Oscium's iMSO-104: An Apple iOS-Based Oscilloscope With Features Galore, But Whose Price Tag May Leave You Yearning For More
As followers of my work-related Twitter feed may remember, I mentioned earlier this month that I’d been promised a review unit of Oscium’s iMSO-104 mixed-signal oscilloscope peripheral for Apple’s iOS-based handheld devices:
The $297.99 device comprehends one analog and four digital channels, touts 5 MHz analog bandwidth and 12 million sample/sec specifications, and encompasses four primary subsystems:
- A dock connector-based adapter containing a Cypress PSoC 3 IC, which per Cypress’s press release “seamlessly manages the two-way communication between the oscilloscope and any iOS device via Apple’s proprietary dock connector, and also processes the incoming analog and digital signals.”
- A 1x/10 analog probe
- A logic harness (four digital plus 1 ground), including SMD grabbers, and
- Software which is free to download from the Apple Store (it runs in demo mode without hardware attached), and which to Oscium’s great credit requires only iOS v3.1.3, thereby making it compatible with all hardware iterations of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
I received the unit two weeks ago and, after testing it for a few days, passed it along to fellow EDN editor Paul Rako late last week. Since I’m a ‘digital guy’, I figured that Paul would likely be able to give it a more thorough analog-centric evaluation than I could. Paul’s friends own both first- and second-generation iPads, so together they’d also be able to assess (among other things) whether the iPad 2’s more advanced CPU-and-GPU and 2x-larger system DRAM allocation would translate into a performance-or-other differential.
Before shipping the iMSO-104 off to Paul, I snagged some screenshots on my iPad 1:
And I received some preliminary feedback from Paul and his cohorts yesterday, which I’ll pass along in abridged form:
So far my buddies like this more than I expected. It might be handy for embedded projects where you are troubleshooting a small micro as well as some analog. They hooked it to an iPhone and got it working. Now Tim has it at home on his iPad 1. We hope to try an iPad 2 next. He assumed it was a 100 dollar gizmo but I told him it was $300. Problem is, you can get a half-decent 50 MHz lunchbox scope for 400 bucks these days, as well as the other hobby units for $68 and $89.
I concur with Paul; the iMSO-104 is a cool, surprisingly robust-featured unit, but it’s seemingly expensive considering its specs and interface count. I ‘get’ the vendor’s hoped-for portability value of being able to leverage the iOS device you already have in your pocket or satchel (and have already bought), versus needing to drag an entire standalone oscilloscope along with you. And let’s not forget about the large-screen capability that the iPad in particular enables; price out a competitive display real estate-equipped standalone oscilloscope and you might experience serious sticker shock (although to be clear; large-screen oscilloscopes also tend to have other more robust specs). But the iMSO-104’s price still feels excessive for the return on investment, specifically for small-screen iPhone and iPod touch owners.
Perhaps Oscium’s hoping to snag early-adopter enthusiasts now, with a subsequent price drop in parallel with the production volume ramp and consequent BOM cost decrease. Speaking of which…although the iMSO-104 is now available for pre-order, it won’t start shipping until May 20th. Mine was a pre-production device with, per the vendor, a SMB that was not mechanically sound, along with a reworked PCB. Commensurate with the hardware release, Oscium will also release a software update that, among other things and per company president Bryan Lee, “includes minor bug fixes as well as the added ability to save configurations.”
Stay tuned for more feedback on the iMSO-104 both here and on Paul Rako’s Anablog, as the software matures and as we receive full production hardware for editorial revisit.