If you are building a home shop, it is common to try to get the cheapest gear you can possibly get. However, professionals often look at TCO or total cost of ownership. Buying a cheap car, for example, can cost more in the long run compared to buying an expensive car that requires less maintenance. Most consumers will nod sagely and think of ink jet printers. That $20 printer with the $80 cartridges might not be such a deal after all. [JohnAudioTech] bought a few cheap multimeters and now has problems with each of them. Maybe that $120 meter isn’t such a bad deal, after all.
The problems he’s seen are the same ones we’ve all seen: noisy selector switches, suspect display readings, and worn off lettering. You can see the whole story in the video below.
Although we get that [John] has $90 worth of meters that are not so great, we wish he’d given us an idea of one that he used that he did like. If you shop, though, you can get one really good meter for the cost of the three meters in the video and some of those will reliably last for decades.
There are cheaper meters, of course (with strange connections to felines). You can even get a Fluke meter for less than you might think.
70 thoughts on “The True Cost Of Multimeters”
TP9605BT eats batteries even when it turns off….
This is a challenge in just about every field and hobby. I appreciate the guys that put out lists of cheap but decent tools. Particularly when starting out, it’s a decent idea to buy cheap, and upgrade one at a time.
I went through this. Cheap ones are typically garbage. I finally found one for about $20 that compares well to the expensive ones, and long term its been good! I wrote about it as usual:
“Cheap ones are typically garbage. ”
You get what you pay for. I have several Flukes. Old Fluke 77s can be found in pretty terrible cosmetic condition for very little on Goodwill. Ham radio flea markets are also good sources. Companies go out of business and the tools get bought at auction and sold off. You can’t kill those old Flukes. The new ones are, in my opinion, overpriced.
> The new ones are, in my opinion, overpriced.
Maybe. I don’t remember the price for a 87V but it was insane. Even if i could i would not spend that much on a meter (altough it is certainly a really good, precise and forever-lasting one).
As long as you do low-voltage-stuff and especially digital the cheap meters are not so bad in my opinion. Better have a 5$ meter than nothing to troubleshoot your Arduino… Of course, you get what you pay for, but for people that just play with Arduino sometimes a 5$ meter will do the job and it’s cheap. The problems begins when you want to work with mains or any device connected to it. The cheap multimeter linked above is CAT1, well, at least they are honest. You could use it for mains, i did such things, but if you are unlucky there will be some voltage spike and the damn thing will blow up in your face. Same thing if you are on the wrong mode (like resistance and connection to mains).
Speaking about multimeters, i am really interested by the stuff Brymen makes. They have a CAT IV meter with integrated isolation and earth tester, iirc something a little above 300€, i think i will buy this at some point. Certainly more than precise enough for my low-voltage stuff and safe and usefull for “high” voltage (mains). And i could (and would) buy some cheap AC-DC-converter and test it, i’m am really intrigued by those considering the price.
While I love me some old tools, just a heads up to folks: this is not always the case. A neighbor gave me his old mac tool multimeter, a Fluke 77 rebadge. Read an AA battery as 4.5v. 0_o. Not all oldies are goodies. But hey, the oldies have service manuals!
Got myself the AN8008 2 years ago thinking it was a really good deal, to replace my home improvement store meter that didn’t have auto-range and whoose display was failing. It turned out to be unable to perform continuity testing after a year of moderate usage (the rotary dial and the inputs jacks both seem wonky).
I recently splurged on a Brymen BM257s. I like its silicone probes but it is too early to say if it’s worth the price or not!
They probably use cheap PCB plating that gets worn out. Maybe some “contact oil” might help to improve the performance and longevity….
My biggest concern with AN8009 so far is that continuity tester takes a while to latch. So if i just go fast sliding across multiple pins to see if there is continuity to one of them, it can easily miss unless i go slow… I would love to see some hack to lower the time constant…
Agreed about some range switches; about all you can do is clean and lube the contacts.
I love beep continuity checkers and they must be fast, else what’s the point? They should perform like the continuity checkers of yore: a battery, a piezo or magnetic buzzer, and 2 probes.
More generally – I’ve had very good luck buying meters in the $50 to $100 range. I especially like when $70 meters go on sale for $30 (Canadian Tire) They all have good features and have been reliable.
I have a Fluke that I really like. Have been using it for years.
