Why do I use a digital multimeter?
If you want to check AC output and fuses in your home, terminals of the wires, batteries of a cordless impact driver and the motor driver of your saws, so you need a digital multimeter. A digital multimeter should most definitely be a part of every lab, workshop and for household DIY repairs. The best digital multimeter is the one that can record rapidly changing values with pinpoint accuracy across the variety of testing modes.
A digital multimeter is a testing tool or measuring device. It is basically a measuring device used to measure different electrical values such as voltage (volts), current (amperes), resistance (ohms) and continuity.
Digital Multimeter is significantly more advanced, precise and accurate than its predecessor analog meters.
As the word multi defines; a single meter can measure all values mentioned above. It is one of the most valuable and handy devices available in the market for electrical and electronic measurements.
Top 10 best digital multimeter reviews
Here is an assessment of some of the digital multimeters available in the markets.
Best multimeters for electronics and industrial electrician
Fluke 117 Electricians True RMS Multimeter
When it comes to multimeters, a majority of the electricians concur that it has to be the one developed by Fluke. Fluke 117 is a handy and easy to use the multimeter. It can measure voltage, current, resistance, continuity, capacitance, and frequency with minimum, maximum and average readings for accuracy.
Fluke 117 uses one of the most accurate RMS values. RMS or Root Mean Square is a method used for measuring Alternating Current Voltage or AC voltage. Actual RMS values are essential for fluctuating or non-linear load measurements. AC electric supply is regular electricity that we get in our home and offices.
Fluke 117 is also accredited for its non-contact voltage detection. Non-contact indicating that you can measure tension in a wire with the probe touching the exposed wire. Voltage measurements can be made on insulated wires. Low input impedance in this model gives accuracy in readings and prevent false readings due to ghost voltage.
One of the keys and distinct features of Fluke 117 is its AutoVolt Technology. This technology helps in automatic selection of AC (Alternating Current) or DC (Direct Current) Voltages. It can measure up to 10 Ampere of current making it suitable for all official operational purposes.
However, it lacks low current values measurement range like milliamps and microamps. The reading LED in Fluke 117 is backlit and comes with a white-black light, a feature not available in other similar products available in the market.
Fluke T5-600 600V Voltage Continuity and Current Tester
Fluke T5-600 does not have the traditional look of the digital multimeter. It is compact and slim with a belt holster. With open jaws for automatic voltage and current detection, Fluke T5-600 can measure up to 100A of current without breaking the circuit.
Fluke T5-600, this feature makes it extremely suitable for industrial use. It is highly robust and can withstand a 3m drop. You may not find many devices which you can drop down from a ceiling height and still have them functioning correctly.
The feature that is of chief importance is its price. It comes at an affordable price and with distinctive features.
It has lightweight and compact design.
Fluke T5-600 has detachable probes keeping it in line with the electrical standards.
It also has the low battery indicator and an auto-off mechanism for battery conservation. Some of the downsides of this device are its lower measuring range and accuracy.
3-digit display of this tester is also somewhat limited.
Although Fluke’s T5-600 limits its use to voltage, current and continuity, it is still one of the best available options for measurements about readings as mentioned above.
Fluke-117/323 KIT Multimeter and Clamp Meter Combo Kit
The Fluke 117/322 combo kit couples the Fluke 117 digital multimeter with a Fluke 323 clamp meter for tracing and correcting faults in electrical systems. It is a kit which is versatile and proves very useful in wide range of circumstances. It comes with a carrying case for the easy and safe handling of meters.
This combo kit contains:
- Fluke 117 True-RMS digital multimeter with non-contact voltage detection
- Fluke 322 Compact clamp meter
- TPak Magnetic Meter Hanging Strap
- C115 Deluxe soft carrying case with shoulder strap
- TL75 Hard Point Test Lead set
This combo kit offers distinct advantages for general or commercial applications. Fluke 117 DMM is an ideal device for demanding settings. It has non-contact voltage detection to expedite the work. Low input impedance helps to avoid false readings. Apart from measuring the electrical signals, it can measure temperature as well with the temperature probe.
