time to potentially capture two pulses, but the signal captured lacks definition and I could not make out two signals. One signal can be captured and then the zoom function utilised to identify an anomaly to begin the investigation to provide more details as required.

     

    Runt pulse timing measurement

     

    Digital Signal Demonstration

     

    There are two main demonstrations for the digital inputs, one being monitoring of a counter and the other a mixed signal covering the inputs to a DAC and output from it.

     

    {gallery} 7 Bit Counter Monitoring Demonstration

    Digital input demonstration menu

    Digital input demonstration description

    Digital input demonstration screen

    Digital input demonstration screen

     

     

    {gallery} DAC Monitoring Demonstration

    DAC Connections

    Connections onto board for monitoring DAC

    DAC Monitoring with measurements added

    Measurements added to the DAC Demonstration

    Measurement table for DAC

    Measurement table for DAC demonstration

    DAC Signal Analogue Channel Settings

    Analogue channel vertical settings for DAC demonstration

    DAC signal digital channel settings

    Digital channel vertical settings for DAC demonstration

    DAC signal horizontal settings

    Time base settings for DAC demonstration

    DAC trigger settings

    Trigger settings for DAC demonstration

    DAC signal acquisition settings

    Data Acquisition settings for DAC demonstration

     

    This is the first time I have used a mixed signal oscilloscope and it is surprising the amount of information that it is capable of recording and the ease of displaying a number of signals that interact with one another. Set up is obviously easy using the demonstration facility, the DAC was reasonably easy to understand, the concepts behind the parallel decoding were not so obvious to me.

     

    Serial Bus Demonstrations

     

    There are numerous serial buses to look at on the demonstration board. First off we have the I2C bus, again, this is something that I am not familiar with.

     

    {gallery} I2C Bus Demonstration

    I2C Bus screen

    Screen for I2C Demonstration

    Channel 1 Vertical settings

    Channel 1 Vertical settings for I2C demonstration

    Channel 2 vertical settings for I2C

    Channel 2 Vertical settings for I2C demonstration

    Bus settings for I2C

    Bus settings for I2C demonstration

    Time base settings for I2C demonstration

    Time base settings for I2C demonstration

    Trigger settings for I2C demonstration

    Trigger settings for I2C demonstration

    Acquisition settings for I2C

    Acquisition settings for I2C demonstration

    Search settings for I2C

    Event search settings for I2C


    The demonstration sets up the event search function that allows each set of data to be found and viewed. The options within the search function seemed to be comprehensive to me, although this is not something that I have any familiarity with and do not have any other scopes to compare this to.

     

    RF Demonstration

     

    The demo board has some RF signals built into it for testing the spectrum analyser out with. The majority of these seem to centre around a 2.4 GHz signal.

     

    One program demonstrates the multiple peak find capability of the 3 Series MDO.

     

    RF Test Program Menu

     

    {gallery} Multiple Peak Setup

    Vertical Channel Setup

    RF Vertical Channel Settings

    Vertical Channel Options

    RF Vertical Channel Options

    Time base settings

    Time base settings

    The demonstration outputs 11 peaks for the analyser to find, which is the maximum number of peaks for the 3 Series.

     

    RF Multiple peak detection

     

    Out of curiosity, I wondered how close the auto set function would get to the pre-programmed setup. As seen below, it does not find as many of the peaks as the specific set up does. Both the bandwidth and span settings are about half of the pre-programmed setup. It has also set a slightly different reference level.

     

    Auto setup

     

    The number of peaks and threshold can be adjusted to suit the signal being analysed. A spectrogram is available to record signals that show more variable activity, it takes 60 to 70 seconds for the spectrogram to fill its screen, once stopped the spectrogram can then be analysed by stepping through each slice using the oscilloscope controls.

     

    {gallery} Spectrogram analysis

    Spectogram test

    Spectrogram screen

    Slice 1 measurement

    Slice 80 of the Spectrogram at 12.2 seconds

    Slice 2 measurement

    Slice 195 of the Spectrogram at 29.6 seconds


    The signal provided on the demo board for the Spectrogram is a rolling version of the multiple peaks waveform. There is also a frequency hop test signal that I found quite good to look at with the Spectrogram. The following video shows some of the spectrum analyser operation, signal measurements and spectrogram use which some may prefer over looking at the screenshots.

     

     

    The MDO Demo Board is certainly very interesting, especially to someone like me who has little knowledge of some of the protocol analysis aspects of oscilloscope operation and doesn't have any such signal test rigs around to work with.

     

    Summary of RoadTest Projects

     

    More details of each of the Roadtest projects can be found in the specific blogs, but here I will provide a brief review of the highs and lows.

     

    The projects revolved predominantly around collecting data for conditioning monitoring on turbogenerators and looking at the math functionality to carry out analysis. This means that the 3 Series MDO went on a number of road-trips. To protect it, I purchased the soft travel case that comes with a front cover as well as the bag. This was more than adequate for my needs and the scope did not appear to suffer from any of its travels.

     

    The ability to utilise the carry handle as part of the base created a good secure working platform for the scope, even when I was in a transformer pen with a stoney surface.

     

    3 Series MDO in transformer pen

     

    The oscilloscope certainly showed that it has the power to capture the fast transient pulses typical of partial discharge signals in high voltage apparatus and could be used to record the built in calibration pulses from my test apparatus. Modification of these pulses for playback via the built in waveform generator, proved to be a little awkward. The nature of the signal required meant that the waveform generator was approaching its limits.

