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3 Powerful Keysight Automotive Oscilloscopes Engineers Have to Try

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Imagine you're working on a new project for electric vehicles and need to measure the high-frequency signals in the battery management system. You need an oscilloscope that can handle the fast switching speeds and high bandwidth required for this application, but with so many options on the market, how do you know which oscilloscope will be up to the task?

As an engineer, your job centers around using test equipment every day. You need not only a tool that is reliable and accurate but one that can handle the unique intricacies of automotive applications. So how do you choose the right oscilloscope that will live up to your expectations?

In this article, we'll look at three powerful Keysight automotive oscilloscopes that have been tried and tested by fellow engineers and how they can help solve common measurement challenges.

What Is an Automotive Oscilloscope?

Automotive oscilloscopes are specialized measurement tools designed to handle the unique challenges of the automotive industry. These oscilloscopes have higher bandwidth and sample rates than regular oscilloscopes. This helps capture fast-changing signals in the high-frequency range of modern vehicles. They also have specialized features such as serial bus decoding and power analysis to help engineers troubleshoot and debug automotive systems.

One of the key differences between regular and automotive oscilloscopes is their measurement capabilities.

Regular OscilloscopesAutomotive Oscilloscopes
Regular oscilloscopes are designed for general-purpose use. They have a lower bandwidth and sample rate depending on their application.Automotive oscilloscopes need to handle the high-frequency electronic signals in modern vehicles, such as those in the battery management system, powertrain, infotainment systems, and other electronic components.
An oscilloscope's essential operation is to measure an electrical signal's voltage over a period of time. The oscilloscope converts the electrical signal into a visual representation on a screen, which allows engineers to see the shape and characteristics of the signal. Automotive oscilloscopes have multiple input channels, enabling you to measure multiple signals simultaneously.
Regular oscilloscopes come with basic triggering capabilities.Automotive scopes have advanced triggering options that enable you to capture specific events of interest within a signal. Additionally, many automotive oscilloscopes have built-in serial bus decoding and power analysis features, which will help you quickly and easily understand the data on the bus and the power consumption of the system.

 

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How To Choose an Automotive Oscilloscope

When choosing an automotive oscilloscope, there are several key features you should look for to ensure you select the right tool for the specific application.

  1. Bandwidth and sample rate
  2. Advanced triggering
  3. Input probes
  4. Serial bus decoding
  5. Input channels
  6. Handheld vs. PC

Let's look into each feature in more detail.

Bandwidth and Sample Rate

Bandwidth and sample rate are essential features to consider when choosing an automotive oscilloscope.

  • Bandwidth refers to the range of frequencies that an oscilloscope can accurately measure. In the automotive industry, signals are very fast-changing and high-frequency, so it's important to select an oscilloscope with high bandwidth to capture and display all of the details of the signal. High bandwidth ensures that the oscilloscope can accurately measure the high-frequency periodic signals in modern vehicles, such as those in the battery management, powertrain, and infotainment systems. A higher bandwidth also allows for a better signal-to-noise ratio, which means the signal will be clearer and easier to identify and analyze.
  • Sample rate refers to the number of samples an oscilloscope can take per second. The higher the sample rate, the more accurate the measurement will be. Automotive signals are fast-changing and complex, so a higher maximum sampling rate also allows for a higher time resolution, which means the user can see more details in the signal's time domain.

Bandwidth and sample rate are important features to consider when choosing an automotive oscilloscope because they determine its ability to accurately measure and display the fast-changing, high-frequency signals in modern vehicles. 

A high oscilloscope bandwidth and sample rate ensure that you will capture and display all of the details of the signal, which can be helpful when troubleshooting and debugging automotive systems.

Advanced Triggering

Advanced triggering is another vital feature to remember when choosing an automotive oscilloscope because it allows engineers to capture specific events of interest within a signal.
A trigger is a specific point in a signal where an oscilloscope starts capturing data. Without advanced triggering, an oscilloscope typically triggers on a rising or falling edge of a signal, making it challenging to capture specific events of interest within a signal.

With advanced triggering options, engineers can trigger on various conditions, such as

  1. A specific voltage level
  2. A specific frequency
  3. A specific serial bus message

This allows engineers to capture specific events of interest within a signal, which can be helpful when troubleshooting and debugging automotive systems.

Advanced triggering options synchronize multiple channels or instruments, which is useful when working with various signals or measuring numerous devices simultaneously.

Overall, advanced triggering is a handy feature when working with complex signals and systems typically found in automotive applications.

Input Probes

The type of input probe connectivity is important when choosing an automotive oscilloscope because they determine what you can measure and the quality of the signal measurement.

Input probes connect the oscilloscope to the signal under test, and they play a critical role in the accuracy and precision of an automotive measurement. 

High bandwidth input probes will ensure that the oscilloscope can accurately measure high-frequency signals in modern vehicles. High CMRR input probes will ensure that the common mode noise will not affect the measurement, improving the signal-to-noise ratio and making it easier to identify and analyze the signal.