The small and rugged Fluke 323 clamp meter tells you the load current in amps. It is well suited for the currents up to 400 amp. If you have to work in tight places, you would actually appreciate its small design. True RMS measurement and efficient design make Fluke 117/323 combo kit the best troubleshooting tool.
Best Digital Multimeter for HVAC
Fluke 116 HVAC Multimeter
Fluke 116 looks just like any other multimeter in a first glance but under the hood lies a different story. Fluke 116 has many changes integrated into to it specifically designed for HVAC. Low impedance feature of F116 prevents any false readings. This LoZ function makes sure that testing accuracy is achieved all the time. It automatically detects AC or DC Voltage.
Fluke 116 comes with microamp feature that many other comparable meters do not offer. It allows down to 0.1 microamps flame sensor measurement. Maximum voltage capacity of this meter is 600 volts which are rarely approached in HVAC applications. It can carry out temperature measurements through the use of type K thermocouple.
With Fluke 116 HVAC multimeter, you can measure frequency, resistance, capacitance, and continuity simultaneously providing Min/Max/Average readings with a specified period of elapsed time to precisely record signal fluctuations.It features a backlight to enhance readability in dark settings.
Despite its distinctive features, it lacks some of the things that HVAC professional would be happy to have such as NCV (non-contact voltage tester) built in meter and clamp ammeter. Overall, Fluke 116 is a great meter for HVAC professional.
Multimeter for professional, automotive and home use
Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter
Fluke 87-V digital multimeter is designed to be used in an industrial environment and carries the number of features. As far as electricity is concerned, this DMM can measure almost everything ranging from resistance to capacitance and frequency.
The meter is a robust and rugged device designed to stand up to years. Considering its functionality, Fluke 87-V is unique and stands out among others; that is probably the only meter available on the market that can operate and maintain accuracy while being tested on adjustable speed motor drives. This function is one of the distinguishing features that only Fluke provides. Technically, Fluke 87-V has all the features that are needed for most applications. There is no need of an additional thermometer if you have this meter.
While most multimeters tend to lose accuracy with time, this multimeter comes with a lifetime warranty by the manufacturer. This model of Fluke has a large display and a backlight making it useful in low light or dark areas. Magnetic hanger with it allows you to get your hands free.
The only downside for this meter seems to be a bit high priced and need to use your 9v battery. But the price worth every penny for the qualities it possesses. Fluke 87-V is an absolutely one of the best DMM you can buy.
Multimeters for automotive, home use and beginners
INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
INNOVA offers less expensive products compared to Fluke and almost the same quality as considered by many. INNOVA 3320 is a device primarily intended for automotive and household electrical problems and used for wide range of purposes such as resistance, voltage testing, continuity, and frequency measurements. It measures up to 10 amp of DC and 200 mA of AC. Its auto-ranging scale eliminates the need of dialing the correct range while taking electronic measurements.
One of the unique and characteristic features of this multimeter is battery load test. Unlike other multimeters, it checks the battery while placing it under a burden and then measuring the resultant voltage across it. This function of 3320 gives a more accurate condition of the battery.
It comes with an arm strap, detachable test leads and protective rubber corners which significantly lessens the impact. An extra-large display of INNOVA 3320 makes it easy to read all the symbols and numbers.
The accuracy of this meter is quite exceptional for the price it is offered in (1%+5 counts DC). It runs on a pair of AA batteries that last longer than 9v ones and has the auto-off feature to save the batteries.
If you are looking for an affordable multimeter, that is ergonomic, accurate and easy to use, INNOVA 3320 should be an ideal candidate for your pick.
