The Cheapest Meter on Banggood

According to [pileofstuff], he didn’t really need another digital multimeter. However, when he saw a DT-832 meter on Banggood for the princely sum for $4.99 he wondered just what kind of meter you’d get for that price. You can see his conclusions in his recent video (below). He does make it clear, by the way, that he wasn’t paid for the review or given the meter. He just decided to see what $5 would buy in a meter.

Depending on your predisposition to cheap Asian electronics, you may or may not be surprised. After all, for $5 you can’t expect a top-of-the-line lab instrument. The device measures AC and DC voltage, DC amperage, ohms, transistor beta, and has a diode tester and continuity buzzer. It also has some frequency measurement capability. You can’t be too surprised it doesn’t auto range, though. To be fair, although he mentions Banggood as the source of the meter, a quick Google search shows you can get them from all the usual sources, and the price is down to $3.73 as long as you let them ship it from Canada.

In addition to taking the instrument through its paces, he also shows the insides, and there isn’t much. The PCB has a fuse, an op amp, a big blob IC that runs everything, and a handful of discrete components.

Of course, the real test is how well it works electrically. Turns out [pileofstuff] had on hand several Fluke meters, an old Radio Shack meter, and a pocket-sized meter from Hioki. With all those meters on hand, he was able to make measurements with them all and found that the cheap DT-832 compared favorably with the Flukes and did better than the old Radio Shack meter.

Although the readings were in line with the very expensive Fluke meters, [pileofstuff] is quick to point out that the meter is probably not going to take a beating like the professional meters, but for sitting on your workbench, he was impressed with the cheapest meter on Banggood.

We occasionally pick up free meters from Harbor Freight when they are giving them away, but have always been sad they usually don’t have continuity buzzers. So maybe $5 isn’t bad, after all. Of course, a little more money will get you more features like bar graphs, reading hold buttons, true RMS readings, auto ranging, and nicer displays. But only you know what your price to features balance point really is.

Of course, if you buy a Fluke or other name brand meter, you can expect warranty service, calibration service (if you need that), and–the best part–lots of known hacks using the meters. You can even make an Internet of Multimeters with a WiFi connection if you go in for that sort of thing.

63 thoughts on “The Cheapest Meter on Banggood

  1. And with Fluke you can expect 40eur 200mA fuses.
    While I understand the reasons why they use a really good and safe fuse there, in my tabletop use case normal glass fuses are ok.
    And that’s why I use my chinese meters more than my Fluke.

    Everytime I see sub-5usd meters I’m tempted to buy one for shits & giggles.

    1. Yeah, I bought a Fluke 79iii for £25 years ago, and never used the ampmeter. A couple of month back, I needed it, and sure enough the DMM-11 fuse was dead. Since I never used it as an ampmeter before, it tells me the previous owner blew it and I never noticed!
      Anyway, went to find a BUSSMAN fuse, and they were like £10! Yikes! So on a trip to China, bought a box of 10 10x38mm 10A 380V fuses for £1. Brand is Delixi, so actually quite a good brand (in China anyway). Likewise, it’s in a ceramic cartridge, so I put a piece of 10mm heatshrink around it so that if it blows it (hopefully) remains contained.

    1. it gives a much faster response than the digital display for fast-changing readings. The digits may not respond quickly enough to see a fast pulse. A reading that’s changing constantly will just give a blur of ever-changing numbers. Also gives a more intuitive about how the reading is changing.

    2. In general, the bar is supposed to be displaying range of the measured value quicker than digits, i.e you’ll see the spikes that you wouldn’t be able to catch looking at number value.

      1. Though some DMMs derive the bargraph from main ADC, always displaying the same value as digits, rendering the bargraph almost unusable – too slow to see trends, too rough to see small oscillations.

        1. Yes, I have a Radio Shack meter, not low end, and its bargraph meter is useless, too slow.

          After pocket DMMs came along, there were a few that included an analog meter, just a small one, to show trends. They didn’t try to calibrate it, it just showed relative voltage.

          Not as convenient, but one could just find a small meter, they used to be common in consumer equipment to show level of some sort, and put it in a box with a good op-amp to buffer (and amplify, if needed). Not as convenient as having it in one meter, but useful if doing a lot of adjustments that require tuning for peak.

          Michael

  2. Spend a bit more, and you get a surprisingly good multimeter:

    On eBay you can get it for EUR 18, free shipping. I bought one, because even my more expensive multimeter I have (BM257S) don’t have microvolt resolution. Just don’t use it for mains or other high voltage / high currents, because the protection inside doesn’t look as good as for the higher priced multimeters.

