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How to Choose the Best Oscilloscope to Buy

Looking for the right oscilloscope for your electronics projects or professional endeavors? This guide provides a clear framework to identify the oscilloscope that best aligns with your requirements, whether you're a seasoned engineer, a student, or an electronics hobbyist. We'll explore key parameters such as bandwidth, sample rate, and rise time, ensuring you make an informed choice that enhances the precision and efficiency of your measurements.

What are oscilloscopes used for?

An oscilloscope, formerly known as an oscillograph (informally scope, oscope, or o-scope), is a benchtop instrument that graphically displays electrical signals and shows how those signals change over time. They are used by engineers to troubleshoot circuits and check signal quality. Most engineers use a digital oscilloscope, which is what we’re going to focus on here. Digital oscilloscopes acquire and store waveforms, which show a signal’s voltage, frequency, the portion of the signal that is noise, whether the signal is distorted, the timing between signals and more.

Basic Parameters for Choosing an Oscilloscope

Oscilloscope Bandwidth

Bandwidth is a key spec that determines the highest frequency your oscilloscope can measure accurately. It's a vital consideration affecting both the functionality and cost of the oscilloscope.

Formula to calculate oscilloscope rise time

The higher the bandwidth, the more accurate the reproduction of your signal, as illustrated with a signal captured at 250 MHz, 1 GHz and 4 GHz bandwidth levels.

Learn More About Bandwidth

How to Calculate Your Bandwidth Needs

When selecting an oscilloscope, a good practice is to use the following formula to ensure you cover the highest frequency component of your signal:

Calculating bandwidth formula 

For example, if your highest signal frequency is 20 MHz, you should consider an oscilloscope with a bandwidth of at least 60 MHz.

Oscilloscope Rise Time

Rise time is crucial for digital applications, indicating the scope's ability to track rapid changes in a signal.


Rise time characterization of a high-speed digital signal.

Learn More About Rise Time

Calculate How Much Rise Time Your Oscilloscope Needs

The rise time of the oscilloscope should be significantly shorter than the fastest rise time in your signal. Use this formula to find a suitable oscilloscope:

For a signal with a 4 ns rise time, the oscilloscope's rise time should be less than 1.33 ns.

Oscilloscope Sample Rate

The sample rate indicates how frequently the oscilloscope samples the signal, impacting the detail of the waveform captured.


A higher sample rate provides greater signal resolution, ensuring that you'll see intermittent events.

Learn More About Sample Rate

Determine the Right Sample Rate for Your Oscilloscope

To choose an adequate sample rate, use the following guideline:

For a signal with a 20 MHz maximum frequency, aim for an oscilloscope with a sample rate of at least 200 MS/s. This ensures a detailed capture of the waveform, facilitating accurate analysis.

Other Considerations for Oscilloscope Selection 

Channel density of an oscilloscope

Digital oscilloscopes sample analog channels to store and display them. In general, the more channels the better, although adding channels adds to the oscilloscope price.

Man choosing the right number of oscilloscope channels


Your application will determine whether you need to choose an oscilloscope with two, four, six, or even eight analog channels. Two channels let you compare a component’s input to its output, for example. Four analog channels let you compare more signals and provides more flexibility to combine channels mathematically (multiplying to get power, or subtracting for differential signals, for example). Oscilloscopes with six or eight channels allows for multiple bus analysis while simultaneously viewing voltage or current type signals in a power related environment.

A Mixed Signal Oscilloscope adds digital timing channels, which indicate high or low states and can be displayed together as a bus waveform. Whatever you choose, all channels should have good range, linearity, gain accuracy, flatness, and resistance to static discharge.

Some instruments share the sampling system between channels to save money. But beware: the number of channels you turn on can reduce the sample rate.

Compatible oscilloscope probes

Good measurements begin at the probe tip. The scope and probe work together as a system, so be sure to consider probes when selecting an oscilloscope.

When taking measurements, probes actually become a part of the circuit, introducing resistive, capacitive, and inductive loading that alters the measurement. To minimize the effect, it’s best to use probes that are designed for use with your scope.