Different probe technology is available, such as passive probes, active probes, and differential probes, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Passive probes are the simplest and most affordable option. Still, they have lower bandwidth and CMRR than active or differential probes.
  • Active probes have higher bandwidth and CMRR than passive probes, but they are more expensive than passive.
  • Differential probes are the most accurate but expensive option, and they are particularly useful when measuring differential signals.

Serial Bus Decoding

Serial bus decoding is an important feature to consider when choosing an automotive oscilloscope because it allows engineers to quickly understand the bus's data.

Many automotive systems use serial buses such as CAN, LIN, FlexRay, and Ethernet to communicate between devices. These serial buses use specific protocols to transmit and receive data, and it can be challenging to understand the data without specialized knowledge of the protocol. An oscilloscope with built-in serial bus decoding will automatically decode the bus's data, making it easy for engineers to understand the data and identify any issues.

Serial bus decoding can help engineers troubleshoot communication issues by allowing them to see the transmitted data on the bus and the timing of the data. It can also help engineers develop and test new systems by allowing them to see the sent and received data.

This can be helpful when troubleshooting communication issues, developing and testing new systems, and understanding the data transmitted on the bus. Decoding the data on the bus without needing specialized knowledge of the protocol can save you time and improve the efficiency of the development process.

Input Channels

The amount of input channels is key when choosing an automotive oscilloscope because they determine how many signals can be measured simultaneously.

For example, when troubleshooting an engine control module, an engineer may need to measure the signals from various sensors and actuators at the same time. Having multiple channel inputs on an oscilloscope allows engineers to measure multiple signals simultaneously, which is helpful when troubleshooting and debugging automotive systems.

The number of input channels needed will depend on the application and measurement requirements. Some oscilloscopes have two or four input channels, while others have eight or more. It is important to choose an oscilloscope with the correct number of input channels to meet the specific measurement requirements.

Handheld vs. PC

When deciding what digital scope to buy, handheld and PC-based oscilloscopes are two options. Choosing the right one is important because it affects the oscilloscope's portability, flexibility, and functionality.

  • Handheld oscilloscopes are portable and easy to use, making them a good option for field testing and on-site measurements. They are also smaller and lightweight, which makes them easy to carry around. However, handheld oscilloscopes usually have a smaller screen and fewer features than PC-based oscilloscopes, which makes it difficult to view and analyze the signals.
  • PC-based oscilloscopes are typically more powerful and have more features than handheld oscilloscopes. They have larger screens and more advanced triggering, analysis, and storage capabilities. They also have a higher maximum input range and bandwidth, which makes them a better option for more advanced measurements and analysis. However, PC-based oscilloscopes are larger and heavier, which makes them less portable and more difficult to use in the field.

Discover the Powerful Capabilities of a Keysight Automotive Scope for Your Next Project

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when choosing an automotive oscilloscope. It is vital to select a scope with the right features and specifications that meet your specific needs.

At Keysight, we offer a wide range of high-quality, premium, refurbished oscilloscopes backed by a 1-year warranty. We are also the only supplier who can calibrate our used equipment. You can rest easy knowing you're getting a quality product backed by a trusted manufacturer. 

See our Premium Used Equipment page and pick up a premium refurbished oscilloscope with some of the highest standards and specifications in the automotive industry.

3 Best Automotive Oscilloscopes From Keysight

With so many different features and options, it can be hard to pick the best automotive oscilloscope. To help you out, we've put together some of the best oscilloscopes that Keysight has to offer for automotive testing. We will consider things like

  • Specifications and capabilities
  • Why you should buy one
  • Why the scope may not be best suited for some engineers

With this knowledge, you can choose the best automotive oscilloscope for your needs.

DSOS054A

Whether you need to debug your latest design or verify compliance, it is critical that your oscilloscope displays an accurate representation of your signal. This requires world-class signal integrity, and the Infiniium S-Series DSOS054A oscilloscope has been designed with that in mind. The S-Series provides a superior time base, front-end, and ADC technology blocks. This gives you a platform with up to 16 bits of resolution, low noise, low jitter, and high ENOB – giving you visibility into the true performance of your device.

DSOS054A specs

  • 500 MHz bandwidth (upgradeable)
  • Four analog channels
  • Achieve up to 16 bits of vertical resolution with our advanced system architecture
  • Capture a longer signal trace with 20 GSa/s maximum sample rate and 100 Mpts/channel of standard memory
  • Get superior signal integrity with an average system effective number of bits (ENOB) of 8.1 bits at full bandwidth
  • Gain increased usability with the multi-touch supported 15-inch capacitive touch screen and a standard solid-state drive for fast boot and high reliability
  • Access a wide range of protocol, compliance, and analysis software

Why The DSOS054A Might Not Be For You

If you are looking for a small and portable scope, the DSOS054A may not be your best option. This larger and heavier scope makes it difficult to carry in the field. Additionally, it may not be best suited for engineers on a tight budget. The DSOS054A is a premium scope and more expensive than other basic oscilloscopes on the market.

