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imso connected crop 600w Toolbox Review: iMSO 104 Oscilloscope for iPad & iPhone

Oscium’s iMSO-104 hardware offers to turn your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into a 12MSPS digital oscilloscope with an analog bandwidth of 5MHz. For folks like me with limited desk space & shifting work environments, that’s an interesting offer indeed. Oscium sent over a test model to take for a spin, so onto the spinning!

Hardware

imso probes2 600w Toolbox Review: iMSO 104 Oscilloscope for iPad & iPhone

Included tangibles are as follows:

  • iMSO-104 Mixed Signal Oscilloscope Hardware
  • 1x/10 Analog Probe
  • Logic Harness (4 Digital + 1 Ground)
  • SMD Grabbers (4 Digital + 1 Ground)
  • Screwdriver for Analog Waveform Compensation Adjustment
  • Analog tip covers (2 pieces)

The core hardware, based on the Cypress PSoC 3 chip, is housed in a slim enclosure with requisite Apple dock connector, SMB jack for the analog probe, and 5-pin male header to accommodate 4 digital channels + ground. The included set of probes appear well-built, and I estimate they’d withstand the level abuse my other test equipment is subject to. The unit also includes a small blue LED power indicator which turns off whenever the device’s related software becomes inactive.

Software

iMSO - iPhone

The iMSO’s software portion is available for free as a Universal app and includes an interactive demo mode to give you an idea of how the unit handles analog signals. The app implements standard digital scope functionality (zoom, trigger, cursor/measurement) with thankfully little UI clutter. In addition to standard menu controls, users can employ familiar pinch-to-zoom gestures as well as control voltage trigger level via onscreen sliders, and double-tap to toggle display infos.

Usage

imso arduino 600w Toolbox Review: iMSO 104 Oscilloscope for iPad & iPhone

Right off the bat, I was intrigued at the thought of using the iPad’s 9.7″ display and touch input for highly portable ‘scoping. And yes, viewing a sinewave in such a manner does feel satisfyingly slick and moreover, imbues Apple’s hardware with an air of technical sophistication rarely achieved while editing a Pages document or playing Angry Birds. The iMSO software was easily controllable via my iPhone, but I really can’t imagine using it much on that platform when given the option of a much larger display.

While it won’t replace my big ol’ 50MHz CRT benchtop dinosaur, the iMSO’s comparatively humble 5MHz analog bandwidth works well for inspecting audio signals (which I do quite often). Additionally, max voltage limits on the devices inputs (±40V analog 10x, -0.5V/+13V digital) mean I’m likely to reserve use exclusively for low-power audio work. On the digital side, the unit did prove capable when I attempted peeking in on some serial communications between an Arduino board and MCP4921 DAC chip.

The fact that iOS devices use a single port for both power & data, means you’ll have to rely on battery power while using the iMSO. Thankfully, the device + software went easy on my iPad 2’s battery – so power is likely only a concern for those who plan on marathon testing/debugging sessions.

The ~$300 pricetag and bandwidth limitations will likely limit the iMSO’s initial audience – but if those points don’t pose a problem for you, well, this thing is pretty dang sweet. As the IMSO-104 is the first in its category, It will be interesting to see what future developments hold for iOS test equipment – see, we shall.

Collin Cunningham

Born, drew a lot, made video, made music on 4-track, then computer, more songwriting, met future wife, went to art school for video major, made websites, toured in a band, worked as web media tech, discovered electronics, taught myself electronics, blogged about DIY electronics, made web videos about electronics and made music for them … and I still do!


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