Select passive probes that have sufficient bandwidth. The probe’s bandwidth should match that of the oscilloscope.

A broad range of compatible probes will allow you to use your scope in more applications. Check to see what’s available for the scope before you buy.

Oscilloscope probes for various applications


Passive probes: Probes with 10X attenuation present a controlled impedance and capacitance to your circuit, and are suitable for most ground-referenced measurements. They are included with most oscilloscopes – you’ll need one for each input channel.

High-voltage differential probes: Differential probes allow a ground-referenced oscilloscope to take safe, accurate floating and differential measurements. Every lab should have at least one.

Logic probes: Logic probes deliver digital signals to the front end of a Mixed Signal Oscilloscope. They include “flying leads” with accessories designed to connect to small test points on a circuit board.

Current Probes: Adding a current probe enables the scope to measure current, of course, but it also enables it to calculate and display instantaneous power.

Need help choosing the right probe? See our Probe Selector Guide

Triggering capabilities of an oscilloscope

All oscilloscopes provide edge triggering, and most offer pulse width triggering. To acquire anomalies and make best use of the scope’s record length, look for a scope that offers advanced triggering on more challenging signals.


Oscilloscope trigger displays


The wider the range of trigger options available the more versatile the scope (and the faster you get to the root cause of a problem):

  • Digital/pulse triggers: pulse width, runt pulse, rise/fall time, setup-and-hold
  • Logic triggering
  • Serial data triggers: embedded system designs use both serial (I2C, SPI,CAN/ LIN…) and parallel buses.
  • Video triggering

Oscilloscope record Length

Record length is the number of points in a complete waveform record. A scope can store only a limited number of samples so, in general, the greater the record length, the better.

Time captured = record length/sample rate. So, with a record length of 1 Mpoints and a sample rate of 250 MS/sec, the oscilloscope will capture 4 ms. Today’s scopes allow you to select the record length to optimize the level of detail needed for your application.

A good basic scope for example will store over 2,000 points, which is more than enough for a stable sine-wave signal (needing perhaps 500 points), whilst more advanced high-end scopes would have up to 1Gpoints, which is essential for working with high-speed serial data type applications. 

Oscilloscope waveform capture rate

Waveform capture rate, expressed as waveforms per second (wfms/s), refers to how quickly an oscilloscope acquires waveforms. The waveform capture rates of oscilloscopes vary greatly, so it’s important to find the right one for your application.

Oscilloscopes with high waveform capture rates provide significantly more visual insight into signal behavior, and dramatically increase the probability that the oscilloscope will quickly capture transient anomalies such as jitter, runt pulses, glitches and transition errors.

Digital storage oscilloscopes (DSO) employ a serial processing architecture to capture from 10 to 5,000 wfms/s. Some DSOs provide a special mode that bursts multiple captures into long memory, temporarily delivering higher waveform capture rates followed by long processing dead times that reduce the probability of capturing rare, intermittent events.

Most digital phosphor oscilloscopes (DPO) employ a parallel processing architecture to deliver vastly greater waveform capture rates. Some DPOs can acquire millions of waveforms in just seconds, significantly increasing the probability of capturing intermittent and elusive events and allowing you to see the problems in your signal more quickly. 

Oscilloscope expandability

As your needs change, you want an oscilloscope that can accommodate your needs with application modules and software updates.

If you want to expand the capabilities of your oscilloscope over time, make sure your instrument has everything you need. For instance, some oscilloscopes allow you to:

  • Add memory to channels to analyze longer record lengths
  • Add application-specific measurement capabilities
  • Complement the power of the oscilloscope with a full range of probes and modules
  • Work with popular third-party analysis and productivity
  • Windows-compatible software
  • Add accessories, such as battery packs and rack mounts

Connectivity of an oscilloscope

After you’ve analyzed your oscilloscope measurements, you’ll need to document and share your findings. The connectivity of an oscilloscope delivers advanced analysis capabilities and simplifies the documentation and sharing of results. 