Why You Should Buy the DSOS054A

The DSOS054A is ideal for automotive design and test engineers who need the highest signal fidelity, accuracy, and resolution. This scope provides the precision and performance you need for debugging designs, verifying compliance, and providing accurate measurements. The DSOS054A also offers superior signal integrity to ensure you get a precise representation of your signal. With its high sample rate, deep memory, and advanced triggering capabilities, this scope can capture the most complex signals in your automotive design.

U1620A

The U1620A is the world's first handheld oscilloscope with a VGA display. This 100/200 MHz handheld scope offers a floating measurement capability with two CAT III 300 V isolated channels. With up to 2 GSa/s sampling rate and 2 Mpts memory depth, it captures more waveforms from signals such as pulse width modulated circuits in a rush, transient, and motor start-up sequences. The benchtop-like display and dual window zoom allow you to easily identify problem areas and zoom in for more detailed analysis.

U1620A specs

  • 200 MHz
  • Two analog channels
  • Troubleshoot in any weather with channel-to-channel isolation and a CAT III 600 V safety rating
  • Identify glitches easily with dual window zoom
  • View subtle signal details more clearly with up to 2 GSa/s sample rate and 2 Mpts memory
  • Debug under any lighting conditions with three selectable viewing modes (indoor, outdoor, and night vision)
  • Get three instruments in one. A dual-channel oscilloscope, built-in DMM, and data logger
  • Easier start-up with ten selectable languages

Why The U1620A Might Not Be For You

The U1620A may not be the best choice for engineers who need a high-performance, industry-grade oscilloscope. This scope does not offer the same signal fidelity, accuracy, and resolution as the DSOS054A. Additionally, it is not ideal for engineers who need a 10-bit oscilloscope. The U1620A is only 8-bit, which may not be the best choice for some applications.

Why You Should Buy the U1620A

The U1620A is perfect for automotive engineers and technicians who need a lightweight, user-friendly oscilloscope that can be used in any environment. With its VGA display and advanced capabilities, the U1620A can capture complex signals in any environment. Plus, with built-in DMM and data logging capabilities, it is an excellent choice for engineers who need to troubleshoot quickly and accurately. The U1620A is a reliable and versatile tool for automotive design and testing.

EXR054A

The Infiniium EXR-Series EXR054A offers up to 6 GHz of bandwidth and 16 GSa/s sample rate on every one of its four or eight channels. Combined with 100 Mpts of standard memory per channel, flexible three-stage triggering, over 50 standard measurements, a massive library of application-specific packages, and ASIC-accelerated testing, the Infiniium EXR-Series lets you see more of your signal than ever before.

EXR054A specs

  • 500 MHz bandwidth on all four analog channels
  • Faster test speeds than ever before with ASIC technology
  • Accurate measurements with ENOB up to 9.0, noise as low as 43 µV
  • Extended capabilities with 7-in-1 instrument integration
  • Maximum memory is a flexible 1.6 G points 
  • Upgradeable in every possible way – including bandwidth and channel upgrades

Why The EXR054A Might Not Be For You

Due to its high-end features and price tag, the EXR054A is not the right choice for engineers looking for an entry-level automotive oscilloscope. Additionally, the EXR054A is not suitable for engineers who do not need a high-performance oscilloscope. If you do not need the advanced features offered by the EXR054A, then it is best to look at other basic automotive oscilloscopes.

Why You Should Buy the EXR054A

If you need a high-performance, industry-grade oscilloscope with top-notch accuracy and resolution, the EXR054A is your best bet. The EXR054A offers you up to 6 GHz of bandwidth and 16 GSa/s sample rate on each of its four or eight channels. Combined with 100 Mpts of standard memory per channel and over 50 standard measurements, this oscilloscope is perfect for precision testing in automobile industries. Plus, the 7-in-1 instrument integration allows you to extend its capabilities even further.

Unlock the Full Potential of Your Automotive Measurements With Our Leading Oscilloscope Technology

Are you an engineer working in the automotive industry? Do you need a reliable and powerful oscilloscope to help with research, development, and troubleshooting? Are you tired of using outdated, slow-paced oscilloscopes?

Then look no further than Keysight. Get accurate, enhanced capabilities and greater test insight when you choose Keysight oscilloscopes for your automotive projects. Unlock the full potential of your automotive measurements with a reliable and powerful used Keysight oscilloscope.

Are you an engineer that can't wait 25+ weeks for your oscilloscope? We've got you covered! Engineers all over the world trust our refurbished oscilloscopes. Why? Because they come with the following:

  1. Fast two-week delivery time for selected oscilloscopes for US customers
  2. Big discounts 
  3. Keysight Care options & optional warranty

What are you waiting for? Get your refurbished Keysight Oscilloscope today and begin unlocking the full potential of your automotive measurements.

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