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Using the U1604B

Question asked by PVSed on Jun 22, 2011
Latest reply on Jun 24, 2011 by whitewing
Hi, all. This week I received my new U1604B. I bought it mainly because I was looking for a device, able to monitor voltages over a longer period (about one week and longer). After being disappointed with my new Tek TPS2024 (in the way that it lacks many possibilities of my old HP 54645A which I still like very much (trigger possibilities, integrating math,...) and isn't so user-friendly), and being not so amused with the always bad battery-management of the different Fluke scopemeters I 've got over time, I decided to buy the U1604B. The U1604B is much advised as oscilloscope, multimeter and logger.

Well these my first impressions of it. I hope that I'm wrong in certain assumptions or that I overlooked something and that the instrument is useable, but otherwise the shortcomings are so enormous that it simply isn't quite useable. 

Using it as a logger:
You only get a small graph with a uninteresting automatic scale you cannot change/zoom in, not vertically (value), not horizontally (time). I want to monitor a lithium batter of 3,6V. The scale of the graph is from -6 to +6V: so you cannot see much detail.
After you have done the test you cannot save the measurements in any way, you have only the small plot. You can taking a photo of it with a compact camera or so, but no means to back it up for later analysis. What's the point of having a logger when you don't see details on the screen, and you cannot do anything with any data afterwards? Nor can you use an interesting plot for ilustration purposes?

Having bought also the option for USB-host, I can connect a USB-flash-memory to the U1604B. This way, the U1604B can save the recorded values to the USB-flash. Problem solved you could think: by inserting a USB-stick you can have all recorded data points on your stick and so, you can analyse them in another software (not the Agilent software as this does not import the CSV-file) for example Excel. A disadvantage is that while the values are being saved (first to internal memory - only afterwards to USB-stick) all other functions are blocked: you cannot see the minimum, maximum or average value anymore. Another more important disadvantage is that even when you choose to save as little samples as possible (every 10 seconds) the memory is full after about 24hours and the saving stops.

I hope someone can tell me I'm wrong on this, but I don't think anyone will argue with me when I say this is not a good stand-alone-logger. Maybe connected to the agilent software, you could log more and longer, but if I wanted to have a system existing of a PC and a kind of measuring interface, I would have looked at cheaper systems like Pico. You would expect that an Agilent product should do what Agilent tells you it does.

Using it as an oscilloscope:
I didnt use is much as an oscilloscope yet, but apparently the trigger point cannot be set to the right or the left side of the screen if the timebase is slower than 50ms/div, nor can a time-delay be set, other than zero. This makes triggered operation with slow time-bases very annoying as you have to wait until the pre-trigger memory is filled: as the trigger point is five divisions from the left (unchangeable in the middle of the screen), you have to wait at least five divisions before the U1604 can accept a trigger edge. So, in fact 'roll' is the only practical option left in case of slow timebases.

A little bug: In oscilloscope-mode: the graphical representation of the trigger level isn't always cleared from the screen: when changing the trigger level, the screen was filled with different red horizontal lines. I only got rid of them by switching the U1604 off and on again.

So, this are the first impressions after using the instrument for some hours (and more time spending in the manual). I hope that someone can correct me on those shortcomings, but otherwise this could well end being one of the most regrettable purchases of my career.