In this article we examine the Agilent Technologies Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A Mixed Signal Oscilloscope. Before moving forward please note that this review is a work in progress, as it takes time and regular use to become proficient with the instrument. In the meanwhile if you have any questions or requests please leave them in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them. Please note that the review unit has the latest version 2.0 firmware (existing owners can upgrade with the free download).
Unlike smaller instruments the packaging is plain and non-descript, however the MSO is protected very well for global shipping and arrived in perfect condition. Inclusions will vary depending on the particular model, however all come with a calibration certificate, user guide on CD and a power lead.
Four passive 300MHz probes are included with the MSO-X3024A:
Due to the constant upgrading of the firmware the lack of a printed user manual is no surprise. You can download the manual as well as the service, programming and educational lab guides from the documents section of the product web page - which make good reading to get a feel for the unit.
Now for a tour around the unit. Coming from a smaller DSO or an analogue model, the first thing that strikes you is the display. 8.5” diagonal with 800×480 resolution:
Unlike cheaper brands the larger screen is not extrapolating data from a smaller image – each pixel is separately used. The front panel is clean and uncluttered. Each button and knob feels solid and responsive, and if pressed and held down, a small help window appears with information about the item pressed. Note that each analogue channel has independent controls for vertical position and V/div sensitivity (the minimum sensitivity is 1mV/division). This saves a lot of time and possible confusion when working on time-sensitive applications.
Around the back we find the cooling van ventilation on the left, the IEC AC power socket on the bottom-right, manufacturing data and so on. The fan is just audible, however the noise from a desktop computer drowns it out. On the far right near the top are separate USB connections for device and host mode, and the external trigger input and output sockets. Apart from the trigger out signal the socket can also be set to give a 5V pulse on a mask test failure or the optional WaveGen sync pulse.
Finally, there is a compartment on the top of the unit that can hold two probes comfortably, and four at a pinch:
As the unit is can be considered a small computer, it takes time to boot up – just over thirty seconds. (The operating system is Windows CE version 6.0). The user-interface is quite simple considering the capability of the unit. The six soft-keys below the display are used well, and also can call a separate list of options under each button.
When such a list is presented, you can also use the “Push to select” knob on the right hand side of the display to select an option and lock in by pressing the knob in. Below the soft keys from left to right are: BNC output for the optional function generator, digital inputs for logic analyser, USB socket for saving data to a USB drive, probe points for calibration and demonstration use, and four probe sockets. Connections exist that can interface with optional Agilent active probes.
This instrument falls within the range of Agilent’s new Infiniivision 3000-series oscilloscopes. The range begins with the DSO-X3012A with 100MHz bandwidth and two channels, through to the DSO-X3054A with 500 MHz bandwidth and four channels. Furthermore the range is extended with the MSO-X models that include a sixteen channel logic analyser.
Some of you will know there is also the Infiniivision 2000-series, and wonder why one would acquire a 3000-series. There are three excellent reasons for doing so:
- Waveform update rate is 50000 per second on a 2000, one million per second on a 3000;
- Memory depth on a 2000 is 100 kilopoints; 3000s have 2Mpts standard or 4Mpts optional;
- Eight vs. sixteen digital channels when specified as an MSO-X model.
For a full breakdown of specifications please download the Agilent data sheet located here.
Getting Started and general use
The process from cutting open the packaging to measuring a signal is quite simple – just plug it in, connect probes and go – however some probe compensation is required, which is explained quite well in the manual. There are strong tilting bales under the front side which can be used to face the unit upwards. At this point the unit is ready to go – you can start measuring by using the Auto Scale function and let the MSO-X3024A determine the appropriate display settings.
However there is no fun in that – the vertical scale can be manually adjusted between 1 mV and 50V per division, the horizontal between 2 nanoseconds and 50 seconds per division. These values can be selected rapidly or (by pressing the knob in) in a fine method for more precise values. If working with more than one channel, each can be labelled using a pre-set description or select a label from a list. One can also alter the display between X-Y, horizontal and roll modes.
Each channel has separate controls for coupling – DC/AC but no GND, as the earth point is shown on the LCD. Impedance can be 1M or 50 ohm. One can also limit bandwidth to 20MHz to remove high-frequency interference.
Capturing data is very easy, you can save images as .png or .bmp files in grey scale or colour , data in .csv form and so on. You can also assign popular functions to a “Quick Action” button – one press and it is done. For example I use this as a “save bitmap” button to send the screen image to the USB drive. If the optional LAN/VGA module is installed screens can be captured by the host computer via the network. Finally there is a very basic file explorer available to find files on the USB drive as well.