Depending on the oscilloscope, you may have access to standard interfaces (GPIB, RS-232, USB, and Ethernet), network communication modules, or advanced features that allow you to:

  • Create, edit and share documents on the oscilloscope, all while working with the instrument in your particular environment
  • Access network printing and file sharing resources
  • Access the Windows® desktop
  • Run third-party analysis and documentation software
  • Link to networks
  • Access the Internet
  • Send and receive e-mail

Need help choosing an oscilloscope? Download our oscilloscope selector guide or contact the experts at Tektronix to request a demo. If you already have a sense of which oscilloscope to buy, shop Tektronix oscilloscopes today.

Find the Best Oscilloscope from Tektronix for Your Application

Top Oscilloscope for Education & Teaching Labs

TBS1000C DSO oscilloscope front view

Tektronix TBS1000C DSO

Offering affordable performance in a compact design, the TBS1000C digital storage oscilloscope provides the features, versatility and durability required by today's educational institutions, embedded designers, and maker community. 

Bandwidth 50 MHz - 200 MHz 
 Analog Channels 2
 Sample Rate 1 GS/s
  • 7-inch WVGA color display with 15 horizontal divisions shows 50% more signal
  • 32 automated measurements enable fast and convenient testing of a wide variety of signal conditions
  • Dual window FFT with simultaneous time and frequency domain views to understand signal frequency content
  • Disable autoset cursors and measurements
  • Trigger frequency counter
  • Pan and zoom capability to quickly see signal details in an area of interest
  • Multi-language user interface with support for ten languages in the user interface and front panel overlay
  • Small footprint and light weight
  • Fanless design for low noise operation

View Tektronix TBS1000C 2 Channel Digital Storage Oscilloscope

Best Oscilloscope for Portability & Handheld Capability

Angle view of 2 Series MSO Oscilloscope

Tektronix 2 Series MSO

Unlock more space on your bench without compromising performance. At only 1.5 inches thick and less than 4 pounds, the 2 Series MSO is a full featured, real-time touchscreen oscilloscope in a compact, portable form factor that feels like a tablet. On the benchtop, in the classroom, or to the field, take it wherever your measurement challenges take you.

Analog Bandwidth 70 MHz, 100 MHz, 200 MHz, 350 MHz, 500 MHz
Analog Channels 2 or 4
Digital Channels 16 (optional)
Sample Rate 1.25 GS/s - 2.5 GS/s
  • Optional two-slot battery pack supports up to 8 hours of battery life and can be hot swapped in the field.
  • Full suite of capture and analysis capabilities with advanced triggers, search and mark, math and measurements
  • Optional 16 channel MSO, 50 MHz, AFG and 4 bit digital pattern generator
  • Supports decoding, triggering and analysis for the most common serial protocols
  • Industry standard VESA mount for use with various accessories

View 2 Series Portable Mixed Signal Oscilloscope

Oscilloscope Best Designed for Low-Bandwidth RF Analysis (EMI/EMC) & Power Application

Front view of 3 Series MDO

Tektronix 3 Series MDO

With the largest display in class, improved low-level signal measurement accuracy and industry-leading probe performance, the 3 Series MDO sets a new standard for bench oscilloscopes. Whether you’re testing your baseband design for IoT or just for simple EMI sniffing, the 3 Series has a unique true hardware spectrum analyzer built right in with superior RF test performance and guaranteed RF specifications

Bandwidth Up to 1 GHz
Analog Channels 2 or 4
Digital Channels 16
Sample Rate 2.5 GS/s - 5 GS/s
  • TPP Series probes included standard. One per analog channel.
  • Industry-best capacitive probe loading of 3.9 pF
  • 250 MHz, 500 MHz or 1 GHz probe bandwidth depending on instrument bandwidth

View 3 Series Mixed Domain Oscilloscope

Best Oscilloscope for Power Application

Front view of 4 Series B MSO

Tektronix 4 Series B MSO

The versatile 4 Series B MSO has the performance to address tough design challenges and a user interface that works the way you expect. With a new upgraded processor system, it delivers accurate measurements faster with an outstanding range of analysis tools.