      1. Dave was blabbing too much / fast.
        The battery compartment shows AAA printed inside but I can understand that he’s confused because of the small size of the meter.

        I would also buy the AN8008 over about any other cheap DMM.
        The lack of some of some of the current ranges is easily overcome by using an external shunt and the low mV voltage range also really shines there.

  3. Dave from EEvblog had similar DMM in his hands too (from 42nd minute)

    it was almost “bang on” though not being screamed so enthusiastically as with some more expensive DMMs.

    The problem with cheap DMMs isn’t precision at room temperature. In fact, most of the people need to know whether there is 5V on 7805 output or not, or whether that battery is flat or not. The problem is immunity against high-energy voltage spikes – occurring in specific sorts of measurements – that could convert the DMM into blob of carbon in spectacular way, if you enjoy fireworks; and causing all sorts of problems, like burned fingers or falling from ladder if somebody is working in heights. The immunity is what CAT numbers are about – http://www.ni.com/white-paper/5019/en/ – most of the cheap DMMs declares CAT III conformity, but it’s obviously pulled out of ass.
    On the other hand, working on breadboard circuits, those cheap DMMs are just fine. Low voltage/low energy projects make vast majority of articles here or on hackaday.io.

    When you are planning to make measurements on high-energy power grid installations and health/expensive goods come into play, invest into something more reliable and expensive (not a problem if you are really doing that sort of job).

    1. I agree. These things are perfectly fine for breadboard-stuff (low voltage, low current) and because of the price you can buy several of them so you can keep an eye on different voltages/… at the same time. But don’t use these things for mains voltage and stuff like that. However i’m wondering about let’s say car batteries. These things can deliver lots of current, what would happen if you (accidently) short one with a cheap multimeter in current measurement mode. I suppose the fuse would explode but remain inside the case??
      The video from Dave Jones shows a quite impressive meter for the price, however i’m wondering about durability (as a few people said, how good/bad are the switches) and precision after a few months/years of use.

    2. That’s the meter I use for basic automotive and electric motor repair work. FREE from Harbor Freight with a coupon. I’ve even sold ’em for $5.00 to people who come around the shop looking to see if I sell a cheap meter. One could argue that I actually got paid to get my meter and that’s better than free. :)

    3. Well, I took your advice and bought a $400 Fluke then stuck one lead in the ground and threw the other over a high voltage power line and much to my surprise it blew up anyway :O
      Must have been a Chinese fake then eh.

  4. I think this is the most popular multimeter type that you can buy everywhere under countless brands, often cheaper than $5. It is pretty accurate unless you drain your battery and there is no any other sign that battery is weak :)

  5. …We occasionally pick up free meters from Harbor Freight when they are giving them away, but have always been sad they usually don’t have continuity buzzers

    WHAT ? !

    We have a saying around these parts: “You’d bitch if they hanged you with a new rope.”
    I’d like to add, “I don’t think we should waste a new rope.”

    1. In fairness, that’s one of the few features of a fluke that’s handy on a day-to-day basis on a 5V breadboarding circuit, because you inevitably wind up using it while holding it to two pins on a 14-pin 5×7 LED matrix display which you’re also holding up in the air, and trying to see which diode lights up on the far side. For those of us who were born with four hands, it’s really easy, but lesser mortals find it’s just a fidget too far to also keep the display of the multimeter at an angle that lets them read it at the critical moment…

    2. I don’t actually know how many of the HF meters I have. I picked up several myself at $2.99 to keep in various places. Later I inherited Dad’s collection. My sole complaint is the lack of a buzzer. Whenever I buy something at HF I get another meter. I’ve given quite a few away and have two sitting on the shelf unopened.

      I *think* I’ve had one go bad on me in over 10 years. Most of my toolboxes have a meter inside as does the battery drawer, I save my old AA cells to use in the $3.50 LED lights that Autozone sells. They have charge pumps so a battery that is “dead” in other devices will generally work for a few months before it gives up completely. I’m puzzled why they don’t put charge pumps in everything that uses batteries.

  6. A word of caution. NEVER buy a meter without the “auto power off” feature. Doing so means you will have to replace the battery after every use (if you’re like me and forget to switch it off). Cheap meters often use 9V type batteries and they are expensive (at least here in Sweden).

    I would recommend the meters between $20-100 for hobby use. Buy a real meter if you’re a professional or just want a hassle free, accurate meter that can take a beating without exploding in your face.

    1. Problem:
      Those voltage monitoring jobbies like reading when a CPU VRM shuts down but the meter shuts down before the PC boots up to desktop due to the auto-off.

      Solution:
      Get both types just in case. Also remember to switch off the manual-off types, You’ll regret not switching it off the next time you need to watch paint dry to prove a fault or symptom for diagnostics.

