If you spend a lot of time working with microcontrollers, debugging serial communication, or building your own MIDI systems you need a logic analyzer. Logic analyzers simply put are pieces of equipment which can be used to decode logic. When you are working with any project that requires communication between devices a logic analyzer can help you debug your code and gain a better understanding of what is happening within your circuit.
Picking a logic analyzer can be complicated so we have done the research and determined that the Saleae logic analyzer is the best. The Innomaker logic analyzer comes in at a close second while the EspoTek Labrador is best for beginners. Now without further ado let’s take a closer look at our picks.
Best Overall – Saleae Logic Analyzer
If you need a logic analyzer for professional uses, look no further. Seriously, just stop reading this article and go order a Saleae logic analyzer. While this is the most expensive item on this list, it is well worth the cost. This logic analyzer is solid and with an aluminum build it will withstand whatever challenges it may face in your lab. It is also very reliable, built and tested to last, this logic analyzer will keep analyzing your logic for years to come. To top off its stellar build quality and reliability, Saleae stands by their products with excellent no questions asked warranties.
So we know the logic analyzer is built well, but how does it analyze logic? Excellently, paired with the incredible software developed by Saleae this unit quite literally removes frustration as advertised. Don’t believe me? You can download the software yourself and give it a test before ordering your unit.
Overall the Saleae is an excellent logic analyzer. There are many models to choose from depending on what you need for your specific use case. For instance here is the 16 channel version. These analyzers are more expensive than others on this list. For this reason, we only recommend the Saleae logic analyzers to those who need the extreme reliability and functionality.
- Extremely reliable
- Excellent customer support
- Good software
- Plug and play
- Good customer support and warranty
Runner up – Innomaker Logic Analyzer
While the Saleae logic analyzer may be the best on this list, it is expensive. If you have a little more time to debug and learn how to use a slightly less polished piece of software, the Innomaker logic analyzer is best for you. Just like the Saleae model, there are several different options to choose from made by Innomaker depending on the needs of your use case.
Here is a table of the different models that you can choose from:
The basic Innomaker model is nearly a third the price of the Saleae equivalent with most reviewers finding it more than sufficient for their use case. This is why recommend this model as a cost-effective alternative to those in need of a logic analyzer. While its customer support is far from award winning, and the software may have a slightly larger learning curve, this logic analyzer is a highly effective tool for your lab, at an attractive price.
- Reasonably priced
- Good software
- Little to no customer support
- Steeper learning curve
Best for Beginners and Tinkerers – EspoTek Labrador
While the logic analyzers above are excellent tools, they are not the best for someone just starting out. If this is the first time you are hearing about logic analyzers, then you need to check out the EspoTek Labrador. It is an Open Source oscilloscope and logic analyzer that connects to your computer or a Raspberry Pi, effectively turning it into a simple oscilloscope.
The EspoTek Labrador is far from perfect, it has a very limited frequency range, and is not useable for modern communication protocols as it supports up to a maximum of 3 Mb/s data transmission rate. However, it can also be used as a multimeter and an oscilloscope, making it the perfect tool for learners looking to get their feet wet without spending significant amounts of money.
The software is sufficient, though there are reports of bugs. The EspoTek Labrador will certainly have a steeper learning curve than the other tools on this list, but it is perhaps the most versatile, and once one learns to use this tool, they will be equipped with the knowledge required to use the majority of the most common tools found in an electrical engineering lab. For this reason, the EspoTek Labrador is the best logic analyzer for learning.
- Super affordable
- Versatile (can also be used as an oscilloscope and multimeter)
- Open source
- Basic software
- Limited specifications
How did we Choose the Logic Analyzers in this Article?
Suppose you have created a new MIDI instrument, when you go to play it the computer does not recognize the notes you programmed it to. There is an issue with your code, but you do not know where. You could spend hours changing elements of the program at random until you happen across the solution, but there is an easier way. Simply use a logic analyzer to show you what the MIDI instrument is sending to the computer, allowing you to easily identify the problem in your code.
But can’t you use an oscilloscope to accomplish this?
In short, yes you can. In fact, one of the logic analyzers on our list can actually function as an oscilloscope. However, dedicated logic analyzers have a host of advantages over using your oscilloscope. A logic analyzer may work like an oscilloscope, but it has been specifically designed for the purpose of interpreting logic. Many will have far more inputs than an oscilloscope, allowing you to visualize the logic of more devices at once; additionally, many logic analyzers utilize software to help you interpret your logic, coming preprogrammed to recognize protocols like I2C and SPI.
Now that we know what a logic analyzer is, let us look at how we made our top picks.
To start, we looked at the specifications provided by the manufacturer. We did this to determine the most versatile logic analyzer, and to determine the use cases each analyzer was best suited to.
Then, we consulted the reviews available for the product online. By consulting both long reviews written by trusted bloggers and reviewers in the field, we were able to determine how well the product met the claims of the manufacturer, and whether the product was worth the asking price.
Finally, we consulted Amazon reviews to evaluate general user experience and quality control. If a product has excellent specs and a couple good reviews, but the quality control is terrible then we will not recommend the product. The experience must be good for all users for us to recommend the product.
Frequently asked questions
Can I use my Raspberry Pi as a logic analyzer?
The Raspberry Pi has GPIO ports that can be used as inputs for a logic analyzer. You can also use the Piscope software to run the Pi as a logic analyzer. However it is important to note that the GPIO inputs on the Raspberry Pi will be damaged with levels which would normally not be an issue for a logic analyzer. For instance applying +5V on the Raspberry Pi input will damage it. We do not recommend using the Raspberry Pi as a logic analyzer unless you are sure the voltage levels are low enough to prevent damage.
Which logic analyzer can I use with a Raspberry Pi?
We recommend using the EspoTek Labrador with the Raspberry Pi to create a very versatile logic analyzer.
Can the Arduino be used as a logic analyzer?
Yes, the Arduino can be used as a logic analyzer using this software. However it is important to note that the Arduino can tolerate a maximum of +5V on its input pins. Applying voltages higher than that will result in damage to the device. You’re better off using the EspoTek with a Raspberry Pi.
Logic analyzers are extremely useful tools necessary for a variety of applications. From those just starting their electronics learning experience to professionals – everyone can benefit from a logic analyzer. The question is simply – which one to buy?
If you are using the logic analyzer in a professional application and require excellent reliability and responsive customer support, we recommend the Saleae logic analyzer. If you are a hobbyist with a little more time on your hands for debugging and a tighter budget, we recommend the Innomaker logic analyzer. If you are looking for a logic analyzer for starting your adventure into electronics, we recommend the EspoTek Labrador with its versatile features and low cost.
In summary here is our list of recommendations for the best logic analyzer:
- Best Overall: Saleae logic analyzer
- Runner up: Innomaker logic analyzer
- Best for beginners and tinkerers: EspoTek Labrador