An amateur’s look at the Rigol DS1052E

My Rigol scope showed up a couple weeks ago and I have had some time to play with it. I’m no expert on test equipment but I’ve been very happy with the DS1052E so far. In particular there have been several nice surprises along the way.

All of the normal 2-channel scope features you’d expect are here. A nice addition is the support for saving waveform data to internal flash or an external USB storage device (plugged into the front of the scope). You can select from a variety of formats to save the waveform data into including Rigol’s proprietary WFM format, a 320×240 BMP image, and CSV time-voltage values. In addition to the waveform data, you can save the current scope settings (channel configuration, trigger, etc…) to a file along side of the waveform data.

One discovery was the “Video” trigger mode which appears to trigger on various (configurable) sync pulses of video signals. Given one reason I got the scope to begin with was to debug a composite video project I want to do, this is a wonderful surprise. Being able to see the sync pulse, color burst, etc… is way better than the guestimation I was doing previously.

Another advantage of the scope is its support for USBTMC which enables one to interact with the device (including pulling data from it) using USBTMC tools. Note that while the device supports USBTMC, it does not support the USB488 subset. Instead Rigol uses their own dialect of the USB488 command set.

While the DS1052E supports USBTMC, I had much trouble using Rigol’s Ultrascope software on my new Thinkpad laptop running Windows 7 x64. In fact, I’ve not managed to make it work using either Rigol’s USB drivers (which appear to be improperly signed for use on Windows 7 x64) nor using the NI-VISA variant of Ultrascope. I eventually gave up and decided to try and connect the scope to my G5. So far I’ve been able to write an app that talk’s to the device via IOKit. I don’t have data transfers from the device working but I hope to get that soon. Additionally, there are several usbtmc drivers, apps, and scripts for Linux that I hope to try out soon.

One other drawback of the device, as others have noted, is the fan noise. “The lab” where I have all of my electronics stuff contains an old Mac G5, an equally old Thinkpad laptop, and a box fan. The DS1052E is easily as loud as any of those things and probably louder than them. This is annoying but not anywhere near a deal breaker for me.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the purchase.


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