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I'm little bit confused. Help me please to make everything clear. I want to buy oscilloscope and found two models suitable for me.

  1. Rigol DS1102E
  2. Rigol DS1102CA

But I don't understand the difference between them. I read that DS1102E has 1 GSa/s sampling rate and DS1102CA has 2 GSa/s. OK. But what does it give in practice? Both oscilloscopes have a bandwidth of 100MHz, so I won't find a difference in picture of signals on screen. Am I right? So could you explain me what is the meaning of 'sampling rate' and 'bandwidth' for modern oscilloscopes? And what is the difference between these things?

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The same bandwidth means they'll both have the same attenuation for signals. It basically means that 100MHz is the cutoff frequency for both scopes.

The samples per second is the resolution of the scope. If you zoom in on a signal the non-interpolated data points will be 0.5 ns apart for the 2GSa/s scope and 1 ns apart for the 1GSa/s. The rule of thumb ere is you can fairly accurately measure a 100MHz signal with the 1GSa/s scope and a 200MHz signal with the 2GSa/s (~10 samples/Hz)

Obviously the more samples then the better representation of your original signal. You'll just have to weigh that with the cost difference.

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While the other answers provide good explanation of what's actually happening, I think that they both miss the point of having 2 GSa/s on a 100 MHz scope.

The main point of interest is the way scopes generally do sampling. They often have a number of analog to digital converters which can be connected to different channels. The process which they often use to sample the signals is called interleaving. Basically the converters are set so that first one converter takes a sample of signal on a channel and starts processing it, then the next converter takes sample of the signal and starts processing it, then the third and so on until all converters took a sample. After that, first converter takes a sample again and the second and so on. So basically the cycle repeats. This allows use of slower and cheaper analog to digital converters, but has a negative effect on accuracy, since samples won't be perfectly equidistant.

So what happens when you have a two channel scope and use only one channel? Well all converters work only with that one channel and will provide the best representation of signal they can. But if you activate the second channel too, half of the converters will switch to the second channel and half will remain working with the first channel.

As it's already written, the rule of thumb is to have 1 GSa/s per 100 MHz of bandwidth. So if you take the 100 MHz scope which has sampling rate of 1 GSa/s, then you can effectively use only one channel at full bandwidth! If you want to use both channels, you can't use them with frequencies higher than 50 MHz, or you'll get sampling artifacts.

On the other hand, if you have a 2 GSa/s 100 MHz two channel scope, you can get better view of one 100 MHz signal or you can get a good view of two 100 MHz channels, which would be problematic with just 1 GSa/s scope.

So how does this apply to you: Well, let's take a look at product websites. For Rigol DS1102CA, it says under specifications Real-time Sample Rate 2 GSa/s(each channel),1 GSa/s(dual channels), which means that the situation I explained applies here. Of the site for Rigol DS1102E, it says under specifications: Real-time Sample Rate 1 GSa/s(each channel),500 MSa/s(dual channels).

So in the end DS1102E can work as 100 MHz one channel scope or a 50 MHz two channel scope, while Rigol DS1102CA is a real 100 MHz two channel scope.

A little bit extra info: As I previously said, it's bad for scope to use multiple analog to digital converters for a single channel, because the distance in time between samples won't exactly the same. This problem is initially solved by taking extreme care in routing clock signals for the converters so that the clock reaches all converters at the same time. Another (sometimes better) solution is to use multichannel converters. Usually it's easier to route the clock signal so that it reaches all channels on a single chip at the same time than it is to route the clock signal so that it reaches all physically separate chips at the same time. Some converters use other tricks too. For example one channel may be triggered at positive slope of the clock while the second may be triggered at the negative slope of the clock.

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The sampling rate is the rate at which the scopes a/d will sample the signal and convert it into pixels on your screen so you can see it. Your scope essentially samples the signal and plots points at the sample rate and then draws lines or curves between each point. The more sample points you have the more accurate or true to life the signal you'll be looking at.

The bandwidth is the -3dB input bandwidth for the scope, so it's telling you the maximum frequency it can see. The old rule of thumb is get a bandwidth that's twice your frequency, although sometimes 3 or more times can be helpful depending on what you're working on and what you need to see.

Here's a reference article all about oscilloscope features.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Altough the sampling theorem tells us that you need to sample at a rate (more than) twice the highest freq. component of the signal to PERSERVE all information in the signal, surely that does not apply to VIEWING signals in the time-domain. A 22 kHz sine wave wouldn´t look anything like a sine wave if sampled at 44.1 kHz. The article you link states the "rule of thumb" to be that the sampling rate should be 3 to 4 times the bandwith, but I feel like all the Tektronix scopes I've worked with have a sampling rate of 10 times their bandwith. \$\endgroup\$ – GummiV Nov 27 '12 at 10:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah my 100Mhz tek I have at home has a 1GS/s rate, however my 13Ghz Lecroy has a 40GS/s rate per channel. So it depends on the equipment you have, how fast your going, and how much you can pay :) \$\endgroup\$ – Some Hardware Guy Nov 27 '12 at 15:09
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As a rule of thumb the bandwidth and the sample rate should be 4 to 5 times the maximum frequency you want to measure. You should also be aware that if your input signal is not a pure sine wave it also contains harmonics with much higher frequencies. For accurate acquisition you have to cover at least some of these harmonics.

At the frequency of the maximum bandwidth (here 100 MHz) a sine wave of this frequency is attenuated by 3dB by the analog frontend of the scope. This means it is measured at only 70% of its real value (i.e. 30% error). The sample rate specifies how many measurements are done by the scope per second i.e. how accurate the form of the signal is acquired (1 GS/s equals 10 measurements on a 100 MHz signal).

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