The 5 Best Portable & Handheld Oscilloscopes

Portable oscilloscopes reviews

In contrast to traditional oscilloscopes, portable & handheld oscilloscopes are equipped with built-in batteries (Source).

This means that they can work without an external power supply, making them convenient for field applications.

Many users describe using these handheld scopes in conjunction with more robust benchtop oscilloscope. Though it should be noted that many of these pocket-sized oscilloscopes cram a ton of features into their tiny frames (Source).

Let's take a look at 5 of the best-selling portable oscilloscopes on the market today. 

Portable Oscilloscopes Compared

Best Handheld Oscilloscopes For 2017

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

This 11mm thick, 5.6 oz, SainSmart oscilloscope is really, really small yet can powerfully fulfill a wide range of basic electronic engineering requirements for schools, experiments, and other fields. It features dual trace three lines, 320 x 240 mm color display, chargeable Lithium batteries and an 8 MB memory card. It can be easily operated with one or double clicks, as well as slide and press.

In your hand, it has a well-built & solid feel. Right out of the box it was easy to get it up and running. What we really like about it is that it crams in tons of different features, menus, and various ways of measuring, into a small display. The user consensus is that it seems to provide highly accurate measurements and responds well to user input.

The small size can be something of a challenge depending on how big your hands are and how you are using it – it’s more like a pack of cards than an iPhone 6 size.

One negative we should mention is that it only comes with one probe, when as a a 2 channel scope it should ship with 2 probes. A pretty minor inconvenience in the scheme of things. We love this pocket-sized oscilloscope. 

Pros

  • Accurate measurements and responds well to touch
  • Sturdy construction
  • Multiple menus and measurement modes that adapt to your requirements

Cons

  • Only comes with one probe with 2 channels
  • Its small size can be a challenge at times especially if the user is wearing gloves

SainSmart Nano Oscilloscope Review

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

This single-channel 20 MHz oscilloscope has a digital multimeter that is useful for doing basic oscilloscope measurements such as voltage, resistance, capacitance and current resistance. It has a maximum real-time sample rate of 100 MS/s as well as a record length of 6,000 points for detailed waveforms. Its features include manual and auto-ranging user control capability and 3.5″ color TFT-LCD display.

All that said, this is a great value buy option that produces accurate results. Its screen bright and high contrast, which means that it’s pretty easy to read. The scope and frequency displays are very accurate. The manual was written by someone for whom English is a second language, but it covers all the details of operating the unit’s functions adequately.

One complaint is that the USB connection and software are sub-par. The user manual only dedicates 6 sentences to connecting it and using it with a PC. Many users have had significant trouble using the CD software, claiming that it wouldn’t install on their PCs. Users were able to find an online resource to download updated software for the Owon HDS1021M, however.

That said, the software’s not great- its scan rate is slow, only updating a few times per second from the oscilloscope to the computer. It’s sufficient if you just want to grab and freeze a waveform and then upload and convert it to an image file.

This is definitely a solid option- with  good quality & functionality, as well as a reasonable price. But the software, connection issues and instruction manual compromise its overall ease of use. 

Pros

  • A solid value buy
  • Robust features considering its price
  • Good for basic troubleshooting

Cons

  • It uses a plastic BNC socket instead of a real one
  • The bayonet clips on its socket has a tendency to easily wear off; if that happens the scope could become useless unless you apply a glue or tape to attach the probe
  • Poor instructions
  • Software is poor quality 

Owon HDS1021M Video Review

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

With a 50 MHz bandwidth, sampling rate of 200 MSa/s and featuring a 320 z 240 mm high-resolution colored screen, this handheld scope can be very useful for doing a number of basic oscilloscope measurements. It is also fitted with a 6000-count high-precision multimeter chip as well as an NPX intelligence collection chipset, combining scope, multimeter and signal generator functions in one device.

What this means in practice is that this All-Sun product combines a quality single-channel scope (50 MHz bandwidth, 200 MSa/s) with a precision multimeter (with actual RMS measurements for AC signals) as well as a basic signal generator.

One of the primary drawbacks is that it is only a single channel and also it lacks some of the more robust features like FFT or rescaling that benchtop models typically have. But this is a portable unit!

It also has a quality rechargable battery, so you can transport it and easily charge it on the go. Even if this scope’s features aren’t enough for you– it’s a great supplement to a bench-top scope, especially since it also contains a quality multimeter.