Waveforms can also be stored and used later on as references for other measurements. When reviewed they appear as an orange trace – for example R1:
The horizontal zoom mode activated using keys to the right of the horizontal control is very useful. Agilent call this “Mega Zoom” and it certainly works. Consider the following screen shot – the 32.768kHz square-wave from a Maxim DS1307 real-time clock is being analysed:
The time base is 10uS per division – and using the zoom we can get down to two nanoseconds per division and investigate the ringing on fall of the square-wave. This is great for investigating complex signals over short periods. Awesome.
Capturing infrequent events is made simple by the combination of the one million waveforms per second sampling rate, and the use of infinite display persistence. In the following example a clock with very infrequent glitch is being sampled. By setting persistence to infinite, as soon as the infrequent glitch occurs it can be displayed and held on the screen. For example:
There is a plethora of triggering options available. Standard modes include: edge, edge then edge, pulse-width (customisable), pattern trigger (for logic analyser – you can create your own patter of high, low, or doesn’t matter with comparison operators for duration), hex bus trigger, OR trigger, customisable rise/fall time trigger, nth edge burst trigger which allows you to nth edge of a burst after an idle time, runt trigger on positive or negative pulse, setup and hold trigger, on video signals (PAL, PAL-M, NTSC, SECAM), and USB packets. Phew. Furthermore, if you have any of the optional decoding and analysis licenses, they include triggering on the matching signal type (see later).
Performing math waveforms on analogue channels is done via a seperate Math button, and the operations available are addition, subtraction, multiplication, differentiation, integration, square root and FFT.
When the time comes to further analyse your measurement data, there area variety of measurements that can be taken, and they can be displayed individually, such as in the following:
or all in a summary screen:
Or you can manually use the cursors to determine information about any part of a wave form, for example:
Everything required is included with the MSO-X3024A for the sixteen channel logic analyser, including a very long dual-head probe cable:
as well as sixteen grabbers and some extension runs:
Setup and use was surprisingly simple, just connect the probe cable head to ground, insert grabbers onto the ends of each channel wire, and connect to the signal pins to analyse. You can have all sixteen channels and the four analogue channels active at once, however when doing so the screen is quite busy. You can adjust the height for each digital channel. Here we are measuring two analogue and eight digital channels:
As always there are many forms of customisation. Automatic scaling is available the same as analogue measurement. You can set the threshold levels for high and low, and presets exist for TTL, CMOS, ECL and your own custom levels. The cable is very well-built (made in the USA) and the socket on the MSO is a standard, very solid IDC connector. Thanks to the use of the IDC connector you could also make your own probes or extension cable for the analyser. Digital channels can also be combined and displayed as a data bus, with the data values shown in hexadecimal or binary – for example:
Both the 2000- and 3000-series Infiniivision units have a variety of options and upgrades available either at the time of purchase or later on. Agilent have been clever and installed all the software-based options in the unit – when required they are “unlocked” by entering a licence key given after purchase. Trial 14-day licenses are generally available if you want to test an option before purchase. You can also upgrade the bandwidth after purchase – for example if you started with a 100MHz a licence key purchase will upgrade you to 200MHz , or 350 to 500MHz. However if you wish to upgrade a 200MHz to 350/500, this needs to be performed at at Agilent service facility. Surprisingly the logic analyser upgrade that converts a DSO-X to an MSO-X is user-installable. For more information on the upgrade options and procedures please visit here.
Memory Upgrade (DSOX3MEMUP)
A simple yet useful option – it doubles the total memory depth to 4 Mpts interleaved.
LAN/VGA Module (DSOXLAN)
This options really opens up the MSO to the world (and is a lot of fun..) – it is inserted into the port at the rear of the unit:
VGA output is very simple – no setup required. Just plug in your monitor or projector and you’re ready to go -for example, with a 22″ LCD monitor:
The educational benefits of the LAN/VGA module are immediately apparent – instead of having twenty classmates huddle around one MSO while the instructor demonstrates the unit, the display can be show on the classroom projector or a large monitor. The MSO display is still fully active while VGA output is used.
LAN connection via Ethernet was also very simple. The MSO can automatically connect to the network if you have a router with DHCP server. Otherwise you can use the Utility>I/O>LAN Settings function to enter various TCP/IP settings and view the MSO’s MAC address.
Once connected you can have complete control of the MSO over your network. Apart from saving screen shots:
There is a “simple” remote control interface that contains all the controls in a standard menu-driven environment:
Or you can have a realistic reproduction of the entire MSO on your screen:
The full remote panel is completely identical – it’s “just like being there”. The ability to monitor your MSO from other areas could be very useful. For example using the mask testing in a QC area and watching the results in an office; or an educator monitoring students’ use of the MSO.
