[Update 14/01/2013 - Now available locally in Australia]
Today we examine a tiny and fascinating piece of test equipment from Gabotronics – their XMEGA Xprotolab. Sure, that sounds like a lot – and it is. Yet the functionality of the Xprotolab is inversely proportional to its physical size. Try to imagine having an oscilloscope, arbitrary waveform generator, logic analyser and a spectrum analyser – including a display – in a package no larger than 25.4 x 40.6 mm (1″ x 1.6″) in size. Well imagine no more as here it is:
As described above, this tiny marvel of engineering has the following functions:
- Two analogue oscilloscope channels with a maximum sampling rate of 2 million samples per second;
- Analogue bandwidth of 320 kHz at 8-bits resolution;
- Buffer size of 256 samples;
- Fast fourier-transform;
- Analog and external digital triggering;
- Maximum input voltage of +/- 10V;
- Automatic average and peak-to-peak measurements;
- Logic analyser with eight channel maximum simultaneous monitoring;
- Firmware is user upgradable;
- Can also be used as a development board for the XMEGA microcontroller (extra items required);
- When powered from a USB cable, the board can supply +/-5V and +3.3V into a solderless breadboard.
The OLED screen is very clear and precise, which considering the size of 0.96″ – very easy to read. One can also set the display mode to invert which changes the display to black on white, bringing back memories of the original Apple Macintosh:
Using the Xprotolab took a little getting used to, however after pressing menu buttons for a few minutes I had it worked out. The more sensible among you will no doubt read the instructions and menu map listed at the website. Having the dual voltmeter function is quite useful, it saved me having to mess about with a couple of multimeters when trying to debug some analogue circuits I’m currently working with.
The display can be as complex or as simple as you choose, for example when working with the oscilloscope you can disable one channel and shift the waveform so it occupies the centre of the screen. Or when working with the logic analyser, you can choose to only select the channels being monitored, instead of filling the screen with unused logic lines.
There are a couple of things to take care with. When inserting the Xprotolab into your breadboard, be careful not to put pressure on the OLED display when pushing down; when removing it from the breadboard, try and do so evenly with the help of an DIP IC puller.
Generally in my reviews there is a video clip of something happening. Unfortunately my camera just isn’t that good, so below is the demonstration clip from the manufacturer:
As you can see the Xprotolab would be quite useful for monitoring various signals whilst prototyping, as you can just drop it into a breadboard. Furthermore, if your required range is measurable the Xprotolab saves you having to look back-and-forth between a prototype and the display from a regular oscilloscope as well.
As the purchase price is relatively cheap compared against the time and effort of trying to make an OLED display board yourself, one could also plan to build an Xprotolab into a final design – considering a lot of measurement and display work is already done for you it could be a real time-saver. The Xprotolab can run from a 5V supply and only draws a maximum of 60 milliamps. Product support is quite extensive, including source code, schematics, videos, a user forum and more available from the product page.
In conclusion the Xprotolab is genuinely useful, inexpensive and ready to use out of the box. It would make a useful piece of test equipment for a beginner or seasoned professional, and also integrates well into custom projects when required.
Remember, if you have any questions about the Xprotolab, please contact Gabotronics via their website.
Otherwise, have fun, stay safe, be good to each other – and make something!
[Note - the Xprotolab reviewed in this article was received from Gabotronics for review purposes]