Bandwidth Up to 1.5 GHz
Analog Channels 4 or 6
Digital Channels Up to 48
Sample Rate 6.25 GS/s
  • A new processor system for
    • 2X more responsive user interface
    • Faster analysis
    • Faster data transfers
  • New display technology for greater contrast and wider viewing angle
  • New annotations indicate key reference levels and times for measurements
  • Full support for e*Scope browser-based remote access and control
  • 2 new USB 3 host interfaces provide faster data transfers
  • Waveform histograms for greater insight into noise and jitter

View 4 Series B Mixed Signal Oscilloscope

Best Oscilloscope for Power System Design, Wide Bandgap (WBG), SiC/Gan

Front view of 5 Series B MSO

Tektronix 5 Series B MSO

Get a complete view of your design with high-fidelity waveforms, insightful measurements, unique spectrum analysis, and flexible probing. Experience the intuitive user interface appreciated by engineers everywhere.

Bandwidth Up to 2 GHz
Analog Channels 4, 6 or 8
Digital Channels Up to 64
Sample Rate 6.25 GS/s
  • 12-bit resolution at 1.25 GHz; 16-bit resolution at 50 MHz
  • Built-in DDCs enable multi-channel, synchronized spectrum analysis
  • Results tables, measurement statistics, histograms, and trend plot views
  • Support for over 25 serial protocols covering the most common interfaces
  • Advanced single-phase and three-phase power analysis packages
  • Measurement tools for signal integrity and power integrity
  • Optional Windows® operating system lets you run PC software

View 5 Series Mixed Signal Oscilloscope

Top Ranking Oscilloscope for Data, Power, and Advanced Research, Motors, Drives & Inverters (IMDA)

Front view of 6 Series B MSO

Tektronix 6 Series B MSO

For analyzing and debugging systems with GHz clock and bus speeds, the 6 Series B MSO provides the best signal fidelity with the lowest input noise and up to 10 GHz analog bandwidth. With its intuitive touchscreen user interface, a 15.6-inch high definition display and FlexChannel™ inputs, the 6 Series is a high-performance instrument that’s also a pleasure to use.

Bandwidth 1 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 4 GHz, 6 GHz, 8 GHz, 10 GHz

Digital Channels

Up to 64 (optional)

Input Channels

4, 6 or 8
Sample Rate Up to 50 GS/s
  • 15.6 inch, HD capacitive touch display delivers unmatched signal visibility
  • 4 FlexChannel™ inputs can each handle 1 analog or 8 digital signals
  • Lowest noise at high sensitivity
  • >70% noise reduction from previous generation oscilloscopes
  • 12-bit Analog-to-digital converters with enhanced resolution up to 16 bits

View 6 Series Mixed Signal Oscilloscope

Best Oscilloscope Engineered for High-Performance, Mil/Gov, Advanced Communications

DPO70000SX ATI Performance Oscilloscope

Tektronix DPO70000SX Series

Whether you’re at first power-up on your latest design, verifying compliance to the fastest standards, or researching fundamentals of the universe, these oscilloscopes deliver the performance, precision, and tools to get your job done faster.

Analog Bandwidth 8 GHz–33 GHz
Analog + Digital Channels 4 (DPO), 4 + 16 (MSO)
Sample Rate (2/4 Channels) 100/50 GS/s
  • 8 to 33 GHz true analog bandwidth for measurements on the latest high-speed serial standards.
  • 100 GS/s sample rate on 2 channels.
  • 16 logic channels with 80 ps timing resolution for debug of digital and analog signals (MSO70000 models).
  • iCapture - One connection for analog and digital signals (MSO70000 models).
  • Fastest waveform capture rate with >300,000 wfms/s maximum.

View DPO70000SX ATI Performance Oscilloscope

Choosing the Right Oscilloscope for Beginners and Hobbyists

Venturing into electronics projects can be exciting. Having the right tools makes this journey easy and fun. An easy-to-use oscilloscope is important because it helps you see and understand the electronic signals in your projects.

Simplified Testing with Automated Features

Automated measurements can help make your testing process more efficient. Consider oscilloscopes that provide a range of these measurements to easily evaluate different signal conditions, saving you time and making the learning process smoother.

