Review of Tektronix MDO4000C mixed domain oscilloscope (MDO4054C)


This unit is not a sample, and it’s a fully paid loaner, so this article has limited depth, due to non-intrusive tests and evaluation only. No disassembly or teardown this time, sorry. You can find good detailed reviews and teardowns of older version of Tektronix MDO4000 series from EEVBlog here and MDO4000B series from The Signal Path here. I’d expect most of design and hardware is carried over into MDO4000C as well, with minor tweaks and updates only.

  • Oscilloscope, 4 analog channels, 1 GHz, 500 MHz, 350 MHz, and 200 MHz bandwidth depends on SKU
  • Up to 5 GS/s sample rate, >20 M record length on all channels, >340000 wfm/s maximum waveform capture rate
  • Standard passive voltage probes with 3.9 pF capacitive loading and 1 GHz or 500 MHz analog bandwidth
  • 8-bit vertical resolution (11 bit in Hi-Res mode)
  • Input impedance 1 MΩ ±1% or 50 Ω ±1%, DC or AC coupled
  • Sensitivity range 1mV/div to 10V/div for 1 MΩ or 1mV/div – 1V/div for 50Ω
  • Max input voltage 300VRMS CAT II for 1 MΩ or 5 VRMS for 50 Ω
  • Horizontal time-base range 1000ps (400ps for 1GHz) – 1000s, ±5 ppm
  • Spectrum Analyzer (Optional), Frequency range of 9 kHz-3 GHz or 9 kHz-6 GHz, Ultra-wide capture bandwidth >1 GHz
  • Time-synchronized capture of spectrum analyzer with analog and digital acquisitions
  • Frequency vs. time, amplitude vs. time, and phase vs. time waveforms
  • Arbitrary/Function Generator (Optional)
  • 13 predefined waveform types, 50 MHz waveform generation (sine), 128 k arbitrary generator record length 250 MS/s, ±50 ppm.
  • Amplitude output range 20 mVpk-pk to 5 Vpk-pk into Hi-Z; 10 mVpk-pk to 2.5 Vpk-pk into 50 Ω
  • Logic Analyzer (Optional) 500MHz 16 digital channels, 20 M record length on all channels, 60.6 ps timing resolution (MagniVu)
  • Logic analyzer input voltage ±40V, minimum 400mV, Probe loading 100kΩ 3pF, 500 MS/s (2 ns resolution). Record length 20M.
  • Protocol Analyzer (Optional), Serial bus support for I2C, SPI, RS-232/422/485/UART, USB 2.0, Ethernet, CAN, LIN, FlexRay,MIL-STD-1553, and Audio standards
  • Digital Voltmeter/Frequency Counter (Free with product registration)
  • 4-digit AC RMS, DC, and AC+DC RMS voltage measurements, 5-digit frequency measurements
  • XGA 1024×768 10.4” (264 mm) bright LED backlit TFT panel
  • LXI Core 2011 V1.4 compatibility over 10/100/1000BASE-T LAN port
  • USB ports to support USB MSD and keyboard (limited support). No mouse support.
  • VGA output for external monitor or projector
  • 200,350 and 500MHz come with TPP0500B 10x passive 3.9pF probes, 1GHz model comes with TPP1000 passive 10x probe.
  • 10MHz REF IN , AUX OUT and dedicated AFG BNC outputs on the rear
  • TekVPI™ input connectors. To use older TekProbe™ active probes separate TPA-BNC adapter is required (MSRP ~ $700 USD/pc)
  • Power measurements (Optional with DPO4PWR) for VRMS, VCrestFactor, Frequency, IRMS, ICrestFactor, TruePower, ApparentPower, ReactivePower, PowerFactor, PhaseAngle.
  • Environment and power: Mains 100-240 VAC ±10%, 50-60 and 400Hz, 250W max, 0 °C to +50°C operating
  • Physical: 229 × 439 × 147mm, 5.5kg (12.2lb) net, 11.2kg shipping, rackmount option space 5U


Unit is rather compact, yet still sizable to capture large amount of bench space, as it required to be in proximity of the user. Also it’s not deep, just mere 14cm, meaning that other equipment cannot be stacked on top of it. Small depth is a pro for portable uses or tight lab spots, as unit can be mounted on the shelve using standard VESA arm/fixture, but other times it’s a con, as gear can’t be stacked on top of it, unlike old TDS5000/higher tier series. So MDO4000 fit field workload cases better.

