The power of an oscilloscope in the palm of your hand!
A few years back, we featured the Pokit Pro and had a brief look into some of its cool features. Since then, the Kickstarter campaign has been funded many times over its goal, and the Pokit Pros are full steam-ahead in production. This month, the awesome folks at Pokit Innovations have sent us a bunch of the latest Pokit Pro units, ready for us to tinker with!
For those who haven’t heard about the Pokit Pro, it is essentially a multimeter, oscilloscope and data logger in a pocket-sized package. It’s a very cool piece of kit, and something we’ve been looking to get our hands on for years!
Each Pokit Pro comes packaged in a neat box and includes a protective case, some probe tips and a USB-C charging cable. In our initial feature of Pokit Pro, the units had Micro-USB so it’s good to see the Pokit Innovation team has switched to using USB-C.
The Pokit Pro itself comes in four different colours, all of which are easily findable on a busy workbench while not going down the route of “I’m a bright yellow multimeter, look at me!” like most other testing equipment.
The build quality feels excellent, and the plastic used is very solid. While it’s still apparent that it’s a product early into its production lifetime, such as the wide seams between plastic mouldings and a cheaper-feeling mode switch, overall, it's very good in terms of build quality.
It certainly does live up to its name as it can be easily slid into your pocket, something that virtually no other oscilloscope can boast. However, we definitely suggest popping the rubber cap over the positive test lead as it’ll probably hurt to sit on otherwise!
One of the biggest gripes we have with regular multimeters is their ergonomics. They’re robust and reliable when measuring voltages and currents anytime, but out in the field they tend to be annoying when trying to find a spot where they won’t fall down or sit at an unreadable angle. Pokit Pro does away with this by actually integrating the electronics into the positive test probe, and only has one other wire for the negative probe.
Both probes feel awesome in hand, and thanks to the wireless phone connectivity, you’re free to test whatever circuit points you want without your multimeter falling off wherever you’ve propped it up on.
Each Pokit Pro has its own Bluetooth connection that allows it to connect to most modern smart devices. Virtually every smartphone and tablet on the market has a screen and touchscreen interface that is lightyears ahead of multimeters and most oscilloscopes, so it’s no surprise that Pokit Innovations is leveraging that ease of use. All measurements are displayed in large, easy-to-read text for easy use. And of course, it works in the dark and in direct sunlight as anything else on your phone would.
Connecting to a Pokit Pro is as simple as just pressing the wake button and letting the phone and unit pair.
The Pokit app itself lets you change between Multimeter, Oscilloscope and Data Logger modes, but is locked to landscape orientation on your phone. We found this a little annoying as most phones will stand up much easier on a desk in portrait mode, however, we can appreciate that UI design becomes more difficult to accomplish with multiple sets of layouts.
The first, and probably the most used feature of Pokit Pro, is the multimeter. It’s fairly self-explanatory and very easy to use. It’s worth noting that depending on the measurement switch that is selected on the side of the Pokit Pro, there are different measurements available within the app. Leaving it on the left-most Voltage mode will only allow use of DC Voltage and AC Voltage mode, while leaving it in the middle will give you access to diode testing, resistance and continuity testing. The various modes will be greyed out whenever they aren’t available for a position on the switch.
Speaking of continuity testing, it works well and provides an audible beep on both the Pokit Pro and the attached phone. However, we also heard a delay of around a quarter of a second after touching the positive and negative probes together. Not a deal-breaker, but could slow down an otherwise fast troubleshooting process trying to find a pesky short-circuit.
There is also a dedicated switch position for high current measurement, which is limited to 10A AC or DC for up to 30 seconds - more than adequate for most casual use-cases. It’s worth noting that the fuses are handily replaceable, hidden under the rear rubber cover on all Pokit Pros.
The multimeter is also auto-ranging and is generally just as speedy as a regular voltmeter or ammeter. This makes it super handy for checking a bunch of voltages in a few seconds, and your phone can be positioned anywhere it needs to be seen.
One thing we found frustrating at times was the Pokit warning us every time we switched from high current or component measurement mode to voltage measurement. The Pokit displays a fullscreen message about measuring correctly that needs to be dismissed every time. We don’t have an aversion to safety by any means, however, this gets time consuming when switching four Pokit Pros to voltage measurement and having to press OK four times. A “don’t remind me again” option would be handy.
We were most excited to try out the Oscilloscope on the Pokit Pro, since many small USB-powered or portable oscilloscopes can be rather awkward or difficult to use.
As with the rest of the app, the Oscilloscope mode is locked into a landscape orientation. Pinching or zooming changes the vertical and horizontal scale, and, if dragged diagonally, will do both simultaneously. This is very intuitive to get used to, and zooming into signals is a breeze with the Pokit app. We do wish there was an ‘Auto Scale’ button though, as sometimes when the signal can’t be seen on the display, it’s hard to find it again.