The multimeter itself is high-quality. It is able to measure voltage, continuity, capacitance, resistance, and can perform a diode test, while also being able to display a trace plot of the multimeter reading on screen. This is great for performing continuity tests, and is certainly an atypical feature for meters with LCD displays. (*Just to clarify, it it does not measure current.)

Regarding its build– it betrays true quality and the rubber protector is solid. One annoyance is that the charging and USB ports are covered and the cover is held in place with a screw. If you need to charge or plug it in, you will have to unscrew it, which is an annoyance. Some users report removing this covering entirely and there doesn’t appear to be any problem with doing this. 

The menus are intuitive, and the interface is available in Chinese and English languages. The English instruction manual is passable- but not exactly fluent. The accessories include a USB cable, a 1x/10x scope probe, some multimeter probe leads, an AC/DC power supply and a tool for adjusting the scope probe compensation, plus a decent carrying case. 

Pros

  • Highly portable and convenient for field application
  • Highly intuitive menu system
  • Comes with auto, normal and single trigger modes
  • Has the ability to lock and save the waveform of a non-periodical signal, a function that is not available in many traditional oscilloscopes

Cons

  • English instruction manual is merely passable
  • Some users remove the USB/Power port covering because of inconvenient accessibility

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

The Siglent SHS806 is a bit more expensive and is among the two-channel, portable oscilloscopes that has a higher bandwidth. It is a 60MHz option and comes with a 6,000 count multimeter mode for measuring frequency, duty cycle, voltage and power.

Its real-time sample rate is 1GS/s while its record length is 2Mpts for acquiring up to 18 hours of waveforms. Moreover, it has advanced triggers for isolating specific signals and a 5.7-inch color TFT-LCD for viewing measurements.

This is definitely an excellent portable handheld scope. It provides high-level accuracy, packs in a lot of features and sports data logging capabilities for both the scope and built in DMM. It’s important to understand that the inputs are not isolated on this Siglent model. Siglent does produce a scope that is isolated but it is (prohibitively) more expensive.

The menus are pretty intuitive to understand and feature thorough functionality. One complaint is that the screen could be higher resolution, but it’s not a big deal.

One technician writers that it’s a great scope for working with PICs, power lines, serial data lines, Arduino, and general electronics stuff (HF or less). 

Pros

  • Its automatic trigger is able to recognize signal patterns, thus optimizing timebase, amplitude and triggering settings
  • Feature-packed option with a solid design
  • It works great for Arduino, data and power lines and general electronic stuff

Cons

  • Can’t do 2M ham band analysis

The Siglent SHS806 Video Review

Effectiveness

Price

Ease of Use

If you need a low-cost device for hobby oscilloscope measurement, this 32-bit digital oscilloscope could be useful. It features a 320×240 mm color display as well as built-in storage with USB port and 200 kHz analog bandwidth. Even with its small size, its display is still clear and easily readable. That said, users have complained that its measurements are imprecise. One user has even written that he only uses it for checking frequency waves for clipping. 

Pros

  • Great for hobby applications
  • Nice metal case
  • Its firmware does not require updating

Cons

  • Loses its readability when viewing from an angle
  • Bandwidth is very low compared to other oscilloscopes in the market
  • Its maximum probed voltage is only 10v, thus it is not ideal for measuring amplifier output that requires higher voltage of up to 30v

Unboxing the DSO Nano

What are portable oscilloscopes?

​Portable oscilloscopes are electrical evaluation instruments designed to validate the performance of your electrical signal generator. Oscilloscopes calculate an electric transmission as time passes, and presents the waveform indicators within a visual graph.

The wave form displays the refresh of voltage on a vertical (Y) axis, and will show time period graphed on a horizontal (X) axis. Particulars of a wave shape illustrate the transmission signal as time passes.

Handheld oscilloscopes are capable of showing in a digital or analog display. An analog oscilloscope provides constant wave form indications, commonly in a luminous phosphor. A number of oscilloscopes is capable of showing a couple of channel and type of output at the same time.

How to use an Oscilloscope

A number of oscilloscopes will be able to display wave form signs to storage, and do not forget them. Oscilloscopes may possibly supply 'live' intensity ratings. Quite a few oscilloscopes have the capacity to adapt their regularity of display. A consistent image displays when a transmission is revealed at the higher frequencies.

Oscilloscopes might be operated using battery packs or electrical power, or could have a in built power generator. They could have European Conformity (CE) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certification, or perhaps a particular class of safety score, for example CAT5e.

Portable oscilloscopes are generally employed for evaluating, calculating, and checking in technology, engineering, telecoms, auto-research, and for heavy industry purposes.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
The Siglent Handheld Oscilloscope
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