The next generation oscilloscope for accelerated insight

Author : Jithu Abraham | Product Manager, Oscilloscopes | Rohde & Schwarz

01 November 2022

Electronics & wireless T&M expert, Rohde & Schwarz is extending its oscilloscope portfolio with the R&S MXO 4 series, which it says represents a once-in-a-decade engineering breakthrough.

This article was originally featured in EPDT's H2 2022 Test & Measurement supplement, included in the November 2022 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

The new scopes deliver industry leading hardware performance, previously only available to higher performance instruments, and blend in superior software functionality and value, says Jithu Abraham, Product Manager for oscilloscopes at Rohde & Schwarz. All this is designed to give engineers accelerated insight into their electronic designs, helping them deliver industry-leading products to market efficiently and quickly.

Oscilloscopes play a key testing role in electronic labs. While Rohde & Schwarz has more than 85 years of experience equipping test labs with high-quality instruments, it wasn’t until 2010 that the company expanded its test & measurement (T&M) product range with its first digital oscilloscope, the R&S RTO1000. With subsequent additional introductions of oscilloscope instruments, probing and applications, the company now offers the newest portfolio ranging from 70 MHz to 16 GHz bandwidth. As a privately-owned company, Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) has more flexibility in making long-term deep technology investments that have resulted in several technology milestones (listed at the end of this article) on the journey to become a major player in the oscilloscope market. Today, users can choose from many different models and configuration options in the R&S oscilloscope portfolio, from entry-level instruments for educational applications to handheld and high-end lab oscilloscopes.

Much of the innovation was exclusive to the higher-performance class of instruments. However, now Rohde & Schwarz adds a completely new oscilloscope series to its portfolio, the R&S MXO 4 series, which brings all the performance from its upper class to the mid-range – and even delivers several industry firsts. The new R&S MXO 4 series oscilloscopes come in four channel models, offering bandwidth of 200 MHz up to 1.5 GHz. It is the first of a new generation of instruments that excel in both performance and value, delivering a once-in-a decade engineering breakthrough for accelerated insight. So, what are the benefits?

Instant view of signal details

Figure 1. R&S MXO 4 oscilloscopes feature an update rate exceeding 4.5 million waveforms/s to discover even infrequent events
Figure 1. R&S MXO 4 oscilloscopes feature an update rate exceeding 4.5 million waveforms/s to discover even infrequent events

The new R&S MXO 4 oscilloscope features the world’s fastest real-time update rate, exceeding 4.5 million waveforms per second, showing more of a signal’s activity than any other oscilloscope. A high update rate increases the likelihood of detecting and displaying signal faults and including them in the overall analysis (see Figure 1). This not only enables development teams to see and isolate infrequent events more quickly – but also get a better understanding of their designs, and ultimately shorten testing times.

This feature, which is unparalleled in the T&M industry, was made possible with a unique 200 Gbps processing ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit – the MXO-EP, see Figure 2), one of several new technology blocks developed by Rohde & Schwarz engineers and implemented in the R&S MXO 4 Series for the first time.

High update rate, however, would be of no use, if the overall instrument was sluggish and unresponsive. The R&S MXO 4 maintains a fast update rate even when complex functions are active, such as automated measurements, spectrum analysis or deep memory acquisitions. The custom ASIC-based signal processing ensures smooth workflows.

Lower measurement noise & highest vertical resolution

All R&S MXO 4 series oscilloscopes incorporate a 12-bit ADC (analogue-to-digital converter) that operates across all sample rates without any tradeoffs. This is a 16x improvement over a traditional 8-bit ADC architecture. Going further, the HD (high definition) mode, implemented in hardware for speed, achieves up to 18-bit vertical resolution, which allows users to see more signal details that would otherwise be masked by noise (see Figure 3). In addition, the R&S MXO 4 offers the lowest noise of just 22 µV AC (RMS) at 1 mV/div.