Etekcity MSR-C600 Digital Clamp Meter, Multimeter with Voltage, AC (alternating current), and Resistance Test
The Etekcity MSR-C600 is an auto-ranging digital clamp meter and a multimeter capable of measuring AC(alternating current), AC/DC voltage, resistance, diode, and continuity. It has data hold feature built in it which makes using this meter much easier. The jaw opening like a typical clamp meter in Etekcity MSR-C600 is capable of measuring AC in a conductor up to 26mm without breaking a circuit. Auto-off feature is quite impressive, which puts the meter into sleep mode if it is not in use for 15 minutes hence saving energy.
It has a large backlit LCD screen which is quite easy to read even in darkness and receives positive feedback from the customer. Some users consider its low sensitivity as a downside.
Although it might not serve as a substitute for Fluke meters, it is reasonably priced and is perfect for household and DIY jobs. Lastly, it includes a carrying pouch for the meter and probes. This meter is certainly easy to use and does perform its job very well for the sold price. Its purchase will surely not leave you disappointed.
Amprobe AM-510 Commercial/Residential Multimeter with Non-Contact Voltage Detection
This professional device can measure voltage and current without making any physical contact. Amprobe itself is considered a high-quality brand. This multimeter is very well suited for light commercial or advanced household applications. It has AC/DC voltage measuring capacity up to 600 volts, AC/DC, resistance, frequency, capacitance, duty cycle. Apart from all these technically conventional parameters for digital multimeters, it is equipped with hold function which keeps the reading on the screen even if the multimeter is disconnected. The battery test feature of this device can check the charge in standard batteries.
Amprobe AM-510 has a bright backlit display which enables the user to read with ease in low light or completely dark conditions. With its auto-off feature, you have no concern of draining the battery in circumstances where you’re too busy or forgot to put the meter to off. Low battery indicator warns you of the battery replacement. Last but not least, it has a flashlight built in it which helps users see the stuff in the dark. This meter is built rugged and robust and is perfect for wide range of applications such as automotive electrical testing, household/DIY repairs and light commercial. On the downsides, there aren’t many, but some claim it a bit expensive and having no case.
Etekcity MSR-P600 Digital Multimeter, Volt Amp Ohm Meter with Capacitance Test
This multimeter from Etekcity is built as an entry level device. It is a very light and small multimeter weighs about half a pound and measuring at 9.5 inches by 5.2 inches by 1.2 inches that make it small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Etekcity MSR-P600 is an auto ranging meter which is capable of measuring AC/DC voltage and current, capacitance, resistance, frequency and duty cycles in commercial, household, automotive and electrical testing applications. This palm size digital multimeter also features auto sleep, and data hold function. The readings are displayed in large numbers thanks to its large LCD screen. The probes are quite long giving the user enough reach to test the things. It is widely used as a car battery tester. Its probes are not detachable, and it comes with a carrying pouch. All in all, Etekcity MSR-P600 DMM is particularly portable and a fair value for the price.
Etekcity MSR-R500 Digital Multimeter, Volt Amp Ohm Meter with Diode and Continuity Test
The Etekcity MSR-R500 is a reliable multimeter that is primarily intended for general household use, electricians and hobbyists. Its operation is pretty quick, and it accurately checks for continuity, and diodes and measures current, voltage and resistance.
Despite being on very low-end price range, this is a good multimeter and offer all the basic functionality that one needs. It is lightweight and has firm grip due to the use of ABS plastic. The bumper protection is added to keep it safe from drops. Moreover, its backlit LCD is large and easy to read. Plastic hinge stand is attached on the back for hands-free usage. Tester probes that are included with it have a reasonable length giving you a good working reach. The defined edge on the barrels of the probes is quite a safety feature to avoid fingers slipping on the metal tips while working with high voltage. This beginner’s device is very cool concerning affordability, functionality, and ease of use. The only downside of this meter seems to be no carrying case. Except that, it is exceptional.
Things to consider when buying a digital multimeter
Here are the factors that are most relevant to user:
Features – what can it measure, and how well?
Before buying a multimeter, you must consider the purpose and your level of understanding of electrical works. The most digital multimeter can measure AC and DC voltage, current, resistance, and continuity. However, if you are a professional user capacitance and frequency are also the important factor to consider while buying a multimeter.
