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Arthur Ketels(Holland)
 
2011/7/9
Arthur Ketels(Holland)

Our company makes amongst others prototype electronics. It is a mix of analogue and digital technologies. We use 8 to 32 bit micro controllers and FPGA's. Those electronics are interfaced with a multitude of buses. Many are standard serial like SPI, I2C, I2S or UART. Others are parallel like synchronous or asynchronous RAM buses. Then there are the special signals like encoders, pwm or lvds.


Many times those signals need no debugging and just work "out-of-the-box". A long time we just did with our digital scope to find the issues in the logic. But the more complex the interactions become the more constraints come forward from the scope. Time for a logic analyser. Then the hunt begins for a simple, cost effective but capable LA. From previous experience I did not like the closed systems that integrate the capture hardware and the data processing and set-up. You end up with a tedious and difficult to handle GUI at best. And every time one needs that one special function or trigger it is nowhere to be found. Then there are the obvious issues when one wants to store a capture for later reference. So a separate capture unit and software on a PC/Laptop it must be.


After browsing the internet a few (and only a few) candidates came up. A local distributor had a Zeroplus LAP-C 16128 LA on stock for a great price. So it was in house a few days later. It comes in a nice carry case where all parts fit nicely. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many clip probes included. Connecting everything up is easy because of the clear markings on the device and the colour coding. Installing the software was easy too. Important for me is that the software can be installed on multiple PC/laptops. Depending where I have to measure I can just use the PC/laptop nearby, plug in the LAP-C, fire up the software, and you are good to go.


The software is easy and intuitive to use. Even without reading the manual. Only when you need the advanced stuff the manual is mandatory. The software is clearly developed with a mouse in mind. It is sometimes hard to use the keyboard effectively. Also it is tricky to drag the A and B cursors without loosing them on the way. Loading and saving a capture is easy, but there is no easy way to compare two separate captures. The hardware just works, nothing much to say about that. A broad range of trigger levels and high voltage input protection up to 30V makes this thing almost bullet proof. A minor nag is the rigidity of the connecting wires, if you have a small PCB just laying on your bench the wires will pull it off if you are not careful.


The LA saved the day on multiple occasions where I had difficult to understand problems. One time the SPI interface from a uP to a slave device would refuse to go over 12MHz while the specification clearly stated 20MHz. The LA showed the culprit to be a bug in the uP SPI hardware where the sample point was one uP clock late in relation to the SPI clock flank. An other time I had to find a bug in a RS485 bus system with multiple uP's connected together. Once in a while on slave took the bus too early, corrupting other packets. Software debugging took a few days already without finding the cause. The advanced trigger in the LAP-C found the issue in a few minutes.


Pro's:
Good price / performance、Compact.Self powered from USB、Easy to use software、Wide trigger range、Protected inputs、Adequate buffer (even 128KB)、Data compression.


Con's:
Rigid wires、Capture speed (200MHz) too low for modern designs、Input capacitance a bit high for high speed signals、Software too mouse oriented、ZeroPlus stickers on the device loosen too easily


Would I buy it again? Yes, without hesitation.

 
   
 

 
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