Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes



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Portable Handheld Oscilloscopes


A handheld oscilloscope is a type of portable oscilloscope that’s lightweight, compact, and small enough to be held in one or both hands, as opposed to remaining stationary on a benchtop.

Unlike PC-based USB oscilloscopes (another type of portable oscope), handheld oscilloscopes do not require an external computer to power and display measurements. Instead, these self-sufficient scopes are equipped with their own battery power and include a built-in display and button interface.

Handheld oscilloscopes are popular for their budget-friendliness, portability, and overall convenience. In general, they’re less expensive than benchtop oscilloscopes, even when compared to benchtop units with similar specifications and capabilities.

Handheld scopes also tend to have simple, intuitive interfaces, making them a great beginner-friendly option. Many handheld oscilloscopes offer additional capabilities, like a built-in multimeter, FFT analysis, data logging, and a waveform generator. Oscilloscope multimeters are commonly handheld. 

Originally, handheld oscilloscopes were just wide enough to fit in one hand, but companies like OWON have started to provide tablet-sized oscilloscopes, which feature much larger screens and resemble the size and shape of an iPad or Android tablet.


Traditional handheld oscilloscopes are small enough to be held with one hand, similar to most multimeters. Given the limited space, the user interface and operation tends to be simpler and more intuitive than benchtop oscilloscopes. Most of these portable scopes are battery-powered and include a kickstand and durable, rugged casing. 

While the screen is certainly smaller than benchtop units, many handheld oscilloscopes can transfer measurements to an external device, such as a PC, so you can view data in more detail.  Despite their compact size, handheld oscopes are often multifunctional, combining an oscilloscope and multimeter in one unit. Some handheld oscilloscopes even come with waveform generator capabilities!


Originally, handheld oscilloscopes were designed to fit in the palm of your hand. A newer type of portable oscilloscope is the tablet oscilloscope, which features a much larger screen, but is still compact, lightweight, and easy to use on the go. Many tablet oscilloscopes offer touchscreen operation, which can provide more customization and measurement capabilities than other handheld oscilloscopes. Touchscreens can also eliminate the need for buttons, making it possible to have wider screens. 


USB or PC-Based oscilloscopes, such as most automotive oscilloscopes and the recent pen-type oscilloscopes, are another kind of budget-friendly portable scope. PC-based oscilloscopes don’t include built-in screens but connect to a PC via USB in order to operate and display measurements.

While not handheld per se, USB oscilloscopes are still an attractive alternative to benchtop oscilloscopes because of their budget-friendliness and compact size. They’re easy to transport, but do require a PC to operate.  

  • Portability: Compact and lightweight, handheld oscilloscopes are perfect for fieldwork or troubleshooting in places with limited space or access to electrical power.
  • Budget-friendly: Handheld Oscilloscopes tend to be more cost-effective than benchtop units, making them especially popular among hobbyists and students.
  • Quick set-up and User-friendly: Designed for fieldwork, handheld scopes are often easy to set up so you can start measuring right away. The interface and operation can be more straightforward than benchtop units, which is one reason why handheld oscilloscopes are considered beginner-friendly.
  • Versatile and Multifunctional: Although not always the case, many handheld oscilloscopes include additional features, like a multimeter, waveform generator, data logger, and FFT analysis.
  • Space-saving: Handheld oscilloscopes take up much less space than benchtop units. Most come with a kickstand, so you can use the portable oscilloscope at your workstation and easily store away once finished.
  • Durable: Portable oscilloscopes are rugged and designed to travel well.
  • Limited performance: Handheld oscilloscopes may come with lower sampling rates and bandwidths when compared to benchtop models. 
  • Smaller screen size: It can be more challenging to observe details and analyze waveforms compared to larger benchtop displays. However, tablet oscilloscopes can offer displays as large as those found in stationary units.  
  • Fewer input channels: Many handheld oscilloscopes are limited to one or two channels, although some units offer up to four. 
  • Limited measurement capabilities: Advanced or specialized measurements found in high-end benchtop oscilloscopes are not always present or possible in handheld units.