In terms of tech specs, the Oscilloscope mode on the Pokit Pro can sample 1 million points per second, which is lacking in comparison to full-size desktop oscilloscopes, but is more than usable for a scope this size and purpose. For example, the Pokit Pro would have a hard time inspecting protocols such as NeoPixel LED strips. Since they operate at 800KHz, we need at least twice that in sampling frequency to avoid missing critical information about the signal.
However, for inspection of basic PWM signals to servo motors, communication signals of Arduinos and so forth, the Pokit Pro would be absolutely fine.
Considering the Pokit Pro is fully battery-powered, it’s also pretty handy to leave it in remote locations and collect data over multiple months. If you’d like to see how a solar-powered off grid battery bank is doing, then the Pokit Pro’s Data Logger will do quite nicely. Unfortunately, we don’t really have time to wait 6 months to test the data logger - We can, however, tell you it works well for an hour or two connected to an LDR (Light Dependent Resistor).
The only thing we weren’t keen on was that the Pokit Pro can’t log measurement types other than Voltage, Current and Temperature, so directly logging the LDR’s resistance wasn’t possible. You can see above that it works well in multimeter mode, but the logger doesn’t provide an option for resistance measurement.
We had to instead set up a voltage divider to convert the resistance into a voltage instead. Once that’s set up, though, it’s smooth sailing and can accurately gather data points at up to 2Hz - plenty for most data logging scenarios.
The great thing about the data logger is, like the Oscilloscope, the scaling isn’t fixed. It can be dragged and resized to fit any range of data. The voltage on the graph above only has a ~250mV difference between its highest and lowest values, which was roughly 5V and 4.75V respectively. The logger updates in real-time, and the BLE connectivity has good range for data logging too. We left a Pokit Pro outside our office for gathering the light data and could still monitor data from upstairs, which is around 15m away through multiple walls.
Pokit Pro also has an awesome feature to easily measure multiple signals simultaneously. If you have access to two or more Pokit Pros, multiple channels can be measured simply by connecting them all wirelessly to your smart device.
Since every Pokit Pro is isolated from earth, this multi-channel measurement allows measuring of completely different ground references - in comparison to a regular oscilloscope that only has one ground reference.
Of course, multichannel measurement works in all three primary modes, allowing you to plot all sorts of data in one go! Why not plot the voltage of a battery on one channel, and the current of a solar panel in another? We can imagine a ton of super awesome uses for setting up multiple channels.
It can sometimes be a little confusing having four Pokit Pro’s on a desk at once, but it’s pretty easy to get used to if you change the trace colours of each one. For example, voltage could be set up to display as blue across the app, while current can be set up to display as green.
Pokit Pro uses the latest in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) magic to reduce its power consumption in sleep mode to less than 10 microamps! This means that a Pokit Pro in its sleep mode will last about a year, while still advertising itself to nearby phones. When opening the Pokit Pro app, it's as simple as tapping on the “Measure” button and it’s ready to go. Sometimes the power button needs to be tapped to quickly wake it up though.
This sleep functionality is also how it manages to squeeze six months out of datalogging. Regular multimeters will usually either run flat by themselves or turn off completely by themselves, so it’s refreshing to see a better approach to power management in test equipment. The Pokit Pro only takes a few hours to charge up its internal Lithium-Ion battery to full via its USB-C port, so no more bulk-buying 9V batteries!
It shouldn’t be surprising that the inventors of the Pokit Pro have also added in some extra goodies, starting with the multi-purpose button on the unit itself. While this is normally used for waking up and pairing your Pokit Pro, in general use, this saves a new data point to the scope’s history, which can be viewed later. You can also long-press the button in order to toggle the inbuilt LED, useful if you’re working in dark areas.
We did notice that the button on our unit was both toggling the LED and saving history at the same time, but we’re not sure if this is intentional for some reason.
While it’s not currently implemented, a smartwatch app is planned for the Pokit Pro. That way, voltages and currents can be measured without even having a phone in sight. This was something we’d really like to see, and would make diagnosing problems on the go significantly easier.
We’ll admit, the world of new and innovative electronics testing equipment probably won’t revolutionise the world like the iPhone, the wheel or sliced bread did. However, for those of us who use equipment like this every day, even incremental increases in their functionality and usability is absolutely fantastic. We think the hard work that’s been put into making a product like the Pokit Pro cannot be summarised as an incremental improvement “over” anything, simply because there wasn’t any alternative before it was released! It really is in a league of its own.
For a very reasonable price, you get a fully-featured oscilloscope, multimeter and data logger that comfortably fits just about anywhere. Even if you’re not a diehard electronics nerd like all of us here at DIYODE, there’s no reason not to keep one of these little powerhouses in your car, toolbox or workshop drawer in case you ever need to make a quick measurement.
We were very happy with what the folks at Pokit Innovations have managed to pull off. And because we think you’ll be too, we’re giving away four Pokit Pros in this month’s giveaway! We can’t wait to see what’s next in the pipeline for the Pokit Pro.
The Pokit Pro is available from Pokit Innovations