Hantek DSO5102P first impressions.

Having dabbled with electronics for more years than I care to remember, I’ve often thought about how handy an oscilloscope would be.  Oscilloscopes used to be horrendously expensive, but when I finally found a Hantek 5102P with a bit of a discount, I could no longer resist!  For price and ability its hard to beat, with even something like a USB oscilloscope (of equivalent spec) coming in at significantly more money.  So maybe you might expect that the scope is somehow limited, however this really doesn’t seem to be the case.  Obviously being a DSO you can take snapshots of waveforms, and the ability to embed data in a spreadsheet or document is a real boon.  Saving data either a screenshot or more usefully CSV data points is very easy, and in fact navigating the extensive features via the various menus is refreshingly straightforward with the menus being logically laid out.

By the way, just in case you’ve come here because you’re considering buying an oscilloscope you might want to watch this  How NOT To Blow Up Your Oscilloscope!

The seven inch screen is a decent size with the screen not looking too cluttered and you can even remove the menu for extra real estate if you want to, the colours look good and clear and its really easy to read and easy on the eyes too, you can even split the screen and have an overview and zoomed region, which could be great for seeing the context of a detail.

Anyhow that aside there are just a few items of note where there could be some improvements, the manual is only in digital form which is a shame and there is no information about the included windows only software, while I can live with that, the real shame is the lack of a public API, that said someone has reverse engineered the protocol so I might just see if I can hack something together to pull down the two data channels, but given that its easy enough to dump them to a usb stick, its really not much of a priority, such I can’t even be bothered to move it to the desktop machine (the only PC that has a barely used windows partition) just to try it out.  Occasionally the “auto” function can be a little hit and miss, deciding to use CH2 which I’m not using at all, as the trigger, but on the whole its really easy to get it to a point where you can see whats going on.

While there isn’t a physical manual (just a PDF on the accompanying CD) there is extensive help on the ‘scope itself, even having its own dedicated “help” button, that said, to date I’ve found this piece of equipment just so straight forward to use, I’ve never really used it in anger other that a quick look to see what it was like…

While I haven’t had the ‘scope for too long, I’m already really happy with it, being as its that little bit easier to use than an analogue ‘scope, and you can do handy things like capture just one snapshot and zoom in/out and navigate through it, is just great, it really does let you grok whats going on.

While nothing is perfect, the few minor niggles I’ve experienced with this product, really can’t tarnish my impressions of it.  Really just as useful as I hoped, and easier than I expected – with a generous bandwidth of 100mhz (it has a number of different video triggers) and a separate trigger input should you need it, I feel that despite this being a so called “entry level” scope I honestly feel that it will be with me for sometime, I can’t see me needing anything more just at the moment.

Unlike my mates 20mhz oscilloscope that used to be owned by Noah (I was so jealous when he got hold of it!) while its almost as wide as you’d expect a ‘scope to be its not too deep (31.3 x 14.2 x 10.8 cm) and its really very lightweight, such that if I’m working with someone else, it really would be no hardship just to pick it up and take it with me.

One thing that’s surprised me, is the fact that my main reason for getting this was to help not just with electronics but also my knowledge of electronics, and you know what even the short time I’ve had it, its really is helping me learn… this is one toy tool I’m certainly don’t regret getting hold of…

And yes I know there’s a (fairly trivial) hack to double the bandwidth up to 200mhz, but frankly I don’t think I’ll bother unless I have an actual need to go above 100mhz…

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