OWON SDS1102 Oscilloscope

I thought as the weather is so very bad here in the Northeast of England right now, I’d spend some time reviewing equipment – so I’ve a load of stuff coming in the next few weeks – first off is the Owon SDS1102 oscilloscope.

OWON SDS1102

Before I start, you need to be aware of where I’m coming from. I’ve been using a World War 2 scope since the late 1980s. That’s a slight exaggeration, the SS3510 50Mhz scope has kept me in good stead for many years – a dual beam scope able to handle many of my day-to-day tasks. It has two problems which I’m no longer able to put up with… 1) weight – it is heavy and I do a fair amount of lugging back and forth. I could not even conceive of selling it on Ebay as the postal charges would likely exceed the selling price…  and 2) size. It takes up a significant part of my bench space.

OWON SDS1102And so I was more than a little excited when the new desktop scope arrived in the post this week – the accompanying video has lots of information including the all important unpacking stage.

So – the SDS1102 is a mains-powered desktop scope and is as light as a feather. Now, before you starting thinking “cheap” – actually despite the lack of weight, no, it doesn’t feel or look cheap and I hope that shows through in the video.

Some time ago I looked at a desktop LCD scope and compared to my shiny green analog scope the display was washed out, particularly at an angle and the whole thing seemed a little “slow”. Well, I’m here to tell you that this new scope is neither of those.

The display, despite being only 800px wide is excellent at ALL angles and as for speed, clearly, the first thing I did when plugging the scope lead in was to give it the finger test… the response was instantaneous – by which point I was beginning to realise my scope experience was out of date. After I did the finger test and froze the image, I gave the “measure” button a go and after selecting channel 1 was greeted with a screen-ful of information including period, mean, rms, minimum, base, overshoot, duty cycle and much more – just an amazing amount of information on the signal.

OWON SDS1102

The funny thing is, when I last looked at my old scope, after giving it the annual clean up, I was thinking how it still kind of looks right on the bench. After a day of playing with the new scope I can hardly remember how I could possibly feel that way – the old tube-based SS5310 is going in the bin when it stops raining. Time to move on.

This particular own scope is described as being a basic model and yet is a 100Mhz, 1GS/s dual beam job with PC interface. Aside from the power plug, absolutely everything is on the front panel so if you’re tight for space, it can squeeze in without having to worry about getting around the back for anything.

The scale goes from 2ns per division to an amazing 1000 seconds per division – yup – 1000 seconds. Looking forward to using the latter for battery testing, something I'd never thought of until I started watching Robert Murray Smith videos...

tmpD27CObviously it comes with two scope leads (I say obviously but my recently acquired BitScope came without any), power cable and manual – the manual being in full English. There is a full manual on the web but in true experimenter fashion I’m leaving that as a last resort.

I would say in all honesty, in order to do anything useful with the scope I had to play with it for maybe half an hour, by which point I felt entirely comfortable. The unit has it’s own calibration software as well as the usual 1Khz test connector.

Much has been said about digital scopes and their display of noise. Anyone with an old analog scope, coming to these will notice the noise on the waveform, well, part of that is due to the old analog scopes averaging the signal over time and hence somewhat disguising said noise. If you want to pretend you have an older scope, you can usually apply limit filters and the Owon is no exception, there is a 20Mhz filter option on those buttons down the right hand side of the screen.

It is also fair to say, for someone not familiar with scopes at all, that you would not want to be trusting the waveform display at anywhere near the stated maximum (100Mhz) - for more on that, check in once my signal generator turns up - but for general work, for example checking signals on small IOT microprocessors etc., this unit should be more than sufficient and unlike my older scope, the input levels appear to be quite accurate.      Given a meter reading of 3.76v, the scope showed 3.8v.

In a matter of days I should have my new function generator from Banggood so I’ll be able to update this blog with more useful info – I’m sure you don’t want to see endless photos of a square wave.

In the video are some technical specs… and of course all of that is available on the OWON website.

