A Science Lab In Your Pocket?

By Al Williams

Since even the cheapest phone or computer now has plenty of horsepower, there’s been a move to create instruments that can do everything, using a reasonably simple front end and crunching data back on the host device. This is one of those tasks that seems easy, but doing it well turns out to be a lot of effort. One we recently noticed was Pocket Science Lab — a board that connects to your PC or Android phone and provides an oscilloscope, a logic analyzer, a wave generator, a power supply, a multimeter, and a few odd items such as an accelerometer, barometer, compass, and lux meter. The cost is about $65, so it isn’t a big investment. But what can it do? Read on, or you can watch the video below from Geekcamp Singapore.

The datasheet shows a reasonable device, although nothing amazing. The oscilloscope has 4 channels but only does 2 MSPS, so assuming the front end can handle it, you might visualize 1 MHz sine waves. There’s also a 12-bit voltmeter, three 12-bit power supplies with different ranges, a 4 MHz 4 channel logic analyzer, two sine or triangle wave generators, 4 PWM outputs, and the ability to measure capacitance. Finally, there’s a frequency counter that’s good to 16 MHz.

The 4 channels on the scope are welcome but the low sample rate isn’t. Also, it doesn’t say in the datasheet, but one of the biggest problems with devices like these is that you can’t use major functions together. For example, we bet you can’t use the scope and the logic analyzer at the same time.

For the price, it isn’t a bad deal. But it really isn’t a proper replacement for nearly any of the included virtual instruments. On the other hand, for under $70 it might be worth a shot. There’s a Linux app, so that’s a plus. We like that it is all open source so you could fix anything you don’t like.

You can see a run through of logging data from the light meter on the FOSSASIA channel. They also have a video on the waveform generator.

The Analog Discovery 2 is nicer looking, but not open source and much more expensive. It also has better specs. Of course, you don’t need a PC to have a universal instrument.