In-Depth Signal Analysis

To gain a better understanding of your signals, opt for an oscilloscope that comes with advanced analysis tools, such as Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). Having both time and frequency domain views can offer insights into your signal's frequency content.

Ease of Use

It's important for an oscilloscope to be straightforward for beginners. Look for models with a clear user interface, multilingual support, and a design that's easy to handle, making your oscilloscope more user-friendly.

Features That Support Learning

Educational Aids

Some oscilloscopes include on-screen help, tutorials, or even integrated handbooks, which can be very helpful for beginners by providing immediate assistance and advice.

Features Tailored for Education

For those in educational environments, there are oscilloscopes with features specifically designed to aid learning, such as the option to turn off complex measurements. This helps learners concentrate on the basics.

Durability and Support

Selecting an oscilloscope from a reputable brand with good support and warranties can offer reassurance. Choose models with reliable technical support and strong warranties to safeguard your purchase.

The TBS1000C: Your Companion in Electronics Exploration

TBS1000C DSO Oscilloscope for beginners and hobbyist

Whether you're a hobbyist just starting out or an educator looking to enrich your students' learning experience, the TBS1000C Oscilloscope is an invaluable tool. Its blend of advanced features, tailored for ease of use, and dedicated educational support make it an ideal choice for navigating the exciting world of electronics. Embrace this journey with the TBS1000C and unlock new possibilities in your electronic explorations.

Explore the TBS1000C

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best oscilloscope to buy?

When looking for the best oscilloscope to purchase, several factors come into play. Consider the bandwidth, sample rate, number of channels, and any additional features that align with your requirements. Popular brands like Tektronix offer a wide range of high-quality options suitable for various applications. For a detailed guide on decision-making factors, you can refer to this comprehensive document that provides in-depth insights into how to classify the best oscilloscope based on your specific needs.

What is the best oscilloscope for beginners?

For beginners, an oscilloscope that strikes a balance between usability and functionality is ideal. Look for models with simple user interfaces, built-in help features, and good overall usability. The TBS1000C 2-channel oscilloscope are often recommended for their user-friendly designs and affordability, making them great choices for newcomers.

What is the importance of bandwidth and sample rate?

Bandwidth and sample rate are two critical specifications for real-time oscilloscopes because they determine the oscilloscope's ability to accurately capture and represent analog signals.

The bandwidth of an oscilloscope defines the range of frequencies it can accurately capture. It is the -3 dB point on the frequency response curve, indicating the upper limit of the signal frequency that can be properly measured. Higher bandwidth oscilloscopes can capture and display signals with higher-frequency components more accurately. Lower bandwidth oscilloscopes may distort or attenuate high-frequency content, leading to inaccuracies in signal representation. The bandwidth of an oscilloscope is closely related to its rise time, which is the time it takes for the voltage to transition from 10% to 90% of its final value. A higher bandwidth oscilloscope has a faster rise time, allowing it to capture and display fast edge transitions more accurately.

The sample rate of an oscilloscope defines how many data points the oscilloscope records per second. Higher sample rates allow the oscilloscope to capture and represent rapid changes in voltage over time. A high sample rate helps prevent aliasing, which occurs when an oscilloscope undersamples a signal with high-frequency components. Incorrect representation of the signal leads to measurement errors. To accurately reconstruct and display a signal on the oscilloscope's screen, you need enough data points within each waveform period. A higher sample rate provides more data points and allows for more precise signal representation.


What triggering options should I look for?

Triggering is essential for capturing specific events in a waveform. Edge and pulse width triggering are standard on most real-time oscilloscopes. The triggering options you should consider depend on your specific measurement needs and the types of signals you'll be working with. Some of the advanced triggering options include pattern trigger, serial bus trigger, runt trigger, hold-off and delay trigger, visual trigger, and more.

What is the difference between analog and digital oscilloscopes?


Analog oscilloscopes represent waveforms using continuous signals, while digital oscilloscopes convert signals into digital data for display. Digital oscilloscopes offer more advanced features, such as signal analysis and storage capabilities, but analog oscilloscopes may be preferred for certain applications due to their simplicity.