Included passive probes are 500MHz Tek TPP0500B, set of four pieces , one per channel. These are fairly good x10 probes, with loading spec at 3.9pF. Top 1GHz bandwidth MDO4104C comes with passive 1GHz TPP1000 probes instead. If you got MDO4MSO option for digital 16-channel logic analyzer, it comes with P6616 probelet as well (standard scope kit does not have it included).

Rear I/O

As of external ports available on the back, there are BNCs for AFG OUT (signal generator optional output), AUX OUT (can be reference 10MHz out, trigger or AFG output), 10MHz REF IN from frequency standard, LXI-compatible RJ45 LAN port, VGA Video output, USB Device and two USB host ports. Also two more USB host ports are available on the front side of the instrument.

User interface

Does not have full keyboard support, backspace/delete not working
Does not have support for USB Mouse (at all!)
Clunky UI

Boots fairly quickly, under a minute. It’s not a problem, as usually scope is turned on when you get to bench space, and turned off after all work is done.

Probe options

Cheaper entry-level scopes usually have just regular BNC input connector for signal interface. This interface provided a standard BNC port at its center, surrounded concentrically with seven landing pads for pogo pins to carry four supply voltages, I2C clock/data and offset signals. The BNC outer shell serves and ground for the signal and these other connections.

This allows to use common passive probes and externally powered active probes. The disadvantage of such interface is that once you have an active probe, circuitry on the probe needs power. And having external power supply for each probe is not that great solution. Also, active probes have more different properties and options, like the adjustable attenuation factor, or provide measurement for current instead of voltage, or have electronically controllable AC/DC coupling or bandwidth configuration. So top tier oscilloscope vendors introduced several different interfaces, that allow easy use and automatic detection and use of active probes capabilities.

TekProbe probe interface

Image : Courtesy of Tektronix FAQ

TekProbe interface was introduced in TDS series scopes in 1998. In addition to providing coupling of the signal from the probe to the oscilloscope the TekProbe interface also provide power and offset to active probes. Digital interface lets oscilloscope to sense the probe’s attenuation factor. The Tektronix oscilloscope models that incorporate this interface are the TDS300, TDS400, TDS500, TDS600, TDS700, TDS3000/B/C, TDS5000/B and TDS7000/B series. Adaptors to this interface are available for the newer DPO7000 (TCA-BNC), DPO70000/B (TCA-BNC), DSA70000/B (TCA-BNC), DPO4000/MSO4000 (TPA-BNC), DPO3000/MSO3000 (TPA-BNC), DPO2000/MSO2000 (TPA-BNC) series scopes.

TekConnect probe interface

The TekConnect probe interface was developed in 2000’s to address the bandwidth limitation of the BNC connector and provide improved reliability and ease of use. The maximum useable bandwidth of a high-quality BNC connector is about 4 GHz. Recognizing that market demand for measurement bandwidth above 4 GHz was increasing, the TekConnect probe interface was designed around a BMA connector. It is a blind mate connector system, similar in size and performance to an RF SMA connector, but without threaded ground connection. The BMA connector provides a 50 Ω fully coaxial interconnect that is suitable for electrical performance over 18 GHz. The probe power and control signals in the TekConnect interface are supported with a spring-contact pin block in the TekConnect “bucket” side of the interface. The gold-plated spring-contact pins mate with gold-plated pads on a small circuit board on the TekConnect “nose” side of the interface.

