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11 new products for your test and measurement needs

02 Oct 2015  | Martin Rowe

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SmartScope open-source USB oscilloscope, LabNation

The proliferation of low-cost development platforms such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino have fuelled the Maker Movement. Many of these "makers" come from software backgrounds and have little knowledge of circuits and signals. But, they often have to debug their systems by looking at signals. That need has launched low-cost test equipment designed by makers for makers. The latest entry is The SmartScope USB oscilloscope from Belgium-based LabNation.

LabNation developed the SmartScope through funds raised by a Kickstarter project. The tool has two analogue inputs and eight logic inputs. Analogue bandwidth is 30MHz and a 100Msample/s sampling rate. Waveform memory is 64Mbits, or 8Msamples. Logic inputs sample at 100Msamples/s.

The LabNation SmartScope has both a micro-USB and a mini-USB connectors. The mini-USB connector connects the instrument to a host computer, tablet or smartphone. You can use the micro-USB connector for additional power from a power bank (the SmartScope is bus powered). The micro-USB also lets you connect another SmartScope and synchronise their inputs.

When using the SmartScope with Android or iOS tablets or phones, you can adjust its vertical scale in the traditional 1, 2, 5 increments using pinch motions, just as the lower-bandwidth Oscium iOS oscilloscope does.

"The user interface with a smartphone is more powerful than a low-end bench oscilloscope" claimed LabNation's Riemer Grootjans when I spoke with him prior to the product's launch. "Makers don't know what to do with knobs."

To use the SmartScope with iOS devices, you must first "jailbreak" the iPhone or iPad. Keep that in mind or use an Android device if you plan to use a tablet for phone as the host controller.

It's $229 price puts the SmartScope in competition with Link Instruments, BitScope and Hantek, covered in USB Oscilloscopes from Pro to Hobbyist. Of the oscilloscopes covered there, only the BitScope also runs on Linux and MacOS. None of those covered run on Android or iOS platforms. If you can use a laptop computer, then you can get higher bandwidth and sampling rate, and function generators from competitors.

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