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Four-channel DSOs boast CAT-III isolation, 5G-sample/sec acquisition

01 Jan 2012  | Dan Strassberg

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Tektronix has introduced the THS3000 series of 100- and 200MHz-bandwidth, four-channel, handheld, battery-powered, isolated-input DSOs (digital storage oscilloscopes), whose technology and packaging owe much to sister company Fluke's similarly priced 190-II-200 series of isolated-input four-channel ScopeMeters. The instruments in both families run continuously for seven hours on a charge, and you can recharge the battery inside or outside the instrument.

Tektronix considers the THS3000s to be scopes rather than combination scopes/DMMs (digital multimeters), as in Fluke's case. The Tek and Fluke user interfaces differ somewhat, and, in the single-channel mode, Tek's top-of-the-line THS3024 takes twice as many samples per unit time—a maximum of 5G samples/sec—as does Fluke's 190-II-204. Fluke and Tektronix also have different approaches to the software with which their customers are likely to use the instruments. Fluke's base prices are a bit lower than Tek's but Fluke charges extra for its FlukeView software. Tektronix includes its Open Choice software with the instruments, thereby reducing the price differential.

Neither family offers deep waveform memory. Memory depth is 10,000 points except in roll mode, in which it triples to 30,000 points. At 5G samples/sec, 10,000 points represents just 2 μsec. You can, however, automatically capture portfolios of similar waveforms that meet criteria you specify and observe how they have changed over time.

The scopes have four front ends—one for each channel. Each front end includes its own signal-sampling circuit. Single-channel mode dedicates all four front ends to the one active channel. Sampling is staggered so that the time between successive samples is equal. Two-channel mode connects front ends 1 and 3 to one channel and front ends 2 and 4 to the other, so that the sampling rate on each channel is half the maximum. In four-channel mode, each channel connects to its own front end. The scope samples the four channels in sequence—not simultaneously.

Although the Tektronix and Fluke units comply with different safety specifications, both provide ohmic isolation among all four channels, between each channel and the instrument case, and between the USB ports and the case. Any sort of ohmic isolation is unusual in scopes, but such complete isolation and Tek's compliance with Category III specifications are even rarer. The units include both USB-host and USB-device ports, through which you can save captured data and control external peripheral devices. US suggested retail prices begin at $3950. Tek offers a broad line of THS3000 probes, including insulated units for operator safety when probing high voltages. Other accessories include an external battery charger and soft- and hard-sided carrying cases.

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