Interestingly though, I was never able to get it to measure current until I recently took it apart to find both fuses gone! Installed new fuses, and it works great.
Really makes me wonder what happened. Maybe QC problems, but I’m putting even odds on long-forgotten office hi-jinks.
Measured with wrong setting, blew fuses (they’re strange size/value) and no spares is my guess.
(It’s happened in my lab…I *think* we have spare fuses. Thanks, Digikey!)
I once had problems with my good DMM and even took it apart thinking the range switch needed cleaning.
It turned out one of the fuses was bad. It wasn’t open, but had a high enough resustance to affect readings. You’re right, the fuses are harder to come by.
Maybe that’s a judgement? Does the cheap DMM include fuses, or maybe fuses
that are accessible withkut ooening the case? Good ones have the fuse behind the battery cover.
I was aide for a college auto shop lab once, the fuses on the flukes are $15 a pop, pardon the pun.
It seemed crazy to me, but when I checked it out they are filled with sand that should turn to glass and keep any plasma ball contained. Makes sense at 30,000 volts
Since the shop only used it for 12v I was tasked with putting 3A littelfuse in one of the leads, much easierto change too.
I presume that was before hybrids were popular?
I worked in aerospace for years. Fluke were the only meters we used. We always checked the fuses with another meter. Easy to do. Make sure you read the meter amp rating before taking a reading. It is easy to blow the fuses when checking currents. Cheap meters were never used, too much risk involved due to inaccurate readings. All of our meters were calibrated yearly by a certified lab. Just my two cents worth.
I worked in a place like that and we had Fluke meters, Tektronixs scopes, and lots and lots of HP and other high end gear.. And ring lights. Everything was sent in to be calibrated annually except the ring lights.
This was a large electronics manufacturer and oddly enough the ringlights were both useful and commonly used. An a lot of failures were from solder splashes or flash left on the board from the etching process. Those along with the usual the wrong parts in the wrong holes, parts in backwards etc.
To this day when I fire something up for the first time I joke about the worst that can happen is it could burst into flames. This is from and old test jig for the power supplies for a device we built. If they put the bridge in wrong (it was square) or off by a hole (there was something next to it and it could be off by one hole in the board), if you powered it up, it was rather, um spectacular.
The generic 9999 count Chinese meters (I use a Zoyi ZT 109, there are dozens of vendors on the usual ebay/aliexpress/amazon etc with rebrands available–for the most part they all seem to be roughly the same in terms of quality/accuracy) really are a good deal. They cost about $25 which is a bit more than the $3 fixed function ones you find on sale at harbor freight, but you get a real autoranging 9999 count meter, true RMS, tons of supplemental measuring modes (capacitance, frequency, duty cycle, millivolt/microamp ranges, etc). I have a fleet of 30 of them (for educational purposes) and they have held up well, so far only one of them has had the knob start to go bad which is a heck of a lot better than back when we were using the $3 ones. It is also really nice that they run on a pair of AAA batteries instead of a 9v and have auto-off functionality, which has reduced out battery costs by like several orders of magnitude.
One thing to watch out for is when picking a vendor is to get a meter that has all of the features you want. Each vendor has slightly different value add features, for example the one in this video came with an extra set of multi-tip probes (although it sounds like they were of poor quality) and has a non contact voltage and thermometer but costs about $10 more, where as the Zoyi does not have as many of the value add features but is cheaper.
My recommendation to people looking for a meter in he $50-100 range is to buy a pair of the chinese ones. You get all of the features and probably better accuracy of a name brand meter in the pricerange but the chinese meters are physically much smaller and you have a backup meter in case one of them gives out (dead battery or fuse or whatever) or for doing measurements where you investigate 2 meter readings at the same time.
I’ve been happy with the free Harbor Freight units. One out of three died, and occasionally I need to fix a probe, but otherwise they seem just fine for my limited needs.
Free is great, mine was .50 cents, my trash can is close and I can walk to HF
I agree with you, I have some nice meters but 99% of the time I grab one of the HF’s. The old ones that used the zebra strip between the board and display, digits would flake out. If you needed the meter to work you could take it apart, clean the copper contacts with an eraser and alcohol and put it back together again and it would be just fine. The newer (last 10 years or so) ones have the display soldered and don’t have that issue.