If your work involves high voltages and current, consider buying a multimeter that can measure a high value of current. Some professional multimeters like the Fluke T5-600 can measure current up to 100 Amperes. These multimeters can be used for high power circuits. Also for ease of access a multimeter that can detect current without breaking the circuit is extremely useful. This factor provides both safety consideration, conveyance and also has a considerable fast reading methodology.
Build Quality – can it survive a few drops, dings, and bumps?
Usually, electrical works require professionals to approach inconvenient locations like electrical poles, damp basements, underground electrical circuits and high rise buildings. In these conditions a belt holster with attaching hinges to multimeter are essentials. However, certain multimeters can survive drops up to 10 feet.
Protection – if I overload the meter, will it blow up in my face?
Most multimeters come with a safety fuse in case you screw thing up. Usually, the safety fuse is attached to the back and is easily replaceable. But the acceptable limits of the multimeter must be considered. Usually, the highest tolerable values of a multimeter are available in the specifications manual of a multimeter. If you are considering buying a multimeter with detachable probes; an important factor to play close attention is the right placement of the probes. Usually, multimeters due to safety considerations have color coding both on the probe and the multimeter.
Reliability – will it work when I need?
Multimeters that are reliable and consistent will not leave you helpless. Some of the multimeters come with the auto-off function which puts it in the sleep mode if left inactive for few minutes that is an attempt to improve the reliability by saving energy. So it’ll work for a longer period without demanding battery replacement. Additionally low battery signal is also an added measure to avoid sudden power cut off without any warning. Some multimeters by Fluke comes with the lifetime warranty which ensures their greater reliability.
Accuracy – are the readings trustworthy?
The accuracy of digital multimeter defines the amount by which displayed reading can differ from the input value. It is one of the essential factors to look for if you’re someone working on a professional level. Accuracy might not be a serious concern for household DIY electronics repairs. A highly accurate multimeter is better for commercial use and does more pressing tasks. It is the accuracy which differentiates between the well-functioning multimeter and faulty one. So if accuracy is a serious consideration for you, go for a multimeter that is receptive to calibration. This way, you can get your DMM calibrated again if it becomes inaccurate. If it is ISO or NIST calibrated, it ensures highest levels of accuracy in values.
Precision – are the readings repeatable?
Digital multimeters are quite precise instruments if they are properly calibrated. You might need to perform the calibration on your digital multimeter to keep its precision from the day one. Some DMM brands like Fluke are well reputed in the market for their precision. Multimeters which display the readings in some digits after the decimal are usually considered more precise.
Ease of Use – do I have to read the manual to figure out basic operations?
This is another important consideration when buying a multimeter. All the digital multimeters have a decimal screen that displays digits and symbols. Some feature a bright and large display with the backlit function to increase visibility in low light or darkness. Plus a large display can show readings with more digits. Different multimeters offer a wide variety of settings, understanding of which is essential to operate the device successfully. Presets that are clearly denoted are more user-friendly. So, in a carefully designed multimeter, the number of measurement options are presented in the compact and convenient way. Controls are easy to read, understand and adjust.
Probe Quality – do I have to spend more to replace junky probes?
Multimeters, whether they are cheap or expensive, requires probes for the measurement of electrical properties. Probes are connected to test leads. Better quality of probes is essential in your pick as your device will not demand different probes later on. The design of probes is also important for comfort grip. Use of robust and sturdy materials improve the longevity of probes. Since multimeter deals with the variety of electrical equipment, probes must be safe as well. For example, some probes have wide flanges which will help your fingers to stay in the insulation area to avoid potential danger of electric shock.
While choosing the best multimeter for yourself, try to understand the needs of your job and define the attributes of the product. So you don’t waste money on excessively advanced multimeter because you will not be able to utilize the full capabilities if your job need is essential. The best digital multimeter is always the one that has right functions and features to help you accomplish your job.