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Tracking the top 5 innovations in the new 5 Series MSO

Tue, 2017-06-06 10:03 | by David

If you’ve visited the Tek.com website anytime in the last few weeks, it would be hard to miss the teaser for our new scope – it was a big image on the top of the home page after all. If you clicked on the link in the teaser, you learned that it has a large high-resolution touch screen, but not many more details. Now that the new 5 Series MSO (mixed signal oscilloscope) has officially launched, the wait is over and you can finally get the full run-down on its remarkable feature set on our product launch page.

As you might have gathered from the teaser and some of the online buzz, this is not just another scope introduction. We performed a deep analysis of design engineers’ needs and concluded that meeting those needs would require a completely new platform. That analysis in turn led to the largest development effort in Tektronix’ history. And here we are with a platform that is new in every respect, including:

•       NEW ASIC combines traditional ADC, demux, trigger, and digital acquisition components in a single device. This allows more channels in a single instrument, tighter integration between analog and digital channels, higher vertical resolution, and flexible configurations to meet any debug challenge. The new TEK049, as the ASIC is called, includes 400 million devices and 2 billion connections.

•       NEW lower-noise front-end amplifier

•       NEW hardware architecture

•       NEW software architecture

•       NEW industrial design

•       NEW user interface

That’s a whole lot of new. And within all that new are five clear industry firsts that we think we will have a long-term impact on what engineers expect from an oscilloscope. For this post, I wanted to focus on these five innovations and why they factored in so prominently into the 5 Series MSO design effort.

The new TEK049 ASIC combines traditional ADC, demux, trigger, and digital acquisition components in a single device.

Industry First #1.  Reconfigurable scope inputs (FlexChannel™ inputs)

With nearly all prior mixed signal oscilloscopes, you were limited to a pre-determined number of analog and digital channels. You could get two or four analog channels and on the digital side your choice came down to all 16 digital channels or none. Given these constraints, it was almost a guarantee that engineers were getting the wrong number of channels for their needs.

The goal with 5 Series MSO was to give our customers the flexibility to do whatever it is that they want to do. As you can read about in more detail on the launch site, the new scope offers up to eight FlexChannel inputs so we can basically guarantee that you’re getting the right number of channels for your needs. The flexibility is amazing. You can configure those as eight analog channels and zero digital channels, you can do seven analog channels and eight digital channels, or can do six analog channels and sixteen digital channels.  The goal (and we think we achieved it) was to give you unprecedented flexibility and adaptability to the debug task at hand.

FlexChannel inputs offer unprecedented flexibility and adaptability for whatever debug task you’re facing.

Industry First #2. Product family with 4, 6 or 8 channels

Many common applications require more than four analog channels including 3-phase power electronics, automotive electronics, power supply design and DC to DC power conversion to name a few. In the past, engineers have attempted to get more than one scope to work together to solve a tough design problem. This means they must deal with triggering issues, synchronizations challenges and correlation problems.

The 5 Series MSO breaks through the 4-channel barrier with models offering six or eight channels in the same series. And while you might assume that a six or eight channel scope would cost 50% or 100% more than a four-channel scope, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that six channel models are only ~25% more than four channel models and eight channel models are only ~67% more than four channel models. The additional analog channels can pay for themselves quickly by enabling you to keep current and future projects on schedule.

Industry First #3: 15.6” HD (1,920 x 1,080) display with capacitive touch

It’s no secret that engineers love large displays on their oscilloscopes – and the 5 Series MSO delivers with the industry’s first 15.6-inch capacitive touch, high definition (1920 x 1080 px) display. That’s double the viewing area of a scope with a 10.4-inch display so you can see many signals at once while still having room to look at readouts and setting details.

Of course, we didn’t stop at just adding a big display and calling it good. We’ve added a new stacked display mode that overcomes some of the tradeoffs inherent in traditional overlay mode including a reduction in the available ADC range and challenges setting up the display. With the stacked mode, waveforms are visually separated in horizontal slices that are automatically added or removed. Each slice represents the full ADC range for the waveform.

In the upper screen, each waveform uses a fraction of the ADC range. In stacked mode, below, each “slice” uses the full range of the ADC.

Industry First #4: User interface actually designed for touch

For most scopes, the user interface has typically been an evolution of the prior user interface. So when scope manufacturers decided to add a touch screen to their instruments, the user interface didn’t change much. You could do a few things like close a window or access a menu using your fingers instead of clicking the mouse, but it was well-removed from being a true touch interface like you expect on a smartphone or tablet.

Not so with the 5-Series MSO. It has the industry’s first oscilloscope user interface truly designed for touch with support for all the gestures you expect like pinch, zoom, swipe, drag and so on. The interface is modelled after touch interfaces found on smartphones and tablets with key functions easy to access without digging through menu layers.

Since this represented a new way of interacting with an oscilloscope, the UI design team performed extensive user testing. In one test, the team took away the front panel, mouse and keyboard and made users do everything with the touch screen. Even engineers who were die-hard front panel users found the touch interface simple, effective and even enjoyable. As one UI designer commented, “People may come to it with one eyebrow raised and then within a matter of minutes, they’re going to have a smile on their face.”

The 5 Series MSO has the industry’s first scope user interface designed from the outset for touch, making for simple, intuitive scope operation.

Industry First #5: Optional Windows operating system

For the majority of scope users, the preference for the scope operating environment is binary. In one camp are those who simply want a dedicated scope. In the other are those who see built-in Windows as a non-optional requirement for running applications like Matlab or for in-depth analysis.

The 5 Series MSO is the first oscilloscope that will make both camps happy: it can operate as either a dedicated scope or in an open-Windows configuration.  You can make the switch simply by adding or removing an SSD with Windows installed on it from an access panel. With the SSD removed, the instrument boots as a dedicated scope. When the SSD is present, it boots Windows. Whether you choose to run Windows or not, the oscilloscope operates the same way with the same look and feel and UI interaction.

The future of scopes is here

We hope you’re excited about the 5 Series MSO as we are. Simply put, the journey to unprecedented oscilloscope flexibility and more visibility into complex embedded systems than ever before starts now. It’s the first scope fully capable of meeting today’s design challenges with the upgradeability, performance and versatility to meet the challenges of the future as well. 

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