I suspect the terrible ohms not reading the same issue exists in these. If I am that concerned about reading a couple of ohms I will drag a 4 wire ohmeter out and do it properly. Ditto with voltage. Most of the time voltage is almost a go or no go measurement. You could almost get away with a bug light. If I need to read votage accurately I will get a proper meter to do that. I can not recall the last time I had to resort to that.
Overall I have had great luck with the HF freebies. I treat them nice, I am gentle on the probes, I don’t wrench the knob around. In fact I keep them in their blister packs and just slide the cardbord back in and out. Given they are free and I have shop space spread out over multiple buildings, I have one or two in each, as well as the house and the cars.
If I say back over one of my HF meters I hope I don’t pop a tire and feel a bit bad for the meter. If I backed over one of my flukes, it would ruin my day. The trick to having cheap meters is using the right tool for the right job.
Mine failed after 1 1/2 years of moderate usage. I’m not sure whether the dial, jacks or main IC failed, but I have the same ohm measurement issue as in the video above.
Thanks for the recommendation, I went with the $11 ZT100, because my needs are low, and if I like it I can grab the 109 later.
Much like Alexander I like the free multimeters, I can have one in every car and workbench, more of a test light/battery gauge kind of thing for verifying voltage exists/polarity
If (when) I have $50 to 100 to spend on a meter, I do not agree that two cheap meters is a good plan. I’ve found that once you get into the $50 and up range, the meters are much better-made. Often they are a clone or a knockoff of a well-known meter, or use the same chip, and they are the sort of meter used professionally in Asia. SO, for a budget of $100 I would buy one decent, robust meter for $80 or $90 that has all the features I want, and one cheapie for backup and loaning. And watch the sales!
My 2 cents is a to avoid ones that take 9 volt batteries. They don’t last long and in recent decades as less and less stuff use them the price on those buggers has gone way up in comparison to AA and AAA
The Fluke 77s use a 9V battery. They last forever.
But I take your point…all the newer Flukes use AAs. Annoying, because while the supply cabinet always has plenty of AAs, not so much with 9V.
My main complaint with the cheap EXTECH meters one tech bought “to save us money” is that the timeout was on the order of a minute. So, whenever you set it down, you had to turn it off and on again to get a reading. Annoying as heck, and I gave them all away. Also, the leads and probes were crap quality. The Fluke timeout is something like 10 minutes…
Yes the 77’s and 73’s last for ages but the 87 eats batteries before lunch.
An issue I’ve found with cheaper meters particularly when doing current measurements is the leads are so thin the resistance is a significant factor and effects the reading. I’ve ended up replacing the wire with some nice flexible silicone insulated wire and that turns a cheap nasty meter into a useable one for not much effort.
Both of my two old flukes use 9V so that’s not entirely true. My 27FM and 8060a use em and last forever. For cheaper meters I agree 9V’s are expensive for the watt Hours they give you.
Yea my 1986 Fluke 77 eats those 9v batteries like crazy. I think I have to replace them after a few years of use. ;-)
I was given a VOM in 1972. It was already used, and the back was missing. It didn’t last long. Too many times I had it on the wrong range, or setting, and soon wrapped the needle around the stop pin.
I was lucky, soon given the use of an HP 410B VTVM, which eventually became mine and still works fine. A great AC range that works into VHF.
DMMs were around tgen, but too expensive. I got my first one in 1984, about $100 from Radio Shack. Nothing special but it seemed okay. I spent another hundred in 1996, another Radio Shack, more functions including true RMS and capacitance.
I’d say even a cheap DMM is useful to the beginner, harder to damage than that VOM, at a tine when someone is likely to make errors. Thiugh maybe I have too little experience with the really cheap, and they aren’t as protected. Though, if you damage a ten dollar DMM, replacement is cheaper than a $100 DMM.
But, a point is back then one couldn’t buy ten dollar DMMs. You could buy $100 or pay more, but there was no really low end. Does the really cheap DMMs tempt people too much, assuming they are okay? I don’t know. It does seem like the temptation is there, and you could buy a few trying to get good results, and have spent $100 on a few and then feel you need something better.
But buying cheap means you can try things and learn from it before buying a $100 model. Maybe just jump to an expensive model next rather than incrementally moving up.
I did buy two more in the past decade, cheaper and bought on sale. One was a pen type, to have that small a DMM. It is handier for checking batteries, though a slide switch to go between ohms and voktage, and a button to go between ac and dc. I’ve not checked, but some have said the cheap DMMs don’t have as high input impedance as the better ones, so I’d not trust this one for serious work.
