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11 Inexpensive Portable Test Tools

12/24/2013 04:35 PM EST
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David Ashton
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Inexpensive test gear
David Ashton   12/24/2013 7:29:28 PM
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Hi Susan, and Happy Christmas.

I think any list like this ought to mention two more items:

1. The National Instruments MyDAQ

NI gear is usually pretty expensive (as is the LabView software needed to drive it) but if you are a student you can get their MyDAQ, which is intended for student use and is cheap ($99 for students with a copy of LabView), but it is only 200 KSPS  / 20KHz bandwidth which I find woefully inadequate - even the low range items above do 2 MSPS and 200 KHz Bandwidth.  Nevertheless it is a versatile goodie - has digital I/O and a DMM built in - and quite good value if you're a student.

2. Digilent Analog Discovery

Digilent make the Analog Discovery which is $99 if you can get the student price, a bit more otherwise.  100 MSPS 14-bit channels and they claim effective 5 MHz bandwidth - plus digital I/O.  I'd like to get one of these - streets ahead of the MyDaq.

Both of these are USB/PC based, so no good if you want something standalone.Both are intended for the educational area, but still useful for low speed lab work.

Sanjib.A
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
Sanjib.A   12/25/2013 3:26:37 AM
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@David Ashton:

Great to learn about "Analog Discovery" from Digilent. Thanks!! Looks to be a professional product for low speed lab work and handy for debugging as it is multipurpose: oscilloscope cum logic analyzer cum multimeter. Ease of portability makes it good to place the tool on the desk instead the requirement for a lab space. Requesting your comments after you get a chance to try that.

David Ashton
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
David Ashton   12/25/2013 5:18:23 AM
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@Sanjib - I am hoping to get an Analog Discovery next year and if I do I will try and let you know how it goes.  Everything I have heard about them has been good.  Anyone else have hands-on experience with them?

Sanjib.A
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
Sanjib.A   12/25/2013 10:43:17 AM
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Thank you! :)

Paul Levin
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Re:Digilent Analog Discovery
Paul Levin   12/27/2013 1:19:40 AM
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I've been using the Analog Discovery for two weeks now, and had been experimenting with Digilent's Waveforms software (a free download from www.digilentinc.com) for a week or two before that. Nearly everything I've tried works the way one would expect it to work. One "gotcha" is that while the AWG can produce nearly 10 Vpp waveforms, you can't get one half of that when you use 50 ohm source impedance and drive a 50 ohm load; there is an approximately 20mA current limit on the outputs. If you stay below that current level, the spectrum analyzer indicates mid-60;s or better for THD. Another "strangie" I have yet to resolve is why a 1-second 20 Hz to 20 KHz sweep commences with a linear ramp for the first millisecond or so. I just posed this second problem to Digilent's support folks two days before Christmas, when they were already on a holiday break, but I'm sure they will have an answer for me once they get back to business next year. The support team, largely based in Romania, has been really open and responsive. My company is actually considering embedding the Analog Discovery inside of one of our systems. It is really handy that both scope channels have full differential inputs. You can make the system even more versatile by isolating the Analog Discovery's ground from your PC's ground by use of a USB isolator. (Analog Devices' CN-0160 evaluation board works really well because it allows you to supply the secondary with a hefty power supply.) Too bad the world is still waiting for a high-speed USB isolator; the Analog Discovery is seriously throttled back by the presence of a full-speed isolator. 

David Ashton
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Re:Digilent Analog Discovery
David Ashton   12/27/2013 1:30:27 AM
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@Paul - thanks for that.  Most of what I have heard about the Analog Discovery has been good and it's great to have it (mostly) confirmed.  It's certainly good value if you can get the student price.  (Doubt you would for your commercial app but hope you get a good qty discount!)   Thanks for the feedback.

Kinnar
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
Kinnar   12/25/2013 1:57:06 PM
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You are right but I think NI, MyRio also finds a better place as compared to all others listed out there. Here is the link to it.

NI myRIO is an embedded hardware device designed to design real, complex engineering systems it simultaneously allows to test and measure many protocols as well on an FPGA.

 

David Ashton
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
David Ashton   12/25/2013 6:09:00 PM
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@Kinnar.... thanks for the info about NI MyRIO - looks good,Wifi and lots of IO,  but still only 500 KSPS Analog.   I couldn't find a price yet but here's a link (your post did not have one)

http://www.ni.com/pdf/manuals/376047a.pdf

Kinnar
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
Kinnar   12/26/2013 5:37:13 AM
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Various versions of the myRIO platform are available. The price for the student version will be $499 and includes a complete version of LabView software. This is a very good lab for many engineering subjects.

Susan Rambo
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
Susan Rambo   12/25/2013 4:37:48 PM
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Happy Christmas to you, David. Thanks for mentioning the Diligent Analog Discovery. A reader on EDN was asking about it so I was wondering if it was a good one to include. Thanks again. 

MeasurementBlues
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
MeasurementBlues   12/25/2013 11:49:34 PM
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Susan,

I worked for Extech as a design adn applications engineer the late 80s to early 90s. The company was privately owned at the time. Now it's owned by FLIR.

sixscrews
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
sixscrews   1/2/2014 6:58:08 PM
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Inexpensive is the title and yes, they are inexpensive, but that brings to mind the old saw 'you get what you pay for.'  I'm not sure an osclliscope the size of a wristwatch is useful execpt in a pinch - but maybe I'm just an old codger who likes his larger screens.  A lot of these gizmos seem to be small for the sake of being small, not for the sake of functionality.  As someone said, 'now that you have taught the dog to talk, what does it have to say?'

