Budget Tools Review: $125 OWON HDS242 2 Channel Oscilloscope

December 20, 2022

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In a recent article I reviewed the OWON HDS2102S handheld oscilloscope/signal generator/multimeter, which is priced in the $250 range. I enjoyed testing it, and will no doubt use it in future projects; however, one might reasonably point out that for $250 you could purchase a benchtop model that may be more capable, but less portable.

So in this first segment in a series of monthly budget test gear reviews, I’ll be looking at the OWON HDS242 handheld scope. This unit comes in the same form factor as the HDS21202S, but cost around $125, or half the price. The catch is that you get less than half the bandwidth and no signal generator. However, you still get the same generous screen, multimeter functionality, and fantastic portability with its built-in batteries.

First Impressions:

Like its higher-spec’d cousin, the OWON HDS242 is a solidly built portable scope with the same characteristic blue coloring and a form factor that may remind you of a vastly oversized Game Boy. The screen contrast is very good, with yellow and blue lines to indicate scope channels 1 and 2 respectively. The run/pause button lights up green or red depending on the device’s status.

Also like the other OWON, the screen is a bit scratched, which is disappointing, but once it’s actually on it’s hard to notice. Two BNC connectors are attached to the device, as there is no “S,” i.e. signal generator, onboard. A 10x probe, along with a BNC-to-alligator clip connector is provided, along with a USB A-to-C cable, multimeter probes, and two mains power connectors.

Scope Stats:

As noted in the HDS2102S review, the scope is the main feature of the unit, even more so here as there’s no signal generator. Specs for this device are listed as:

  • Bandwidth: 40MHz
  • Sample Rate: 250 MSa/s (single channel) 125 MSa/S (dual channel)
  • Record Length: 8k samples

Interface-wise, both devices tested in the HDS2xx series appear to work exactly the same. There are no knobs, and you may have to poke through a few menus to set things up just how you want.

Multimeter Stats:

The multimeter function on this device is, according to the technical specifications insert, the same among HDS2xx models:

  • DC voltage measurement rated at up to 1000V
  • AC voltage rated at up to 750V
  • Current capacity 10A (AC or DC)
  • Capacitance and resistance measurement
  • Continuity and diode check

It’s a pretty impressive list of specs, but like the -102S there’s a slight delay when testing continuity. It’s still useful, but if something doesn’t ring out immediately and you’re not patient, you could potentially miss it in a critical situation.

Bottom Line: Worth It?

Whether or not this tool is worth buying is perhaps best addressed in two parts: do you need this type of scope, and do you need this scope?

After getting the HDS2102S, I have used it extensively, especially as a multimeter. While I have a Fluke that I would trust more for AC wiring, it generally lives in my garage and means a trip through the house. Where this device really shines multimeter-wise is as a ready-to-go tool of convenience. As for the scope functionality, I love its bright screen and portability, but my experimentation has been limited and likely could have been performed with the 40 MHz scope reviewed here.

That being said, OWON HDS2xx series could be a good choice, depending on your particular situation. Considering the price differential, I’d look at the 242 first, see if it suits your needs, then work up from there. The 242 has a lot to offer given its price tag.

The OWON, whether the HD242 or higher-spec’d HDS2102S, might not be the absolute best tool in every situation, but it is often the best tool at my immediate disposal. In my opinion, this fits the theme of portable budget test equipment perfectly: a convenient option for many situations, and something that you won’t cry over (too much) if it gets lost, stolen, or destroyed.

If you’re interested in getting an OWON HDS242 for yourself, they are available for purchase on Amazon, eBay, etc. starting at $125 for an unused one. Of course, we’ll still be giving away the ‘scope seen in the video at no cost to one lucky winner who enters the raffle linked above. Good luck!

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