I also bought an auto-ranging DMM, since I’d never had one before. It had a larger display, and backlight, so I wanted to try it when on sale for $30. It includes a frequency counter function, but not so useful since the upper range is in KHz. And even if it measured higher, I wouldn’t connect it to serious work since the leads would load down the circuit. I’ve never comoared it to the goid DMM, but itseems reasonable for a lot of purposes.
I dud get an RCA VTVM sime years vack, it sitting by itself on the sidewalk. Those still have use, and those RCA had especially large meters for easy reading.
Oh, you could buy cheap VOM’s 30-40 years ago.
They were analog (of course) but they were only rated about 1Kohm/volt.
When DMM’s came out with 10-20Mohm/volt, I nearly cried!
Somewhere I have my first VOM, a RadioShack model that had a “Range Doubler!” function. It was basically a slide switch to a resistor that halved the voltage readings.
I think I got it on sale for $29.95, or “half” of the $59.95 regular price. I was in tech school at the time and one instructor informed us of the sale. I think about half of the students bought them.
If you check the multimeters that Joe Smith reviews, you’ll find that the good ones really are hard to break.
The nice thing about the vtvm;s was they because you were driving a tube anp and the amp drove the meter, you were much less likely to destroy the mechanical meter movement if you did something stupid. I still have an HP AC voltmeter someplace in the archives. Oddly enough I do not have a normal VOM anymore, but I do have a decent stable of Weston meters which are very neat as they read AC or DC, usually in 2 ranges, and I also have a large precision potentiometer and mirror galvanometer. If you have never done it, it is quite the experience to read voltages the way they used to do it. In the early days if electricity, directly reading voltage (and severely loading down the source) was considered barbaric. In the old days taking a voltage reading required a considerable amount of set up and a table full of equipment. Your potementer, a standard cell, your galvonometer, and a wet or dry cell for the lamp in the galvonometer.
I’ve had my fair share of chintzy multimeters growing up.
Eventually bought a Uni-T UT61e off of a friend, and never looked back. They’re great IMO
I also got one, i bought it for the data logging feature over a serial port, but never took the time to try it out. The serial cable has a pl2303 in there, but the connector is an rs232, which means I need another usb serial with rs232 to connect to it. I looked if i could directly connect a usb-serial to it, but it outputs some optic signal it seems. Great multimeter though…
Like so many things, you need to consider your use case and what’s important to you.
I bought my 11 year old son a truly terrible $3 analog meter. (no seriously, https://hackaday.com/2017/11/28/the-worst-piece-of-test-equipment-youve-got-to-try-hacking/) Where he’s at, it was/is perfect for his use case, not terribly dangerous (as long as he doesn’t go above a 9v battery). And for him, an analog is more intuitive.
The daily driver on my bench is an Extech EX330 – about $35 US, reasonably accurate, decent probes, capacitance, frequency, and duty cycle.
If I need something with traceable calibration or I’m working with 480V and higher, I’m definitely reaching for a different tool.
Nice that Hack-A-Day is reorting on current events.
Reorting is so undervalued these days.
Back when I was young, you couldn’t make through one year of grade school without regular reorts.
Kids these days have no idea what we had to go through.
And lerts, if you showed up to class and you weren’t a lert, the teacher would set you straight in no time!
For me it was the noids that were the worst. If you got a teacher who was a noid, your whole year was shot.
My first decent meter was An Analog Elenco FETVOM. A kit the techs school instructors had us assemble to stat developing or soldering skill.A good high impedance Analog VOM has place on even the modern work bench.. 5 years ago I went through a prolong heath issue. I disjointed, when I was able to get back to my work bench. the discover the batteries had leaked to the point restoration wasn’t possible. I used and still use n premium brand dry cells in critical equipment. Where it’s still likely that I will work on motor control with voltage as high as 800 VAC I purchased thw winner of the eevlog 50 dollar meter shoot out. While imperfect I trust it’s safety features morso than I would a 5 buck meter. Another comment m allude to input impedance. Any meter that dorsn’t spec.om the package the states a 10 meg ohm or input Independence I pass it by. Because Iit’s a digital DMM doesn’t mean it has a high impedance input.