Figure 2. Rohde & Schwarz incorporated its own 200 Gbps processing ASIC into the new R&S MXO 4
Figure 2. Rohde & Schwarz incorporated its own 200 Gbps processing ASIC into the new R&S MXO 4

The new oscilloscope offers outstanding sensitivity, down to 500 µV/div without any unexpected reduction in bandwidth. It offers the largest offset range (+/- 5V with a 500uV/div scaling on 50 Ohm path without any special probes) in its class to enable users to easily place the signal at the centre of the screen. These attributes enable users to see DC and other signals with more precision than any other oscilloscope in the market.

Capture more with the deepest standard memory

Besides bandwidth and sample rate, memory depth is the most important attribute that determines an oscilloscope’s ability to handle a large range of troubleshooting tasks. More acquisition memory gives oscilloscopes the ability to capture more time and retain rated bandwidth information with slower time base settings. With a standard acquisition memory of 400 Mpts on all four channels simultaneously, the R&S MXO 4 Series offers up to 100 times the standard memory of the primary competition. The additional memory also provides extra measurement capability when needed.

The R&S MXO 4 oscilloscope additionally offers segmented memory as standard to efficiently capture signals of interest – and ignore the times of inactivity. Examples include laser pulses, streams of serial bus activity and RF pulses. With History mode available all the time, users can dial back to see previously captured acquisitions or segments. For customers interested in analysing power up/down behaviour, or analysing larger time intervals, an optional memory extension turns on 800 Mpts across two channels.

High-precision digital trigger

Triggering enables reliable capture and display of signals of interest. Nearly all scopes in the market have analogue technology. The measured signal is split into two paths, one for viewing the signal, and a separate one for triggering. The analogue approach doesn’t allow users to trigger on small signal changes – and applying filters to the trigger signal is limited. Rohde & Schwarz made triggering digital, with a single signal path that encompasses both trigger and signal visualisation. Digital triggering proved to be significantly more precise and sensitive than analogue triggering. It offers new possibilities for triggering on extremely fine signal details and filtered waveforms that were previously unavailable to users.

Figure 3. Thanks to 18-bit vertical resolution, users see sharper waveforms, with more signal details that would otherwise be masked by noise
Figure 3. Thanks to 18-bit vertical resolution, users see sharper waveforms, with more signal details that would otherwise be masked by noise

Previously only found in higher performance oscilloscopes at higher price points, digital trigger comes standard with all R&S MXO 4 Series oscilloscopes. Realised with the MXO-EP ASIC, digital triggering implies a common path for the measurement signal and trigger, versus a split path in older analogue trigger architectures. With a trigger sensitivity of 1/10,000 division, it can isolate difficult-to-find small physical layer anomalies in the presence of large signals (see Figure 4). No competitive oscilloscope has this degree of trigger sensitivity for isolated small signals. The digital trigger complements the 18-bit vertical architecture, giving users the ability to fully utilise the precision offered by the R&S MXO 4 Series.

Full access to control all trigger hysteresis settings is another advantage with digital triggers. This provides greater flexibility for determining where to trigger, including how much trigger noise suppression is desired. All this while still maintaining a very short trigger re-arm time of down to < 21 ns.

Superior RF measurement capability

Many engineers who develop products need to debug-in-test both in the time and frequency domain. The designers of the R&S MXO 4 were very cautious to keep spectrum analysis in mind to bring forward fast and powerful analysis capabilities. The instrument is the first oscilloscope ever to achieve 45,000 FFTs (Fast Fourier Transfers) per second, while comparable oscilloscopes deliver less than 10 FFTs per second. This allows capture of spurious spectrum events, especially when performing EMI (electromagnetic interference) debug, fast and easy (see Figure 5).

Configuring the spectrum function on the R&S MXO 4 has been made simple by entering common parameters, such as centre frequency, span or resolution bandwidth (RBW). These settings are independent of the time domain settings, however still time-correlated. A variety of additional functions and measurements are included to make it easier to plot and gain quick insights from the spectrum.

Figure 4. The R&S MXO 4 offers the industry’s most sensitive trigger of 1/10,000 vertical division
Figure 4. The R&S MXO 4 offers the industry’s most sensitive trigger of 1/10,000 vertical division

The pristine RF (radio frequency) characteristics of the R&S MXO 4 balances great spectrum performance with the synchronised time domain view. This capability is included in the base instrument, allowing engineers better visibility of RF signals than with any other oscilloscope in itsclass.