     

    The arbitrary waveform generator software from Tektronix is designed to work with their standalone waveform generators and it does not look like much consideration has been given to integrating the 3 Series MDO in with this software. This meant that the majority of the modifications to the waveforms was carried out within Microsoft Excel software, which proved to be quite time consuming, but was possible. The only way I could transfer signals back into the 3 Series for playback on the waveform generator was using 'csv' format files.

     

    Ultimately, I would improve this scenario by investing in a standalone waveform generator to provide the improved output capabilities required.

     

    As part of the waveform generator review it was noted that there is no sweep function included, but looking at other scopes on the market with built in waveform generators, this is not uncommon. In one of the blogs, I reported that I could not find programming functions for the waveform generator, I have now found those, so it looks like a sweep function could be programmed in using computer control.

     

    The 3 Series faired much better with the rotor tests carried out both online and offline. The maths functions provided more analysis options than other scopes, however I did miss having a built in filter function and a waveform delay function, similar to a Picoscope,  would have allowed dynamic analysis of the signals.

     

    Cable testing was another area where I struggled with the 3 Series, not specifically with the hardware but more with the software compatibility. Tektronix have not provided native support for their 'wfm' file format within the 3 Series. The only way I found to convert to this format was to utilise their TekScope Anywhere software. Unfortunately, it also looks like Tektronix have changed the header format for the 'wfm' files from previous scope ranges and the partial discharge analysis software I planned to use, that will read 'wfm' files has now become incompatible. I also could not load previous saved 'wfm' files from the old format back into TekScope Anywhere. This was little disappointing for Tektronix not to provide backward compatibility with their own existing file formats.

     

    I could not get the 3 Series MDO to communicate with my Windows 10 computer via either the USB or LAN interfaces. However, I am reasonably convinced that this is not an issue with the oscilloscope itself, but more to do with the Windows 10 / driver installation. I have not had this issue with any of the other instruments I have connected, the majority are detected automatically, some I have had to create a connection manually, but in the end, I can always get it to work.

     

    Scoring Summary

     

    Here I will briefly detail my thoughts regarding the scoring I have given in the six categories.

     

    I have marked down the 'Performed to Expectations' category as there are issues that I would just not expect from a high end piece of test apparatus from a brand name manufacturer. The demo board worked on one unit but not the other, the file compatibility between instruments is troublesome and there is a lack of backward compatibility with previous file types. I wondered wether or not to take points off for the build quality. In the end I have not, primarily because, as discussed in the comments of the initial blog, I have no context of the unit's history. It is obvious that it is not brand new from the factory, whether or not is has been specifically worked on for the RoadTest, I do not know. Unless Tektronix add some context to the history, which they have not done yet, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

     

    'Specifications were sufficient' also takes a knock, mainly due to the waveform generator that for one of my specific applications it needed a bit more memory depth, and for some of the maths functionality I found missing in comparison to some of my instruments currently in use.

     

    I also marked down the 'Price to Performance Ratio' category. It is a powerful unit, has a lot of features and was very friendly to use, but it just has a few little niggles that I do not want to see when I purchase a unit of this nature. The support from Tektronix was okay, but for me should have been more in line with the top of the range product on offer here.

     

    The other categories I gave full marks for as I could not really see any issues surrounding them. The documentation I found to be extensive and well written. The software was not officially part of the RoadTest, but the TekScope Anywhere I downloaded was super easy to use, functioned in a similar manner to how the oscilloscope operated and extended the waveform analysis options for waveforms captured on the oscilloscope.

     

    The unit is extremely easy to use, I never had any real issues finding the functions, despite the complexity of the instrument and the breadth of its functionality.

     

    Conclusions

     

    The 3 Series MDO is undoubtedly a powerful piece of test apparatus with a multitude of capabilities. For me it has been a bit of a mixed bag, whilst I appreciate its sophistication and power, its implementation seems a little bit clumsy at times. Not retaining backward compatibility with their own Tektronix native file systems created issues with one of the experiments. They also do not seem to offer any conversion utility between them. Whilst those experienced in programming may be able to overcome this, I am a high voltage test engineer and rely upon manufacturers to provide the instrument functionality for me. There also seemed to be limited functionality with their waveform editing software and waveform generators that made manipulation of waveforms captured by the scope more troublesome.

     

    Whilst I had some limitations with the hardware side of the waveform generator, comparison to other oscilloscopes with builtin waveform generators, shows that it is towards the top end of the capabilities. Some of the implementation does seem a little strange, I would have thought that a sweep function would have been more beneficial to users, rather than some of the more exotic arbitrary waveforms built into the unit, unless Tektronix have aimed the 3 Series at specific academic / industrial / medical users. Having said that, a sweep function is not available on some of the competitors units with a builtin waveform, so this issue is not unique to Tektronix.

     

    Whilst the unit is quite sizeable, I found it easy to transport around in its soft-case and locate into different working environments. The large screen is particularly nice to use and allows signals to be clearly seen from a distance away when working around apparatus. The maths functionality was generally adequate, although I did find I was missing a couple of functions when compared to the use of a Picoscope for flux probe monitoring.

     

    The ergonomics of the controls I found to be generally good. I do not mind having common controls and selecting them for a specific channel. The touch screen was very responsive and generally easy to use, although I did find that the screen controls for the zoom function were a little small for my personal liking. Adding and removing channels and measurements was easy using the touch screen. There was a significant number of builtin measurements that met all of my needs. I did find that the limitation of four overall measurements on the side bar a little restricting for some of my work. There is the option of loading the waveform into TekScope Anywhere software to overcome this and add in more maths channels and measurements, which is the way I would go for report writing.

     

    Not much more for me to say other than to thanks both element14 and Tektronix for giving me the opportunity to road test the 3 Series MDO. I hope that members have found some useful information across the various blogs regarding the use of this test instrument.


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