Is it worth dropping $400 on a shiny new Rigol DS1054Z scope?

I will describe my situation: I am a hobbiest that likes to make cool projects, and plan to get into maybe RF analog stuff, (maybe start out with making a few FM bugs, reverse engineer a simple video transmitter kit, and a few other things.) as well get into arduino some more, AC analysis (learn about Xformers, power factor, maybe some math, etc.) and I so currently have an old 2ch. 30MHz analog oscilloscope that is a PITA to make real measurements with. Not only is it huge and takes up a lots of space, but also I'm not even sure it is in cal!) I will be transferring into UVA (or maybe VT) for EE, and gone this summer for a NASA internship at langley. (maybe I will be able to take it with me w/ a toolbox of some electronics stuff!)
The scope I am looking at (what appears to be what many subscribers seem to use, and/or claim is pretty good) is the Rigol DS1054Z. I only know how to use my $30 30MHz BKprecision scope I got on craigslist from the son of a father who was a TV repairman, and have NO experience with the use of the fancy-shmancy digital scope! What little I know is from watching EEVblog review of other scopes in the past. (I do know that they can be useful for 'capturing' waveforms, and can be set up to trigger on a pulse, maybe a certain digital codes, and that could come in handy for reverse engineering crap.)
What sells it to me, being a complete newbie to electronics and digital scopes is that it has a nice big screen, the specs seem good (other certainly think, I have no intuition of what any of those things mean except the bandwidth, and maybe the sampling rate, 1GSa/s), 4 channels, intensity graded display, and it has loads of functions and stuff for me to grow into, and hacking it to make it think it is a DS1104Z is tempting, but I probably will not do that right away. Maybe once I feel what it offered is limiting.
The deal breakers is the $400 price, a bit steep for me (cheap for something this good, apparently but still.), the fear that by the time I really start using it, it will be obsolete and the same money can buy some quantum super duper ASIC tech whiz bang 3GHz 100Gsa/s 1GB segmented memory spectacular scope!
I am not really sure if it has a source, or signal generator either. Some sources claim that higher end ones do, or certain models anyway, and it seems like the official site say's no.
http://www.rigolna.com/products/digital-oscilloscopes/ds1000Z/ds1054z/ That brings me to my next point. Should I also get a decent function generator? 

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DavidA2871 year ago

I def recommend you get one of these if you havent already done so. I was in the same boat, just getting into hardware in my case. I was a little hesitant on price too but then I considered long term. As I grow if I spend $200 now for something cheap....down the road I would need to spend another 300, 400, 500+ on another scope. At the end I went with the DS1054z. I actually found a deal from tequipment.net (recommended by eevblog). They sent me the scope for less than $399 (they have an edu discount ), I got a free bag to carry it (again as a master's student I was always traveling) and it was free shipping so cant beat that. Looked it up on amazon, these guys had the better deal.

My experience so far has been amazing. The screen is awesome. Prob my favorite one out of all the scopes ive used so far. Its clear, sharp and shows everything I need at once. The hack you mentioned to upgrade to 100hz is easy to do. Just google it. Took me about an hour. The scope has been solid. I have used it for prototyping, troubleshooting and doing repairs. I couldn't be happier with the scope. Also for what you are getting it is so worth the investment. To think I almost spent $800 on a comparable model..

-max- (author)  DavidA2871 year ago

I had a bit of an accident with one of the probes that it came with though, When I wasn't paying attention, I let the coax cable get a bit too close to a hot soldering iron, and it melted almost all the way through!!! So I only have 3 'trustworthy' probes now, and I repaired the damaged one by twisting the center conductor back together, using heatshrink to insulate it, and stripping lots of stranded wires to create shielding between the 2 ends. I tested the nasty looking repair, it appears to have no problems with noise or signal integrity. But I moved that probe over from my first channel to last channel since I don't trust that probe anymore. If it stops working again, I'll just toss it and get a new one. Luckily though it does not seem to perform any worse than the other probes.

-max- (author)  DavidA2871 year ago
Yup, I already bought it almost a year ago, But I got it off of amazon from TEquipment seller. Damn I wish I took advantage of the student discount!!! Didn't know that was a thing! I've been very happy with it too, though on mine the screen is a little darker than I would have hoped. Also after the hack, the new lowest setting has like a 100mV offset on it that will not go away even with self-calibration. But I read elsewhere that that is due to a hardware missing/unpopulated parts, etc. The only thing I would wish it had was a built-in source, like the real 1104z. Oh well, can't complain too much for the deal!