How I buy tools:
If I need it now, and for a limited use (e.g. drilling 10 holes into concrete walls), I buy cheep. If the tool breaks, it is covered by warranty. If it doesn’t, fine. I have a new tool that I can keep until i need it the next time in a few years. It will break, may be much too early, but until then, it was good enough and at the price, I don’t worry about breaking it.
If I want to use the tool regularily, but with no special requirements, I buy a new mid-range tool or try to get a good used or refurbished higher level tool.
If my life depends on the tool, or if I want to use an expensive tool for a long time, I won’t make any compromises and buy high end quality.
Pretty much the same here.
It used to be easier to buy cheap tools that were of good quality.
I have a set of impact sockets that csost me circa $1 each for the 20 odd in the set but can find nothing similar today.
The markets are now awash with utterly shit tools are different pricing levels and packaging but the same items.
Gotta be savvy about what you’re buying & how to spot polished chinesium.
This is one of the advantages of buying from a bricks and mortar store vs the internet – taking stufff back 5mins after breaking it.
And also modding. Cheap tools you will happily mod.
One of my multimeters had cartridge fuses. That became a pain. It’s now got blade fuses accessible without dissassembly. It’s pretty much exclusively used for automotive testing so it now uses automotive fuses.
All cheap digital multimeters I’ve bought in my life were junk. Some right out of the box, others after one or two years of moderate use. Commonly, the mechanic parts (switches, sockets, battery holder) were crap and got worn out much too early. So simply I don’t by cheap digital multimeters any more.
Some years ago, I bought a cheap DMM for my car toolbag. Needed it twice, found it with an empty battery both times. So I bought a cheap analog multimeter that needs only a battery for the Ohm ranges. Removed the battery from the device. Now I can simply use that AMM, it just works. No battery needed for car use and the occasional “you know tech stuff, can you help me” problems. If I really need the Ohm ranges, I simply insert the battery, or rip one ot of a remote control or a toy.
You want a bug light and or a ring light. A bug light is a pen with a sharp probe and a light bulb in it, It has a wire coming out with an alligator clip on the end. Perfect for car go/no go tests, and nothing to go wrong. No meter movement to slam or smoke.
A ring light is similar but more like a penlight flashlight with one or two AA cells in it. You cross the probe and the slip and the light comes on. Perfect for tracing wires, among other things.
So one mentions a multimeter and the sheeple goes: Fluke! Fluke! Fluke!
They’re not that impressive. I’ve used Fluke for 15 years and I still get disappointed every time I turn them on. They have no functions whatsoever. Other brands have much more functionality at way lower prices.
Really? Have you read the manual cover to cover? I have been amazed by the functions mine has. Some are not labeled such as the ultra high impedance range (1,000 MΩ, typically 10,000 MΩ), conductivity, relative readings, true RMS, direct readings in db, frequency counting. They lack some of the stuff new cheap meters have like LC but the cheap meters are not super at that anyway, and you don’t know what frequency they are testing at, or if it dc. I prefer my old genrad lcr bridge if I want to get into that stuff as I know exactly what it is doing and where the number is coming from, and if I don’t like the frequency it is being tested at, I can supply my own excitement. To me, and this may just be me, but my flukes are accurate, just about indestructible and have more real world features than the imports. FWIW I do have one of the infamous LCR/transistor testers too, and it is neat for what it is, I look at it like the HF free meters, they are good for verifying something. If it is off a bit +/- you can assume it is the meter if the DUT is functioning. The better equipment is for quantifying. Like on the HF meter I read a 1K resistor and it reads 997 ohms, I call it 1K. With my fluke if it reads 997.3 that is what it is. Likewise if I am sorting little SMD caps and the inexpensive LCR is near say ,01UF, I am good putting it in the ,01 uf pile, However if I am building an active filter and I want to precision match caps, the genrad comes out.
I have a couple of LCR bridges built for the Air Force, but I have not been successful finding any operation manuals for them. Do you know of any manuals online for LCR bridges?
Who makes them and what model (s) are they?
The Fluke 77 was a superstar. Solid, droppable, dependable. When I was buying for a pro shop, it was a no-brainer.
Radio Shack did a nice clone of the 77 for about $100. I still have it.
I also have a cheaper, measure-everything DMM, and love it too. But it’s not as robust, so I baby it.
