Tektronix’ MSOs add channels, resolution, large screens and touch interface

June 08, 2017 // By Graham Prophet
For many of today’s measurement tasks, Tektronix has concluded, four channels are not enough; add that to the availability of larger, 15.6-in. high-resolution LCDs with capacitive touch; a higher effective vertical resolution; and the outcome is the mid-range MSO (mixed signal scope) 5 series.

With a feature it is calling FlexChannel, Tek has configured an instrument that has 4, 6 or 8 analogue channels and up to 64 digital channels (each analogue channel can become 8 digital capture channels). Acquisition is by a 12-bit converter; a new custom IC, one per channel, is the basis of the instrument platform, and much of the functionality of the instrument resides on that single device. There is integrated protocol analysis and a signal generator, and a large, high-definition capacitive touch display with a highly intuitive Direct Access user interface. In this instrument, Tek says, the user interface has been designed primarily for touch operation, rather than touch being added to a “knob-turning” interface (you can still operate the instrument by button and mouse). The traditional controls are therefore relegated to a smaller proportion of the panel, but they do show touches such as multi-colour LEDs around controls to indicate the channel selected.


5 Series scopes can be updated and reconfigured with up to eight channels, and FlexChannels offers digital channels “when needed”; some scopes, Tek observes, offer the option of adding digital channels post-purchase, but even then, it's a fixed quantity of digital channels that can't be changed as needs evolve. In many instruments, analog and digital channels are sampled at different rates, triggered using separate hardware, and stored in different-sized records, making precise comparisons impossible. By default, the input is a TekVPI connector that accepts all TekVPI analog probes, but when the new TLP058 Logic Probe is connected the input is converted to 8 digital channels. The user can add as many logic probes as they need, enabling anywhere from 8 to 64 digital channels. Digital signals are sampled, triggered, and stored the same as analogue signals, greatly simplifying comparisons. The 12-bit ADC yields an effective number of bits displayed figure of 7.5 at 1 GHz; via signal processing there is an enhanced, 16-bit high