Micsig MS510S 2 Channel Handheld Oscilloscope Review

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The Micsig MS510S 2 Channel Handheld Multifunctional Oscilloscope is portable unit has two fully isolated 100MHz scope inputs, a built-in isolated multimeter, 14.5cm (5.7”) color touch-screen, up to 190k waveform updates per second, 240k points memory and a battery life of up to 7 hours. It’s supplied with a pair of isolated probes for measuring up to 600V (Cat II).

As portable scopes go, this handheld oscilloscope offering from Micsig has a lot of good features and reasonably priced. One of the reasons this review was written was that we recognized how useful it is to have a scope with two fully isolated channels; this makes it much easier to make measurements at two different points in a circuit which may not necessarily have the same ground reference.

However, you do have to be a bit careful using an isolated scope because you can possibly have a high voltage not only between the input signal and ground but between those grounds and from each ground to earth. So the probes and inputs need to be well-insulated to prevent accidental shocks.

The Micsig MS510S unit does not disappoint as it is supplied with two insulated probes that shroud the BNC connector shields, earth clips and test probes (to the extent possible). These are 500MHz, 10:1 types rated for 300V CAT III and 600V CAT II.

First impressions of the overall user interface are good. The screen has good contrast and color and is easy to read indoors; it has an outdoor color scheme which helps for reading in sunlight. However the lack of an anti-reflective coating on the display means it would work a lot better with a hood or under shade. The unit boots up fast – in just a couple of seconds – and responds to button presses pretty quickly. So it doesn’t feel sluggish to use.

While the touch-screen can be used to perform many functions such as moving along the timebase, moving traces up and down, zooming into portions of the waveform and selecting measurements to display, virtually all functions can also be performed using the front panel buttons and side jog wheel. The operation of this unit is quite different to most benchtop scopes but users will quickly figure out the controls and get used to them. Like most digital scopes, it has soft buttons (F1-F4) which drive the on-screen menus.

The control layout below these buttons is pretty simple and the function of most buttons is self-evident. This oscilloscope is 165mm wide, 255mm tall, 62mm deep (not including side carry strap) and weighs 1.7kg. It has a tilting stand at the back to prop it up on a flat surface. Supplied accessories include the two probes, a set of multimeter leads, mains charger, user manual and PC software on CD and warranty card.

Oscilloscope Functions

Each channel of the Micsig MS510S oscilloscope has a selectable sensitivity of 5mV-50V/division so with the supplied 10:1 probes, that gives a range of 50mV-500V per division. The sampling rate is 1GS/s with one channel active and 500MS/s with two. As stated earlier, storage is 240Kpoints total so with both channels active it can store 120K samples. Channel bandwidth can be restricted to 20MHz if required and each channel can be AC or DC coupled.

This oscilloscope uses a 9-bit ADC which is slightly better than bargain basement oscilloscopes (including desktop models) which typically use an 8-bit ADC. As such, when the bandwidth is set to 20MHz, the traces are quite clean, however there is still a fair bit of noise evident with 100MHz bandwidth (this setting affects both channels simultaneously). You can of course enable averaging to reduce noise with repetitive signals; this is also enabled for both channels at once. By default, the oscilloscope has trace persistence, which can be handy in some circumstances as it allows you to see the ‘spread’ of the signal, i.e. – to get an idea of jitter in a digital signal or amplitude stability in an analog signal.

But sometimes you want to turn it off to get a ‘cleaner’ looking trace – unfortunately, we can’t figure out how to do that with this unit. The minimum persistence setting is 100ms. This isn’t a huge problem but it does seem to be an oversight in the software. (As of this posting, Micsig is working on a solution for this issue).

You can display up to four measurements in oscilloscope mode, selected from a large list and these appear at the top of the screen, overlapping the graticule. They’re updated a couple of times a second. The unit also has basic X/Y cursors that can be enabled and moved around in the usual way. Typical trigger options are available, including Edge, Pulse, Logic (ie, high/high, high/low, etc), Video (including high definition) and Serial Bus. The hold-off time is adjustable as is the trigger coupling (AC/DC).

Serial Bus Decoding

While this is not a mixed signal oscilloscope, it does have an option to decode various serial buses and trigger on the contents of the packets. This includes serial, LIN, CAN, SPI and I2C although given the fact that there are only two channels, it’s more suitable for I2C than say SPI.

Multimeter Functions

The built-in multimeter of the Micsig MS510S is easy to use because of the large touch-screen. It’s easy to switch modes by pressing on their icons and the numeric display is large. One aspect we particularly like is that it auto-ranges almost instantly, which overcomes one of the biggest arguments against auto-ranging meters (which, let’s face it, are pretty much standard now).

However, there is one major drawback apart from the modest 4-digit resolution and that is that you need an external accessory to do current measurements – either a shunt or a hall-effect sensor (clamp meter). These are available as accessories; however Micsig does not currently list them or have a price. So that probably means you need a multimeter on hand, in addition to the Micsig MS510S. But that’s not to say the multimeter functions are useless – far from it.

It offers DC and AC voltage in ranges such as 500mV, 5V, 50V along with a maximum of 1000V DC and 750V AC (20kHz bandwidth). The multimeter inputs are fully isolated from the scope inputs. It also does statistics (minimum/average/maximum) and has a bar graph in addition to the numerical read-out.

Other modes include resistance (0-50MΩ), continuity (50Ω threshold), diode test (up to 3.5V), capacitance 100pF-50ΩF), temperature and humidity (requiring an external sensor accessory) and pressure (also requiring an external sensor accessory).

One nice feature of the Micsig MS510S oscilloscope is that the multimeter inputs can also double as calibration outputs for the probes. Small adaptors are supplied to make the connections.

Data Logging

The Micsig MS510S also has a “Recorder” mode where it can log readings from either the meter or oscilloscope input(s). When logging from the meter, you can choose from DC volts, AC volts or DC+AC volts. You can also log DC amps, AC amps, temperature, humidity and pressure but all these extra modes require the appropriate accessory.

The readings are displayed in an automatically-scaled horizontally scrolling chart format and the data can then be saved to a USB flash drive (in an “.MMR” file format) or in a screen grab of the chart. It can be set to either stop storing data when full, or set to a circular buffer mode where it overwrites the earliest data with later data once storage space is exhausted.

For data logging from the oscilloscope input(s), it can either log a low-frequency view of the two input channels or alternatively, it can log one or two of the scope measurements. In the latter case, you need to first enable the measurements you require on the appropriate channels, then about five hours to reach full charge.

Conclusion

As portable oscilloscopes go, the Micsig MS510S is a pretty attractive proposition. Even for bench-top use, the dual isolated channels and ability to easily move it around are quite useful features. While we would like to see a couple of software tweaks and an anti-glare coating on the screen, it’s a very flexible instrument with good overall performance and a responsive user interface.

While the Micsig MS510S is not light, it can be operated hand-held and with the protective rubber surround, appears to be robust enough for field use.

For applications where performance is not so critical, the Micsig MS-310IT oscilloscope is a more economical option. The main difference is the waveform update rate – the Micsig MS510S has 190K samples/second and the Micsig MS310IT only has 50Ksamples/second. Micsig also has the MS-200T series oscilloscopes are even more economical, but as with the MS310IT oscilloscope, this series does not feature isolated inputs.

Established in 2004, NorthTree Associates (Cologne, MN) is a North American distributor that provides unique Electronic Test & Measurement tools for design engineers, test engineers and production engineers.

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