Highly productive user experience

Using an oscilloscope is a visual experience, and users spend significant time viewing the instrument’s display. The R&S MXO 4 series incorporates a 13.3” full-HD capacitive touchscreen, featuring gesture support and an intuitive user interface (UI).

Extensive user feedback and research into the smart device user interface concept led to the development of the R&S MXO 4 series UI. Maintaining close contacts with users and evaluating new usability techniques in mobile touch products outside test & measurement led to a well-structured workflow that allows users to focus on the task at hand, rather than learning a new instrument. The user interface design was architected for a key user requirement to maximise waveform viewing, even when setting dialogs are open.

Its straightforward box design provides enhanced touch ability by allowing users to touch any part of the setting field to change a parameter. The larger touch targets make it easier to work effectively. Alternatively, a mouse and/or keyboard can be used for operation.

Figure 5. The R&S MXO 4 spectrum function offers the familiar interface of a spectrum analyser
Figure 5. The R&S MXO 4 spectrum function offers the familiar interface of a spectrum analyser

Efficiently organised toolbars give quick access to important and most used functions. The intuitive R&S SmartGrid, previously only available on higher performance oscilloscopes, lets users set an individual waveform layout to view all that is important.

Ready for many uses

The instrument’s small footprint, low audible noise at less than a whisper, and VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) mounting, as well as a rackmount kit for installation in integrated environments, make the R&S MXO 4 oscilloscope ideal for any engineering work-space.

For users with more demanding needs, several upgrade options are available. These include 16 integrated digital channels with a mixed signal oscilloscope (MSO) option, an integrated dual channel 100 MHz arbitrary generator, protocol decode and triggering options for a variety of industry standard buses, and other options to extend the instrument’s capabilities.

No oscilloscope is complete without probes. The R&S MXO 4 supports an extensive portfolio of high-quality passive and active probes to address a wide range of measurement tasks. The portfolio of dedicated probes for power measurements includes active and passive probes for the different voltage and current ranges – from µA to kA and from µV to kV. Dedicated power rail probes detect even small and sporadic distortions on DC power rails (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Accessories like near-field probes help with EMI debugging of embedded designs
Figure 6. Accessories like near-field probes help with EMI debugging of embedded designs

The R&S MXO 4 oscilloscope comes in four-channel models with bandwidths of 200 MHz, 350 MHz, 500 MHz, 1 GHz and 1.5 GHz. It has a starting price of €7,600, many unparalleled functions, and excels in both performance and value.

Milestones of Rohde & Schwarz oscilloscopes

In 2010, Rohde & Schwarz, known for its RF testing solutions, expanded into the time domain with the launch of its first oscilloscopes. Time to look back at the biggest milestones by Rohde & Schwarz that changed the world of oscilloscopes:

•    2010: First real-time oscilloscope with a digital precision trigger system, enabling triggering on small signal details that eluded traditional analogue triggers.

•    2010: Industry’s first 10 GHz single-core AD converter, enabling the best RF measurements with the highest SFDR.

•    2010: Industry’s lowest frontend noise on a 4 GHz oscilloscope, for accurate results.

•    2010: Industry’s first custom ASIC that delivers 1 Mio waveforms/s, to quickly find signal faults.

•    2012: First oscilloscope with an integrated spectrum analysis-like FFT, to deliver effective RF debug.

•    2014: First oscilloscope with up to 16-bit vertical resolution, allowing the ability to isolate every detail you can see.

•    2015: First handheld oscilloscope offering a 10-bit ADC and lab performance in a rugged, portable design with isolated inputs.

•    2017: First entry-level oscilloscope with a 10-bit ADC, enabling a greater signal resolution.

•    2019: First oscilloscope with the ability to trigger on a de-embedded signal with real-time de-embedding.

•    2019: First real-time oscilloscope with TDR capabilities, allowing characterization of electrical signal paths.

•    2020: Industry’s most novel signal-model-based approach to decomposing and analysing jitter components.

•    2022: First oscilloscope with real-time update rate exceeding 4.5 million waveforms/s, showing more of a signal’s activity than any other oscilloscope.

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