It's an oscilloscope and...

-February 25, 2014

This product is featured in EDN's Hot 100 products of 2014. See all 100 here.
You've probably seen the advertisements on EDN and elsewhere by now and there's been plenty of speculation about it. Today, Tektronix announced the MDO3000, a six-in-one instrument for your bench. The MDO3000 multifunction instruments include an oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, and DVM as standard functions. Optional functions are a logic analyzer, arbitrary function generator, and protocol analyzer.

Multifunction oscilloscopes have been around for years. Many have logic inputs and some kind of spectral display. Some have the ability to decode low-speed serial data. Others have DVMs, but none that I've seen have as many function as the MDO3000 series.

The oscilloscope: is available in 100 MHz, 200 MHz, 350 MHz, 500 MHz, and 1 GHz models with two or four channels and up to 5Gsamples/s sample rate when using one or two channels. Each channel can store 10 Msamples of data memory. The MDO3000 series can acquire waveforms faster than its predecessors, boasting an acquisition rate of 280,000 waveforms/s.

Many oscilloscopes use colors to indicate how often a glitch or other anomaly appears, but they have used dark colors to indicate rare occurrences, which you might not see. To eliminate that problem, Tektronix has inverted the color scheme, making anomalies easier to see. The video below shows that inverted color palette in action.

With the MDO3000 series, Tektronix brings its real-time spectrum analyzer function to a new price point, as low as $3350. Spectrum analysis ranges in frequency from 9 kHz to the bandwidth of the instrument. What's different is the upper end of the spectral bandwidth is not the 3-dB point. Instead, the instrument uses software to cut off frequencies above the purchased bandwidth. Clearly, than means the instrument is designed for the highest bandwidth in the series. A software "brick wall" filter cuts off and each model's upper frequency limit. You can purchase upgrades to 3 GHz ($2500 option). In addition to displaying a signal with a typical spectral plot, the MDO3000 can show a spectrogram, or "waterfall" display so you can see changes in frequency and amplitude over time. See the video below.

With 16 channels, the logic analyzer ($1500 option) is typical of other Tektronix oscilloscopes. Sample rate is up to 500 Msamples/s with 10 Msamples of memory on each channel. The figure below shows that the instrument distinguishes between "stuck" bits and toggling bits. The bottom image shows the first eight bits "stuck" (blue bars) with the upper eight bits shown toggling.

Many tests involve stimulating a device under test with a signal. For that, you typically use a function generator or AWG (arbitrary waveform generator). The MDO3000 has that, too ($750 option). It can produce sine waves to 50 MHz, square waves to 25 MHz, Gaussian and other functions to 5 MHz, Sin(x)/x to 2 MHz, and triangle waves to 500 kHz. The AWG's DAC has a 250 Msamples/s output rate, which provides 10 samples per cycle of a 25-MHz sine wave. You can generate any signal by capturing a live signal and replaying it or you can use ArbExpress software (free) to create and edit waveforms. The video below shows how you can change the function generator's output using a knob.

Other oscilloscopes have DVMs, but the MDO3000 combines it with five other instruments. You can use the DVM function to measure DC and AC RMS voltages on any channel with a 10,000-count (0000 to 9999) display. The DVM is included with all models at no charge. You must register the instrument to enable the DVM feature.

Lastly, the MDO3000 is a protocol analyzer for serial data buses. Tektronix began offering this feature on other oscilloscopes in 2007 and includes the feature in the all models of the MDO3000 series. It can decode IC, SPI, CAN, RS-232 and now USB 2.0, which is becoming an embedded-systems bus.

So how do you get the options? You get them through a hardware key that unlocks them. The keys use encrypted data, unlike previous keys that apparently were hacked. A key unlocks features on only one instrument. Some application options such as serial-bus analysis can be transferred among instruments but can be used on only one at a time. When you get a key, you also get a label that attaches to the rear panel of the instrument. The photo below shows that panel without upgrade labels.

Prices range from $3350 (MDO3012, two channel, 100 MHz with spectrum analyzer) to $13,900 (MDO3104, four channel, 1 GHz with spectrum analyzer).

Perhaps the MDO3000B version will add a power supply, for that's all it lacks. Wait, it already has two power sources of sort: a host USB port on both the front and back panels. But, do the ports supply enough power to charge your phone?


MDO3000 series product page

Interested in the MDO3000? Check it out at Tektronix's EE Live! booth #1818, March 31-April 3, 2014. EE Live! is owned by UBM Tech, EDN's parent company. Follow updates about event programs and sessions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ and register for the San Jose-based event here.

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