        1. That’s a handy feature to disable auto off….

          The non-fluke-brand one I have only has one button for hold and manual-range modes (Short for hold, long press for manual range)
          The other one is an old thing for indication, quite far out of calibration.

          I’d have to get hold of a fluke for myself to use said feature.

    2. I really hate the “auto power off” bug of almost every DMM nowaday’s.
      It means you have to use complex turnon sequences every time you want to turn the meter on or the meter will start beeping and/or turn of in the middle of measurements.
      I’m usually working at my bench and want to have the DMM turned on for several hours in a row.
      And then getting distracted by having to push a button every 10 minutes?
      Yuch.

      My Wavetek Meterman 35XP can disable the auto sleep mode when the “range” button is pressed during power on but then you still need 2 hands to turn the meter on.
      With the chipset of this meter the power of bug can also be circumvented by enabling the RS232 output.

      People who are so stupid they can’t turn a DMM off should be punished by empty batteries.

      1. “People who are so stupid they can’t turn a DMM off should be punished by empty batteries.”

        In fact they shouldn’t be allowed near anything electronic or electric.

    3. hm… I have one as in this review that is probably >15 years old and it consumes a little power, i remember leaving it on most of the time for days and weeks and would still replace the battery maybe once a year.
      On the other hand i hate flukes – they seem to draw a lot of power even after they automatically shut down, so if you forget it on even on a fresh battery is’t dead in probably a couple of weeks.

  7. The biggest problem I have had with the Chinese cheap meters has been the switch contacts. If a reading appears wonky, I rotate the selector switch back and forth a few times to “clean” the contacts and the readings come back to reasonable – sometimes. This is especially true if the meter has been sitting in a drawer for a long time between uses.

    I notice [pileofstuff] used alligator clip leads to test a 10 ohm resistor. In my experience, those clip leads can have several ohms resistance built in due to the connections between the wire and the clips, They have their uses for sure, but shouldn’t be trusted 100%. I must not be a fast learner, because a flaky clip lead has more than once led me on a diagnostic path to figure out what was wrong with my project…

  8. I keep a stock of cheap dmms for general use because 99 times out of 100 I don’t need any accuracy. If it can tell me if two points are shorted, if a voltage is roughly 5V or a rough resistance value then that’s usually good enough. I then have a quality bench meter for when I need to make accurate measurements.

  9. I use both expensive and cheap meters and the cheap ones have their place. They do have some weaknesses though.

    1. Switch lifespan. They do die much sooner than on a fluke.

    2. Probes. The cables are really just ordinary cables, I added the DANIU probes, they cost about $3 but are definitely worth it, flexible cable, gold plated contacts and a good banana connection.

    3. DC on AC measurements. This is the most important and often overlooked aspect of SOME cheap meters. The AC measurements are half-wave rectified, averaged divided and treated as if it was DC.
    So for example if you have your system on AC and you measure 12VDC, it comes up as 24VAC or 0VAC depending on what way around you happen to connect the probes. I had some of these, but tossed them out. Just too much of a mess if you ever forgot about this “feature”.

  10. It DOESN’T have auto-ranging, and for me that’s a GOOD thing. I’ve used auto-rangers, but I’d never own one unless it had a full selector dial for its manual mode. There might be one time in a hundred times where I would find the auto-range function useful. The other 99 times it’s a PITA to have to push a button repeatedly to select the range I know I want; but if I leave it in Auto mode, then it takes too long to decide what range is needed, and if it’s on the border between two ranges things get ugly. So I have it in Manual mode – then the turns itself off, and I have to set the range all over again, because it doesn’t remember its last state. As far as I’m concerned, auto-ranging is great for electricians and casual users, but mostly crappy for experienced electronics techs.

    1. I completely agreed with this about 20 years ago.
      Nowaday’s however there are a lot of fast autorange meters around which have a stable value in the time you need from looking at where you put your probes to focussing on the display.

  11. When i see it i buy DT9205A. This type, with big “DIGITAL” text on box. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Digital-DT9205A-Multimeter-LCD-AC-DC-Ammeter-Resistance-Capacitance-Tester-1pc-/371965526655?epid=921808542&hash=item569adf827f:g:l-QAAOSwzgRWz7i3
    I had three of them and they are accurate enough for hobbyist use. I also have DT9205M which has two tone continuity quacktest and buttons other way around.

    I don’t need any fancy functions, autorange is confusing to me (am i connected? 10mV or 10V?), flip out display is nice, the meter is tough enough to withstand 20A for insane amount of time, accidental measurement of current in home wiring. Only the wires supplied are supposed to go into trash after unpacking trial and if you make some yourself, you can measure tenths of an ohm accurately enough to not need (or be lazy) to use adjustable supply for split-wire method.