This connector interface is only DC coupled 50 Ω, so maximum peak rated voltage is 5V. To provide AC coupling or support high impedance connection, separate Tektronix TCA-1MEG active adapter much be used. We had a TCA-1MEG review and teardown here

TPA-BNC Adapter

To connect older TekProbe probes such as Tektronix P6246/P6251 Differential probes, a special adapter is required, called Tektronix TPA-BNC. A pretty common interface to active probes is the “TekProbe-BNC” interface. For the high-end range of scopes (like those which can be as expensive as a small house), they introduced the quite massive “TekConnect” interface. It provides symmetric voltages (+/- 15V, +/- 5V) and a data bus. It’s basically the same as the TekProbe-BNC interface, just that it allows more bandwidth and a better connection. For the mid-range scopes, like my beloved DPO4034, they introduced yet-another low-cost version, which doesn’t use a symmetric supply (instead, 12V “Bulk” are provided), and features a data-interface that looks like I2C… This interface is called “TekVPI”.

Now, if you happen to have a TekProbe-BNC probe, and happen to have a TekVPI scope, you need an adapter. That’s the TPA-BNC. It costs about $400, and plugins into a TekVPI slot, and provides a TekProbe-BNC interface. I’ve bought one of that.

Picasa member tmbinc1337 had one of these TPA-BNC adapters disassembled, but currently photos are removed from the gallery. Lucky for us, Wayback archive has them all. For the history purposes we provide deleted images here aswell.


DPO4BND Application bundle module that enables all of the functionality of the DPO4AERO, DPO4AUDIO, DPO4AUTO,DPO4COMP, DPO4EMBD, DPO4ENET, DPO4LMT, DPO4PWR, DPO4USB and DPO4VID
DPO4EMBD Embedded Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4AUTO Automotive Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4AUTOMAX Extended Automotive Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4COMP Computer Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4VID Extended Video
DPO4AUDIO Audio Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4USB USB Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4PWR Power Analysis
DPO4ENET Ethernet Serial Triggering and Analysis
DPO4LMT Limit/Mask Test
DPO4AERO Aerospace Serial Triggering and Analysis
MDO4TRIG Advanced RF Triggering
DPO4FLEX FlexRay Serial Triggering and Analysis
MDO4MSO Mixed Signal Oscilloscope
MDO4AFG Arbitrary Function Generator
MDO4DVM Digital Voltmeter
MDO4SEC Security lockout

Decode protocols depend on activated options:

Technology Features Option
Embedded I2C/SMBus Trig,Decode,Search DPO4EMBD
Embedded SPI Trig,Decode,Search DPO4EMBD
Computer RS232/422/485, UART Trig, Decode, Search DPO4COMP
USB USB LS, FS, HS Trigger LS, FS. HS only on 1GHz SKU DPO4USB
Ethernet 10Base-T, 100Base-TX Trig,Decode,Search DPO4ENET
Automotive CAN Trig, Decode, Search DPO4AUTO or DPO4AUTOMAX
Automotive LIN Trig, Decode, Search DPO4AUTO or DPO4AUTOMAX
Automotive FlexRay Trig, Decode, Search DPO4AUTOMAX
Military and Aerospace MIL-STD-1553 Trig,Decode,Search DPO4AERO

Comparison and tests to old scopes

MDO4054C vs CSA7404 and TDS7704B

Valid point that CSA/TDS7000 series are way higher in the league, but given their availability on the secondary used gear market for similar amount of money as MDO4054C/MDO4104C it could be useful to compare the two and see actual difference.

UI is still much better and easier to use on old TDS5000 and TDS7000-series scopes, just from the fact that their interface and user front-end application based on regular Windows 2000/XP/7 OS.

Test results and screenshots

Web-interface over Ethernet LXI:

Integrated AFG signal generator test and example waveforms.

Comparison to HP 33120A 15MHz ARB generator

HP 33120A 1.000000MHz 2.5Vpk-pk square wave output, 50 Ω

Tektronix MDO4054C AFG 1.00000MHz 2.5Vpk-pk square wave output, 50 Ω

Rising edge measurement of 210ps square wave signal from Tektronix TDS7704B Calibration output, 50 Ω

Example of I2C decoder using logic-analyzer channels:

Author: Team
Published: Dec. 21, 2016, 11:11 p.m.
Modified: Dec. 26, 2016, 12:59 p.m.