Scope Review: Keysight 1000 X-Series

A few weeks ago we published an article on the newly released Keysight 1000 X series. A scope that marks Keysight’s late but welcome entry into the hacker-centric entry-level market. Understandably, this scope is causing a lot of excitement as it promises to bring some of the high-end pedigree of the well-known 2000 X and 3000 X series down to a much affordable price. Now couple that with the possibility of hacking its bandwidth lock and all this fuss is well justified.

[Dave Jones] from the EEVblog got his hands on one, and while conducting a UART dump saw the scope report 200 MHz bandwidth despite being labelled as a 100 MHz model. He then proceeded to actually hack the main board to unlock an undocumented 200 MHz bandwidth mode. This created a lot of confusion: some said [Dave] got a “pre-hacked” version, others assumed all 100 MHz versions actually have a stock bandwidth of 200 MHz.

Alongside the question of bandwidth, many wondered how this would fare against the present entry-level standard, the Rigol 1054Z. Is the additional cost and fewer channels worth the Keysight badge?

Keysight’s response to our queries and confusion was the promise to send us a review unit. Well, after receiving it and playing around with it, clearly a lot of Keysight’s high-end excellence has trickled down to this lower end version. However, this machine was not without some silly firmware issues and damning system crashes! Read on the full review below.

Out of the Box:

In addition to the scope, the box comes with a mains cable, two probes, a nice bright yellow envelope containing the calibration certificates and a friendly reminder that its actually Keysight now and NOT Agilent or HP. The supplied probes are nice. The silicone leads feel really nice to the touch, and is a nice change from the stiff PVC insulation we are used to. The probe specs are not anything spectacular, you can switch the attenuation between x1 and x10, and capacitive loading in the x10 mode is a modest 10 pF.

Interestingly, all 100 MHz variants of the scope are suspiciously supplied with 200 MHz probes as standard, yet again alluding to higher than advertised bandwidth. Is this clever marketing to encourage hacking it to the unlock the undocumented 200 MHz bandwidth mode, or simply a ploy to discourage the the 70 MHz variant that is supplied with 75 MHz probes only? Regardless of the intent, this is a commendable gesture.

First Impressions and Layout

As someone who owns a Rigol DS1054Z, the responsiveness of the 1000 X took me by surprise. This scope is snappy. All the menus are swift, and there is no obvious slow down if the screen is cluttered with both channels, the FFT, and a math function. Clearly, the relatively lower sample rate and bandwidth are proving to be a walk in the park for the enclosed Megazoom ASICs, otherwise accustomed to some much more gruelling processing in the higher end scopes. Anyone who hates the sluggish response encountered when offsetting waveforms on low-end scopes will welcome all this speed.

Well laid out: Analysis options neatly grouped

The menus and options are laid out very well and are pragmatically grouped. Knowing HP has been making scopes since the dawn of time, this is certainly no surprise. The buttons respond exactly as you’d expect, and more importantly are consistent across the scope. For example, pressing and holding a button, corresponding to any option/feature in any menu displays a help pop up that explains the options and highlights any details.

Furthermore, a double press always navigates you to the previous menu. All variable entries are done with a single rotary knob. The acceleration implementation is excellent, infact the best I’ve seen in an entry level scope. All the rotary knobs have a centre button, which makes it very intuitive to set default values if needed.

The previous generation of entry level scopes were plagued with horrifically low resolution screens. Thankfully, this has changed and the 1000 X has a nice large screen that is sharp and adequately bright. It is really comforting to the see the industry collectively move away from small dodgy screens in lower end offerings.

Math Functions

The math functions aren’t anything ground breaking. You get all the usual math functions you’d expect and a few interesting others. You have two results you can work with: f(t) is the displayed math function while g(t) is an intermediate math function, that after being defined once, can be used within any subsequent math calculations. This isn’t anything new but I like the way they’ve done it. Rigol for example, makes you redefine the intermediate function for every different operator, which is unnecessarily convoluted.

One of the very interesting math function included is the Low Pass Filter. Watch the video below, to see the scope demodulate an AM signal, using only the math functions!

Can you explain why this works?