Bought a Fluke for school over 20 years ago and I still use it and it has outlasted multiple cheap DMMs in my arsenal. I use non-fluke meters because sometimes I need features like a transistor tester and you can find Pacific rim DMMs for around $30 that can do that.
I have the radio shack meter in the photo. I blew the mA fuse but aside from that, it’s been going strong since 2010. I believe I paid around $50 for it and it I don’t regret it at all.
That’s my oldest current meter. Replaced the fuses a few times; no issues after 10 years or so, now rocking NiMH 9v batteries.
Nothing worse than unreliable test equipment. Finding out you have a flakey meter, bad test fixture, or any such thing when you are trying to debug and troubleshoot another problem is the worst nightmare of nightmares.
No doubt there are good and cheap meters, but how can you know. So I own a Fluke and have never regretted it.
I’ve got a nice little Fluke Model 12 I’ve used for well over 20 years. My job (at the time) bought each of us techs one for the capacitance measuring capacity, and I liked it so much that I bought my own. Mine still looks practically new-out-of-the-box, but it’s got a problem. The display is fine but the buttons are erratic. Problem, bad zebra strips (elastomeric connectors) between the switches and the main board, and I can’t find replacements. Fluke dropped support for it long ago. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Oh, and yes, I’ve had it apart to clean them many many times. It no longer does any good.
My original Fluke 87 was as I remember an insane price 20+ years ago and is still going strong (ok one trip for repairs way way back) – my only gripe is that for hobby stuff when I go over to the library is it’s large size, so I am trying to find a decent meter that has a much smaller form factor for just measuring volts and ohms
Be careful with cheap knockoffs if you work over 24V. EEVBlog has examined several of them in detail over the years and discovered some shockingly poor designs – the worst of which claimed 600V protection but would likely consume itself in a fireball if anyone ever tried it.
I’ve owned several multimeters over the past 30 or so years. My earliest was a 3.5 digit from Radio Shack back in the ’80s. A later Radio Shack 4.5 digit meter, and then a mid-range Extech 4.5 digit. The Radio Shacks lasted well but I needed more. The Extech was better spec’d but didn’t last as well. Maybe it was the particular model, or maybe an anomaly – Extech have a good reputation. I liked it when it worked.
My current ride is a Fluke 189 that I got for a good price off Craigslist. That is a beauty – I’m unlikely to need anything else unless I somehow manage to kill it, which seems unlikely.
My take – if you’re working with a meter on regular basis to make a living, get your boss to buy a great meter. If you’re the boss, buy a great meter. When deprecated over 5 years, a Fluke 289 is under $2 a week. Compare its cost to that new laptop, or your salary, and it’s very easily justified.
If it’s not making you money, then buy what you can afford. If you just need something for general around-the-home testing then you don’t need 5 digits, +/-1% accuracy, trend displays or even True RMS readings. The ability to *safely* measure AC or DC voltages to 250V with 3 digits will handle just about everything. Even top brands such as Fluke and Digilent have meters under $40 that would suit. Compare its value to that of any other home tool – a power drill, or circular saw for example. Heck, if you’re really short on cash, Craftsman have one at $17.
If you’re a hobbyist then you probably want to trawl the used marketplaces for a decently capable meter from a decent brand. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to afford a Fluke 289 new, but you want an oscilloscope too. And a decent power supply. And a logic analyzer. And a waveform generator. And… you can see where that’s going… It’s worth keeping in mind other personal expenses when discerning value: that new $1000 cellphone, or your monthly cable bill; for example.
I’d avoid aliexpress specials like the plague though. Just not worth it IMO.
> 5 digits, +/-1% accuracy
You have a reading of 100, it could be somewhere between 99 to 101. The other 2-3 digits are superfluous and not very useful.
Normally not very useful. Hard to use for sure. When you get into the 5,5 and 6.5 and bigger DVM,s lots of little things come out of the woodwork. Thermocouple effects are a big one.
One thing that gets me here is when people go hackig around inside of an ultra precision device. I have seen LED displays swapped for LCD’s for example, I don’t think the people doing this have a clue as to how sensitive a device they are mucking with. As you point out, with a 3.5 digit meter you have a lot of leeway. When you get 1000 or 10000 times more sensitive, you really do need to be careful.
My home bench features my trusty old Fluke.
But I buy “el-cheapo” to keep in my locker at work and carry in my car and my “possibles” bag. That way, when someone steals one, it doesn’t really frost my cupcakes that much. All I ever use the junky ones for is quick continuity checks and voltage tests where I don’t really need accuracy.