I recently got a 2CH digital scope and am quite happy with it.
Did not see any need for a 4CH version.
As with many cheap digital scopes it is often enough to buy the slowest variation out there and to upgrade the firmware to get a 100 or even 200mHz scope.
Sure they offer quite good features that you don't see on an old analog one but there are downsides as well.

They take a moment to display your wave, especially when using the auto setup functions and being digital it also means you sometimes have to compensate for noise and problems you simply don't have on an anaolg one.
Take the graphic "games" as a really good example.
Oscillofun works great and perfect on your old analog scope but on digital one you are cluttered by "unwanted" pixels on the screen.
400$ is dirt cheap and taken the 10 year life span of modern electronics you will replace it sooner or later.
A signal generator is certainly a nice thing to have - if you have good use for it, if I really need a quick and simple generator I misuse my soundcard for it.
Mine is the Siglent SDS1102CML.
For serious use an upgrade to proper probes is required and maybe a better software for the PC, although I don't really need the remote functions.
You might want to check some other brands and if on a budget check the options of firmware upgrades to change a low MHz model to the fastest one.
Rigol, Agilent, Siglent and even the Teledyne models are often "modable", some can even use the firmware of the Teledyne models without any modifications.

-max- (author)  Downunder35m2 years ago

Thats why I already have a analog scope, but the good ($$$) digital scopes do have intensity graded displays and antialiasing , not perfect, but supposedly good. This one has 64 levels, and if dave says it is really good, I will take his word! He is a real critic pointing out every little thing! What I really like is the ability to capture waves, one immediate use I can think of is determining the resonant freq. of a Tesla coil secondary or misolanius Xformer or LC circuit by pulsing the coil with 12 or so volts to see ringing, and capture it. Therfore avoiding the nasty calculations and having to guess the capacitace and calculate theoredical inductance. With the integration and other math features I may also learn about capacitors and inductors and stuff.

Have you used a 4 channel scope ever? (I would not be surprised if it is one of those things that once you have it, you will never go back...) Although for me 2 channels is not too limiting, it supossedly will come in handy for debugging serial interfaces, which may be something fun, hands on way to learn about SPI, UART, I2C, etc. with my multiwii board flight controller based on arduino. Although sadly when all 4 channels are enabled, it drops to 250MSa/s :(. I think it still might even be fast enough to do basic USB stuff, but I am not sure.

I don't want to miss the features of a digital one but am still looking for a cheap analog one, although more for nostalgic reasons.
Sure a digital makes testing easier and the options of freezing, importing and even sending waveforms to a generator are great - but only if have good use for them.
For me it was a learning curve to adjust to the differences and options.
They are powerful tools :)

-max- (author)  Downunder35m2 years ago

I picked up a BKprecision 30MHz scope on craigslist for $30, it took a long time to come across that deal though. Nice scope but I am not sure if it is in cal, as I do not have anything to compare it against, and I learned how to use all its features (not many) within a day or two.

You sure ? Every scope I've seen has a "Cal" pin, to set probes.

-max- (author)  steveastrouk2 years ago

I twiddled the knobs to make it match up with the square wave output thing but I am not sure if that brings all ranges in cal, or if even the output of it is correct... I guess scopes are not supposed to a accurate frequency counter.

Generally, it should be good enough. A scope was not a precision measurement device, just the only way to "see" electricity. Modern scopes are OK as frequency measurement devices, but not as voltage measurement devices.

Have to agree.
The frequenzy counter on mine might not be perfect but every wave I tried from my soundcard was identified and measured correctly.
Of course I could not test the frequenzies above that but an some known signals it still showed the correct values.

Calculations on the scope work fine too, if you ever figure out the correct way without reading the manual at the same time LOL
For me the only downside is the "noise".
Where any analog scope shows a clear pic the digital picture can disapear in a cloud of pixels.
These nice intros using the XY mode are prime examples for this.
But have to admit that for normal use this can be neglected as a lot of it can be compensated with filters.

-max- (author)  Downunder35m2 years ago

I cannot clain it is true to do my lack of expertize in the feild, but my understanding it that digital scopes only appear noisier, when really, they are not.

I've never NEEDed 4 channels, which isn't to say 4 might have been nice, but my PC based PicoScope MSO has worked very well for me. .

-max- (author)  steveastrouk2 years ago

In what cases would you say that 4 channels offer a significant advantage to a 2ch one? Assuming no access to a logic analyzer or MSO fuctionality?

4 channels isn't really enough to nail a serious logic issue, so its no better than a 2 in my view.


Its the gray matter that guides the trigger and probes to lock down a glitch.

Ive rarely scoped an only SMT PCB mostly mixed with through hole.

There is always an output that can be tripped in tempo SADW to make a trigger before an event to let probes track the gremlin.

Often solving the cause in very easy code.