Oscium's LogiScope: Not quite the second coming of Star Wars, but still a new testing hope
Brian Dipert - May 30, 2012
Last Friday was the 35th anniversary of the original Star Wars movie (subsequently renamed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), for those of you who weren’t already aware (and if you weren’t, shame on you! Just kidding…). The chronologic proximity explains (I hope) the background to this particular post’s subject line. Admittedly, I was also looking for something to rhyme with “scope.”
Oscium, as you may recall from my late-April 2011 blog coverage and two-days-later follow-up, or perhaps from Paul Rako’s (and a buddy’s) subsequent hands-on analysis, is the manufacturer of the positively reviewed and reasonably priced iMSO-104 mixed-signal oscilloscope, which uses a connected iPad, iPhone or iPod touch as its display (among other things). Oscium not-so-humbly claims that its product line, which also includes the WiPry-Spectrum (Spectrum Analyzer), WiPry-Power (Dynamic Power Meter), and WiPry-Combo (Spectrum Analyzer & Dynamic Power Meter Combo), represents “The Future of Test Equipment.” And quite frankly, although I think that the company will need to make additional price-reduction moves in order to actualize its aspiration, I can’t argue with its prognostication.
By means of analogy, look at where the music creation, capture and editing markets are going, a topic that my buddy Denis Labrecque and I frequently discuss. It wasn’t so very long ago that the hardware and associated software intended for such tasks cost thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars, keeping it out of reach of the average musician or recording engineer (and thereby compelling them both to instead use professional studios, or more likely to pursue an alternative profession). Nowadays, however, as Labrecque reported to me from the recent NAMM show, a plethora of products exist that leverage Apple iOS-based devices and Android-fueled counterparts as their hardware foundation, therefore coming in at price points that are compelling to the music masses (which probably own compatible smartphones and tablets anyway).
Witness, for example, Apple’s GarageBand, available for several years now as an application for the Mac, but now also shipping (for $4.99!) for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Or take a look at this recent video from one of my favorite bands, moe.
I’d argue that there’s no fundamental reason why test equipment won’t evolve in the same direction. Time for a poll: How many of you already own an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, or an Android smartphone or tablet of some sort? Keep your hands up … Next, how many more of you don’t currently own one but plan to take the purchase plunge before the end of the year? Now ask yourselves the following question: Assuming it has sufficient real estate and resolution, not to mention memory and processing horsepower, to adequately implement the test task, why wouldn’t you just leverage the same smartphone or tablet hardware you already possess, versus buying a functionally redundant additional LCD and other hardware?
The LogiScope costs $389.99. Here are its high-level specs:
- 100 MHz, 16 channel logic analyzer
- Two logic harnesses (each with 8 digital, 1 ground)
- Protocol decoding: I2C, SPI, UART, Parallel
- Works with 2.0v, 2.5v, 3.3v & 5.0v systems
- Input voltage -0.5v to +7v
- Advanced triggering
Based on the feedback I received to last year’s iMSO-104 coverage, I suspect that the knee-jerk reactions from some of you will fall into the following two camps:
- It doesn’t have the capabilities that I require, and/or
- It’s over-priced for the capabilities it delivers
To the first set of folks, I’ll respond by pointing out that Oscium certainly doesn’t intend for the LogiScope to be the be-all and end-all of logic analyzers. I can certainly understand why each lab environment might want to continue to possess one or several advanced logic analyzers. But does every engineer need a high-end unit, or would a more modest logic analyzer with LogiScope-like attributes alternatively suffice for personal use? And look at it this way, too, are there situations where you don’t (or at least don’t easily) use a logic analyzer today, such as field debug settings, which a more toteable setup would neatly address?
Portability is also the crux of my response to the second camp. Yes, you might be able to find a lower-cost logic analyzer peripheral with similar specs to that of the LogiScope, but it’s going to probably require tethering to a laptop or desktop computer (and its associated display) in order to function. In contrast, LogiScope offers compatibility with the 7″ or 10″ tablet computer you can easily slip into your briefcase, or better yet, the smartphone that fits in your pocket.
Its incremental size and weight are negligible. And can you imagine how crisp the LogiScope’s output must look on a “Retina” display?
I’ll close with a few videos, the first a promotional clip (c’mon, Oscium, can a logic analyzer really be called sexy?), followed by a three-part demonstration series:
all from Oscium’s YouTube channel.
And now, dear readers, I surrender the microphone to you. Your thoughts on Oscium’s new product?