I also keep a couple of the cheap D’Arsonval meters around in case I run into AC (or DC even) with noise components that fool the digitals. Nothing like having a high 9th harmonic throw some weirdly fluctuating readings at you, or cross fed AC showing up as a few volts instead of ~120.
Fluke has never done me wrong! Electrian by day engineer by night and fluke has some sweet equipment.
How does the slogan go? “If it works, it’s a Fluke!”
I just bought a siglent 3065x. 6.5 digit meter. That will do me till I get a 7.5 or 8.5 digit meter.
I’ve got two generic-ish Bluetooth and optically isolated USB meters that work well, aside from running the battery dry after auto shut-off if not set to off. Solved that with some rechargeable batteries. Isolation internally looks okay too. Still solid after three years of bench use, just a little laggy updating.
Also have a 99$ import Fluke that’s awesome. Although the (admitedly, nice) fuse 6 pack cost a third the price of the meter!
You’ve clearly demonstrated that many CHEAP-O Multimeters are actually quite good!
ANENG: You can’t dis the ANENG because the included test leads are dodgy…of course they are!
Replace the leads with a better pair and you’ll be surprised with the improved performance.
Simple cotton swab and IPA will clean the rotary and that’s a recommended practice for most inexpensive and sometimes expensive multimeters.
RADIO SHACK: Did you put in a fresh battery for the Radio Shack DMM? I had a similar issue and a new battery took care of it. These were built like tanks, well constructed and offer decent input protection at a minimal cost to the user. They shipped with spare fuses and a ton of accessories.. a real bargain!
UNI-T: The UNI-T clamp once again can’t be faulted because of the included test leads. The UNI-T 210 Series offers incredible value and once again has a solid track record *price/performance. If you use it in a oily/dusty environ, clean with a damp cloth and you should be good to go. Neither of mine have suffered the faded label fate as you have mentioned.
All in all, CHEAP multimeters have their place and have proven their worth.
In some Global markets these meters are used and abused on a daily basis as name brands such as Fluke/Keysight etc.. are simply out of reach for the ordinary person and yet these inexpensive multimeters still perform faithfully.
Thanks for the video! (I think Snickers would prefer a bench meter!).
When considering a purchase a thought that usually passes through my head is from a friend at work. He always reminds me, “Buy cheap. Buy twice.” However, an exception is, one part I bought on the cheap because it was $20 with a lifetime warranty. The second one is $80 with a 90 days warranty.
I like to hold and compare devices side by side to make sure either will do what I want within the tolerances that are expected. Oh, and not start giving funky output when batteries are getting low. Batteries low? Kick me a reading at start up.
I suspect some of the issue on this topic isn’t about buying cheap, but figuring out at what price a reasonalble DMM could be bought. How low is too low? Once upon a time, the place to buy meters were electronic stores. Prices varied, but it was a specialty thing. Nowadays, they are available at hardware chains, sold cheap and on sale, with only broad specs, and too generic to get serious reviews.
I have bot resonably expensive, and cheap. I never worried about the cheap because I had the expensive. But if I was a beginner, I’d not be able to tell the differance between a five dollar DMM and a forty or one hundred dollar one.
Depends on the expected use / end user.
I told my dad to go buy a multi meter from the dollar/pound store because I needed to find a easy way for him to remotely diagnose if something had a voltage & ball park from 2 hrs away.
Good enough for the task. Dont need accuracy, just an indication. +/- 10% @ 12v.
I have at least 10 multimeters, about half bench, 6.5-8.5 digit stuff, and the other half handheld. My free harbor freight ones get 95% of the use, because they’re the ones that are so cheap I can leave one in my electrician bag, one in the garage, one in the back of the car that keeps breaking down… The best multimeter is the one you can get to in a hurry. Whenever I need accuracy and can take the work to the meter, I use one of the lovely bench MM’s, but most of the time I use the ones I don’t care if they get lost or cracked or vaporized.
Sounds exactly like my reply! Save the good stuff for when you need it. BTW, what you got that goes to 8,5 digits. I top out with an old HP3456,
I like how you mentioned that one should make sure the multimeter they buy is good quality. One of my uncles does a lot of project work. These tips could really help him get the proper multimeter for his needs.
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