Difference Between Data Loggers vs Data Acquisition

To an untrained eye, a discussion about data logger vs data acquisition systems might be pointless, mainly because the devices appear nearly identical. They both have one or more analog inputs, with signal conditioning circuitry, measurement units with analog-to-digital converters, and data storage.

They seemingly serve the same purpose: to collect and store data for further analysis. However, to trained professionals, those discussions about data logger vs data acquisition systems are a vastly different story because the two, while similar in their primary function, couldn’t be more different.

This guide aims to educate about the difference between data loggers vs data acquisition systems and their similarities and differences. Let’s dive right in.

What is a DAQ System?

A DAQ system, an abbreviation of “data acquisition system,” is defined as any equipment used to sense (read), collect, condition, store, and visualize data in legible form. In other words, data acquisition systems take the readings from a particular sensor and convert those readings into a legible data set, which is then stored for further analysis.

DAQ systems are incredibly versatile and practical, which is why they’re widely used in many fields, including manufacturing, environmental monitoring, automotive and aerospace industries, as well as medical equipment and scientific research.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that DAQ systems aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions; though they can measure a variety of different properties, their structure is ultimately determined by their specific application.

In the context of data loggers vs data acquisition systems, think of them as squares and rectangles, respectively. Every data logger is a type of data acquisition system since it acquires and logs data, but not all data acquisition systems are just data loggers. DAQs offer way more functionality and are generally capable of handling more complex tasks than just logging data.

What is a Data Logger?

Data loggers are more compact and portable all-in-one tools designed for measuring one or several different parameters, depending on their configuration. Whatever you have to measure, you’re more than likely to find an ADC unit with an appropriate sensor that would sense the analog data over time, convert it into digital form, and then store it for subsequent analysis.

In a discussion on the difference between data loggers vs data acquisition systems, it’s worth noting that data loggers are more limited in terms of their functionality. They’re more reactive devices rather than proactive ones.

What we mean by that is that DAQ systems will push out data, especially if they’re monitoring something in real-time, while data loggers save the data to internal storage, which has to be subsequently extracted for further analysis. DAQs tell you what’s happening, while data loggers mostly tell you what has happened.

Data Logger vs DAQ Capabilities Comparison

There are many distinctions between data loggers vs data acquisition systems, but before we list the differences in their capabilities, let’s discuss their similarities. Both data loggers and data acquisition systems can measure a different range of physical properties.

This includes electrical current and voltage measurements, temperature, pressure, strain, stress, vibration, shock, and digital signals from RPM sensors, encoders, and more. However, the differences between data loggers and data acquisition systems, in terms of capabilities associated with detecting and recording these measurements, differ significantly.

For example, data loggers are typically designed for slow signals, such as physical properties that fluctuate slowly over a longer period. Because of this, these devices typically have a lower sampling rate during analog-to-digital (ADC) conversion, which usually tops out at 100 samples per second per channel.

Of course, some devices can go higher, but for the most part, a relatively low sample rate allows data loggers to record data over a longer period with a relatively low onboard storage space.

DAQ systems, on the other hand, usually sample analog signals at faster rates, up to 1 MHz/s, or one million samples per second per channel. This is significantly faster compared to data loggers. But it also means they store more digital data on their onboard storage.

Data Logger vs DAQ Monitoring Comparison

When it comes to monitoring in the context of data loggers vs data acquisition systems, things are vastly different. DAQ systems are designed to provide real-time monitoring, while data loggers typically collect and store monitored data over time.

Some data loggers provide real-time monitoring capabilities, such as measuring voltage, on their built-in displays or via another interface connected to a nearby computer. Otherwise, you’ll have to measure data and access it externally on a personal computer.

DAQ systems provide real-time data readings and monitoring, with somewhat (but not always) shorter storage capacities due to the sheer volume of data they process and store. They’re usually equipped with a monitor and are capable of real-time data monitoring, post-recording data analysis, and report generation.

Data Logger vs DAQ Power Needs Comparison

The difference between data loggers vs data acquisition systems is quite clear when it comes to power draw, which isn’t all that surprising considering the difference in their respective applications.

Due to their compact and more portable nature, data loggers are usually low-power battery-powered electronic devices. Their low power draw enables them to operate for hours, days, and sometimes even months without an external power source.

Alternatively, DAQ systems require an external power supply due to their high-speed operation and high processing load. Some systems come with a built-in battery, typically providing an additional two to three hours of operation in case of shorter power failures.

Data Logger vs DAQ Cost Comparison

Last but not least, the price and budget considerations are also important factors—perhaps the most important when it comes to data loggers vs data acquisition systems. Given their limited capabilities, it’s not hard to imagine that data loggers are significantly less expensive than data acquisition systems.

Some basic, low-end data logger models may cost as little as $100, while pricier, more advanced options might cost several thousand dollars. DAQ systems are almost exclusively in the thousand or ten thousand dollar range, with basic models costing as low as $4,000, while more advanced, stand-alone systems may cost upwards of $30,000.

What is the Difference Between Data Logger and Data Recorder?

Data records are general devices or systems used to record data in a broader sense, and they may encompass a variety of systems, including both data loggers and data acquisition systems.

Have further questions about data loggers? Ask KEYENCE—our experienced team can help you navigate equipment selection, operations, and support. Give us a call at (888) 539-3623 to get started.