Since writing the original review I've discovered that the USB connector on the front is for storing images  and on the right side is another USB connector for connecting to a PC.

The 1.32 version software that comes on the SD appears to be fine – at first I could not get it to work but then I looked in device manager and realised that (unlike many UART products) this was not going to work without the driver (Windows 10, 64 bit) – I installed that and loaded the scope software and everything worked fine.  On the website there is version 2 software and for some strange reason, version 1.2 – neither of them are any good so the software that comes with the CD seems to be the best.

The software however does not form a live scope for the PC – as best I could tell you can capture readings. Changing the volts/div on screen and the scale affects only the scene you have recorded… not the scope itself. So this might be useful for examining some data – but that’s about it.

Update December 2017: Having had this scope on my desk for a while now it is certainly invaluable. The twin view (HOR) allowing you to see the entire captured wave and zoom in on part of it is good and also the ability to slow right down to 1000 seconds per division is useful for monitoring supplies etc..

Another really neat feature I just discovered is somewhat like the old phosphor memory – which you can turn on and off… older traces remain on screen momentarily, fading out over a programmable number of  seconds. This is called PERSIST and it just one of many, many features as you wade through the menus.

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13 thoughts on “OWON SDS1102 Oscilloscope

    1. Thanks for that Marcus... hmm, won't do any harm to do a spot of googling - mind you about the only hack I'd really like - is to have all those buttons light up in the dark.... I need some kind of stick-on flexible light so I can see everything in the dark - as late at night I tend to work purely on the light of my screens. Not for any reason other than that in movies, hi-tech rooms are nearly always dark with lots of coloured lights:-)

          1. in movies seems they prefer to click 2000 keys to zoom in a pixel, instead of using a mouse... dumb people 🙂

            anyway, back in topic, 2 things:
            yours seems actually the ONLY review about this scope on youtube 🙂
            and, what's that usb port used for? FW update or saving the readings?

            1. The USB port is for interfacing with a PC - you plug it into the PC - they've given me the link for their PC software which I've not yet had a go at. Also I believe it works with some standard PC scope software out there. For my purposes that is a nicety - I'm happy to have a modern, decent quality scope sitting on my desk instead of the old tube scope trying to bore a hole in the desk - not to mention the power consumption!

    1. Actually, given that it isn't going to stop raining until April, I think I will put it on a Northumberland Facebook site - some newby could benefit from it. If I were in Spain (not raining) I could just put it by the bins on the main road and it would be gone within an hour 🙂

  1. If your older scope has decent bandwidth, keep it. Digital scopes do have issues. The vintage computer group I'm a member of notes that trigger events can be missed with digital scopes. Even if the digital scope samples at greater than 2 times the frequency.

    1. Well, given the frequencies I normally work with, the scope is likely to be sampling at 10x 🙂

      The only issue I always had with the old scope was the dual beam - lots of artifacts due to the switching.

    2. I think the general rule of thumb is that you want a sample rate of 10x the bandwidth (e.g. 1gsps for 100 mhz) to hit the sweet spot. 2x the frequency covers the Nyquist limit for reconstructing the signal, but you can have issues with stuff like triggering exactly as you say.

      The real advantage of digital scopes is storage and recall so you can scroll through your signal, but I have to admit the old CRT scopes have a certain charm that is hard to resist. The first scope I used was an ancient one my grandfather built from a kit, the size of a modern desktop computer tower (and heavier).

      1. I wasn't recommending not using the new scope (I'm hoping to get a new one soon). 😉 I currently have a 100MHz scope and use a camera to record it. Still not searchable.

        But the warning was that even if you up the sampling, it is possible to miss a fast glitch. This problem was seen on a VCF computer from the 1950s (Bendix, I think). It's power supply was glitching and causing all sorts of issues. The digital scope missed the trigger on the glitch in the power supply.

        Something similar can be seen with analog gauges (and voltage/current meters) It's continuous which digital is not. As long as you are aware of the issue you'll know the limitation. I think for most of what we're doing this isn't an issue (watching I2C for example).

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