Furthermore you can view various data about the MSO, such as calibration date and temperature drift since calibration, installed options, serial number, etc. remotely via the web interface.
GPIB Module (DSOXGPIB)
This allows you to connect your MSO to an IEEE-488 communications bus for connection to less contemporary equipment.
Segmented Memory Option (DSOX3SGM)
This options allows you to capture infrequent multiple events over time. For example, you want to locate some 15 mS pulses that occur a few times over the space of an hour. All you need to do is set the triggering to pulse-width, specify the minimum/maximum pulse width to trigger from, then hit Acquire>Segmented, the number of segments to use and you’re off. When the pulses have been captured, you can return and analyse each one as normal. The unit records the start time and elapsed time for each segment, and you can still use zoom, etc., to examine the pulse. For example:
Embedded Serial Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3EMBD)
Debugging I2C and SPI buses are no longer a chore with this option. For example with I2C just probe you SDA and SCK lines, adjust the thresholds in the menu option and you’re set. Apart from displaying the bytes of data below the actual waveform, there is a “Lister” which allows you to scroll back and forth along the captured data along with correlating times. In the following example a Maxim DS1307 RTC IC has been polled:
The Lister details all – in the example we sent a zero to address 0×68, which caused the DS1307 to return the seven bytes of time and date data. This is an extremely useful option and is very useful when working with a range of sensors and other parts that use the I2C bus. The SPI bus analysis operates in exactly the same manner. Adding this option also allows triggering on I2C data as well.
FlexRay Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3FLEX)
The optional FlexRay measurement applications offer integrated FlexRay serial bus triggering, hardware-based decoding and analysis. The FlexRay measurement tools help you more efficiently debug and characterize your FlexRay physical layer network by having the ability to trigger on and time-correlate FlexRay communication with your physical layer signals. So if you are working on the ECU of your Rolls-Royce or new BMW 7-series, you can use an MSO that matches the quality of the vehicle under examination. Here is an example of the FlexRay being monitored in the lister:
RS232/UART Serial Decode and Trigger (COMP/MSOX3000-232)
This option allows RS232, 422, 485 and UART decoding and triggering, as well as the use of the Lister to analyse the data. For example:
Advanced Math (DSOX3ADVMATH)
This option adds more math functions to enhance your waveform analysis, including: divide, base-10 logarithm, natural logarithm and exponential.
CAN/LIN Triggering and Serial Decode (DSOX3AUTO)
Again, allows decoding of automotive CAN and LIN bus signals, and the use of the Lister. For example:
Military Standard 1553 and ARINC429 Standards Serial Triggering and Decoding (DSOX3AERO)
The option exists for decoding and triggering of the above bus types. According to Agilent the Mil-STD 1553 serial bus is primarily used to interconnect avionics equipment in military aircraft and spacecraft(!). This bus is based on tri-level signaling (high, low, & idle) and requires dual-threshold triggering, which the 3000X supports. This bus is also implemented as a redundant multi-lane bus (dual-bus analysis), which is also supported by the 3000X.
The ARINC 429 serial bus is used to interconnect avionics equipment in civilian aircraft (Boeing & Airbus). This bus is also based on tri-level signaling (high, low, & null) and requires dual-threshold triggering, which the 3000X supports. Since ARINC 429 is a point-to-point bus, multi-lane analysis is also required to capture both send and receive data. So if you need this capability – Agilent has you covered. Although my home is near RAAF Williamtown I suspect they won’t let me test this option, so a stock image will have to do:
Video Triggering and Analysis Application (DSOX3VID)
The DSOX3VIDEO option provides triggering on an array of HDTV standards, including:
- 480p/60, 567p/50, 720p/50, 720p/60
- 1080i/50, 1080i/60
- 1080p/24, 1080p/25, 1080p/30, 1080p/50, 1080p/60
- Generic (custom bi-level and tri-level sync video standards)
The 3000X Series oscilloscope already comes standard with NTSC, PAL, PAL-M, and SECAM support. Example of video analysis:
Audio Serial Triggering and Analysis (DSOX3AUDIO)
And not surprisingly this is an option to allow decoding of and triggering from I2S digital audio data. For example:
Mask Limit Testing (DSOX3MASK)
This is another interesting and useful option, idea for quality testing, benchmarking and so on. First you create a mask by measuring the ideal waveform, and then feed in the signal to be compared with the ideal mask. Mask limit testing can operate at up to 280000 comparisons per second. You can view pass/fail statistics, minimum sigma and so on, for example – a perfect test:
… then a change of frequency for a few cycles:
Furthermore you can specify the number of tests, change source channel, specify action upon errors, etc. Finally you can create and save to USB your own mask file for use later on – which can also be modified on a PC using any text editor software. Or for other monitoring options the external trigger socket on the read of the MSO can be configured to give a 5V pulse on a mask test failure.