    7 dollars. 20A AC-DC. flip-up display. no one can beat that.

  12. The last one of those DT-something series meters I tested had its voltage readings off by about 5% or more. Still, those things have their uses if you want to keep a lot of multimeters around so as to avoid getting caught without an at least adequate meter on hand.

  13. Pretty cool. I enjoy these type of articles. I have the same DMM I got for xmas almost 20 years ago. It isn’t new or the best (or even has autorange lol) but it is all I need for my daily use. I mainly use it to check voltage, continuity, and the occasional diode or 8 lol. I don’t have an oscope but this does everything I need. I do wish I had a cap meter sometimes but thankfully they are cheap enough just to drop a replacement in if it is in question. ymmv

    1. Almost. The HF ones are even cheaper. I have one that I just opened up. It uses some type of soldered-in fuse that seems non-replaceable (where would you even find one to match). Also no continuity buzzer on the HF.

      The one in the video is a step up.

  14. Shipping from Canada AAH.
    Postage must be a killer thow.
    It cost more to ship a box of AIR then I can afford.
    It must cost 5 to 7 times the price of the meter.

    Thanks AAH

  15. Lack of auto-ranging, auto-power-off, buzzer, and back-light aside, I’d like someone to check the accuracy of the sometimes-FREE Harbor Freight unit. It might be a real eye-opener to discover whether or not you’re being offered a diamond in the rough.
    And all the other negatives associated with a FREE MULTIMETER? Just keep on driving by Harbor Freight; don’t stop. They REALLY don’t want to GIVE you a meter that you don’t want anyway because it doesn’t have a true-RMS feature.
    (I slowed my HF Multimeter collecting to a crawl when HF was forced to stop offering yellow devices, by someone’s stupid ‘yellow-meter-copyright’. The yellow ones are easy to find in a tool box or tool bag)

  16. The most important thing with the continuity buzzer is the responsiveness.

    My main Multimeter (King Craft MD10759) is one that I bought in 2006 for about 7 Euros. It’s good enough for what I use it for, has a simple transistor tester, auto power off and hold., but where it really shines is the buzzer. There is no delay, no matter how short you touch the tips together, you get at least a *tick* from the beeper. That’s what you need when trying to find connections on a PCB and too many otherwise better (and a lot more expensive) DMMs can’t seem to do that.

  17. it may be the cheapest but may not be the safest.

    i say safety because to give you that great price some corners may be cut like

    1. no fuses to protect the meter.

    2. if there is a fuse it is completely exposed (no simple plastic cover to prevent you from touching the fuse and getting zapped)

    3. very short or no protection on the probe connectors so thereby exposed contacts if leads are disconnected from meter could result in shock if the leads are still connected to circuit being tested.

    4. claims to have ultra high voltage specs but still blows up if connected to anything above say 110.

    5. wires too thin to support claimed current specs and may burn up if used on high current.

    if you intend to test high voltages or current you may want to get a better meter at local auto store but if you intend to only test batteries and low voltages i guess it is ok.

      1. Uh, when you get a meter, ANY meter, with 22-gauge test leads and a current (amperage) switch position of “20-AMP” …
        Uh, when you get a meter, ANY meter, with a “1 KV” switch position, and test leads with, maybe, insulation good for 220 volts. Maybe…

        Don’t most meters have a VERY stringent, very strict time/duty-cycle limitation on current measurement? …Like 10 seconds on; one minute off? Simply because such a limitation is not stated does not mean you can jettison safety concerns; that you can check sanity at the door.

        The operator of any piece of machinery is the only one responsible for bringing common sense to the table when using that machinery. Anything else constitutes a serious case of stupidity, and a classic case of the millennials’ desire to blame someone else for their lack of responsible action.

        Sorry folks; I hate to be the one to break it to you: electronics is NOT A GAME. Be stupid or be dead.

  18. Once, I left my harbor fright meter in the Sun for 20min. The screen turned black like the polarizer was installed backwards! I thought it was ruined, but I put it inside and eventually, it was normal again!!

      1. Expensive ones, too.
        Best rule: LCDs don’t like temperature extremes (you do know, don’t you, that those LCD displays in gas ((petrol)) pumps are warmed by heaters so they’ll operate in the cold outdoors. I thought so.)

  19. I have a DT-832, paid less than $5 for it and it has worked well. Can’t remember when I bought but I have had it more than a few years.
    Had to repair one of the leads and the pins on the test leads keep coming out (not glued in) but still good.

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