 

wb/ss

_hm
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Re: Inexpensive test gear
_hm   9/26/2014 8:23:15 PM
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@SixScrews: Yes, it is true to some extent. Also, the probe and accessories from them are again expensive - e.g. probes.

Kinnar
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LTSpice is not portable software. Article with good collection of tools
Kinnar   12/25/2013 2:07:50 PM
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LTSpice is not portable software, as it requires an install on a PC or Mac. But yes it is a very good test tool from LT. 

But by the way the tools listed here are very nice collection at a stretch, among them Red Pitaya seems to be of trande setter potential being a open source. Also it is nice of Gabotronics that they have revealed the schematic diagram of the product they are yet to commercially available.

Aeroengineer
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Logging Multimeter
Aeroengineer   12/25/2013 6:51:23 PM
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I had not heard of that logging multimeter till you posted this blog.  That one will be an interesting one to watch here in the future.  Also thanks for the mention of my recent blog post on the Red Pitaya.  I am excited to get some more time to play with it here in the near future.

MeasurementBlues
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Mooshimeter multimeter, page 6
MeasurementBlues   12/26/2013 12:04:19 AM
I just recently heard of this product and I'm trying to get one to review.

http://mooshim-e.com/

humblemeter
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Re: Mooshimeter multimeter, page 6
humblemeter   12/30/2013 12:12:48 PM
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Thanks for your interest!  We've put up some more information on the product here.  Videos coming soon.

http://moosh.im/mooshimeter/

humblemeter
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Re: Mooshimeter multimeter, page 6
humblemeter   1/6/2014 3:10:31 PM
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The Mooshimeter now has a video and a funding campaign:

https://www.dragoninnovation.com/projects/34-mooshimeter

MeasurementBlues
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Re: Mooshimeter multimeter, page 6
MeasurementBlues   1/6/2014 3:35:46 PM
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Nice video. I'd like to get a review Mooshimeter unit. Contact me at martin.rowe@ubm.com. thanks.

selinz
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Re: Mooshimeter multimeter, page 6
selinz   3/7/2014 1:26:42 PM
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About 6 years ago, I purchased a meter (Fluke size) from Radio Shack that could feed a digital out via USB (serial adapter) for $69. Given that you can now purchase a bluetooth based OBDII reader for $10 on Amazon, it seems as though it's not a stretch to expect a respectable multimeter that can connect via bluetooth for well under $100.

Jerrysc
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Pocket oscilloscope
Jerrysc   12/26/2013 10:53:15 AM
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Check out the DS203 on eBay, A pocket size 4 channel 72 MHz bandwidth digital storage oscilloscope for well under $200. 2 analog and 2 digital channels and a signal generator. Open source and upgradable with up to 4 Apps, spectrum analyzer, for example. I have been using one for the last couple of years. Works great! A wrist strap of some sort would be handy to hold it sometimes, Otherwise, no complaints.

TigerBytes1
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Re: Pocket oscilloscope
TigerBytes1   12/27/2013 4:47:14 AM
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Roger that one; even USB (2.0) sound cards can and will pitch fits with ungodly ground noise (E-MU 0404 USB. Yes, Creative Labs, after years of getting it right, bent me, sold me their "end-of-life" crap after one-year-plus of promises; Amazoo, $185).  Been there: One solution is to lift the COMPUTER ground, which EE's, myself included, would rather not; two, is put'm CLOSE and ground'm all with HEAVY braid.  My 'lab' of all trades is EMI-noisy so I use both, and it works for me.

Researched it 'til i'm worth << $1/day, mainly because of the market potential.  May still be a huge market there as USB 3.0 has the SAME PROBLEM (480Mb/s a problem?  Imagine 5Gb/s or so...)  Read Ethernet does not have said ground issues necessarily, could be Firewire either; stopped right there as I simply want to do loudspeaker T/S parameters, audio spectrum analysis, DSP galore, stuff like that.

Still looking for the audio spectrum analyzer S/W; must be the best, free is a non-issue...

AI is it, ask IBM, and life is short so somebody else please solve the above.  Thank you kindly.

AZskibum
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Oscilloscope watch
AZskibum   12/29/2013 11:30:27 AM
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I thought it was exciting when companies started offering measurement tools that connected to the iPad, but the oscilloscope watch takes this to a whole new level.

But my question is, who among you would actually connect test leads to the watch while you're wearing it? I suppose it depends on the circuit under test, but I had this humorous vision of a guy testing a high voltage switching regulator with his oscilloscope watch...while still wearing it on his wrist :)

MeasurementBlues
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Re: Oscilloscope watch
MeasurementBlues   12/29/2013 3:51:15 PM
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@AZ, I wondered the same thing. See my comment in Try an oscilloscope for under $200

zewde yeraswork
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value
zewde yeraswork   12/30/2013 9:21:22 AM
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Which of these devices do you think offers the best value for the price? They all seem rather affordable, but then there's the question of usability.

EA4FRB
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Pocket Antenna Analyser
EA4FRB   12/31/2013 8:01:03 AM
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As an additional additional example of inexpensive ($360) and portable test tool, check out the SARK-110 Antenna Analyser. http://sark110.ea4frb.eu

This is a network analyser for reflection measurements intended for antenna analysis, which includes additional features for cable testing (TDR mode) and programmable RF signal generation.

This is the result of a personal project and it has been in the market since early 2012 (except in the US because a potential issue with a patent).

If you are aware about the DSO QUAD oscilloscope, you will notice that the housing is exactly the same (it has been reused from it) but inside is completely different.

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