If you have the LAN/VGA module you could place the MSO on in a lab or factory situation and monitor the testing over the network using a PC – very handy for QC managers or those who need to move about the workplace and still monitor testing in real time.
20MHz Function Generator/Arbitrary Waveform Generator (DSOX3WAVEGEN)
The “WaveGen” function is a versatile option that offers a highly controllable 20 MHz function generator and arbitrary waveform generator. It offers eleven different types of waveform: sine, square, ramp, pulse, DC, noise, sine cardinal, exponential rise and fall, cardiac and gaussian pulse.
The frequency can be adjusted between 100mHz to 20 MHz in 100 mHz steps; period from 50ns to 10s; full offset, amplitude and symmetry control; as well as logic level preset outputs (such as TTL, CMOS 5V, 3.3V etc.) Finally the WaveGen can be operated independently to normal measurement tasks, which is useful for ideal vs. actual comparisons and so on. Output is from the BNC socket at the bottom-left of the front pane and sync is also availble from the rear BNC socket. The arbitrary waveform generator is very simple to use - and copied waveforms can be edited or have noise added to them to replicate real-world waveforms.
Power Measurement (DSOX3PWR)
This is a power measurement and analysis option that is integrated into the unit and provides a quick and easy way of analysing the reliability and efficiency of switching power supplies. It also includes a user license for U1881A-003 PC-based power measurement and analysis software that provides even more powerful insight into power supply measurement. With this option you can:
- Measure switching loss and conduction loss at the switching device (to help improve efficiency)
- Analyse dI/dt and dV/dt slew rate (for reliable operation)
- Automate oscilloscope set-up for ripple measurements (to eliminate tedious manual oscilloscope set up)
- Perform pre- compliance testing to IEC 61000- 3- 2 standards (to reduce compliance testing time)
- Analyse line power with total harmonic distortion, true power, apparent power, power factor, and crest factor tests (to quickly provide power quality information)
- Measure output noise (ripple)
- Analyse modulation using the on- time and off- time information of a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) signal (to help characterize the active power factor)
- Measure how well a circuit rejects ripple coming from the input power supply at various frequencies with the Power Supply Rejection Ratio (PSRR) measurement.
Well not a feature as such, but it exists if you know where to find it:
There is no doubt that the Infiniivision 3000-series are a great line of instruments. The waveform sample rate, memory size and bandwidth options are very competitive, and the ability to add various options is convenient and also helps lower the final cost for purchasing departments. (Start with the base model then hit them up for the options over time)
However there are a few things that could use improvement. Although the display is excellent – the right-hand column with “Agilent” at the top is always displayed. This is a waste of LCD space and there should be an option to turn it off, allowing waveforms to be displayed across the entire screen. If a $400 Rigol can do this, so should a $5000+ Agilent. The build unit of the unit is good, no problems are evident however it could be a little more “solid”; and the option of a clear shield for the LCD would be a great idea to protect against forceful and dirty fingers.
Furthermore the ground demonstration terminal suffers from metal fatigue very quickly, it already is somewhat chipped and may need replacing if you used it quite often. Finally, it would have been nice to see Agilent include the a carry bag – already people have asked to borrow the unit and to wander around with it in the box is somewhat awkward.
For those who rely on their test equipment will have the peace of mind that Chinese discount suppliers cannot give you – Agilent support exists and will not ignore you once a sale has been made. It doesn’t take long to find a tale of woe on an Internet forum from someone who imported their own “high-spec” DSO via eBay or direct east-Asian sellers only to find there are no firmware updates, competent English-speaking support or warranty of any kind. Furthermore, the ability to combine many functions in the one piece of equipment saves space, time and reduces your support channel back to one supplier. There is also an iPhone “app” that may be of interest – however as an Android user I haven’t tried it.
The saying “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten” certainly holds true – and at the end of the day combined with the mix of standard and optional features at various price points – the Agilent Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A rises to the top echelon of test equipment.
As stated earlier if you have any questions or feedback please leave the in the comment section below. The Agilent Technologies Infiniivision MSO-X 3024A Mixed Signal Oscilloscope used in this review is a promotional consideration received from Agilent and element-14 via their Road Test program.
Australian readers please note:
Trio Smartcal are the exclusive Australian Agilent distributors for all states except WA and NT – telephone 1300 853 407.
Measurement Innovation for WA and NT – telephone 08 9437 2550
High-resolution images are available on flickr.
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