As with most other tools, the ideal multimeter for you will depend on your plans for the device and your experience. In the market, there is a notable divide between the professional-grade multimeters and those for amateurs. That matters, because there’s no point in overpaying for a tool that has more features than you need. The difference can be significant. This list of of ten multimeters, along with reviews, contains a wide assortment of tools that reflect many different roles and purposes. This is not a top ten list: it is a comprehensive list that should contain a multimeter that will be right for you, no matter what your needs are.
Etekcity MSR-R500 Digital Multimeter
The MSR-R500 is quite cheap, listing at $35 but usually selling for far less. The multimeter is packed with features for the price, and those features are mostly aimed at beginners. This is evident just from the packaging: the instructions contain extensive information about how to use a multimeter if you have never owned one before. As for the features themselves, the meter has a continuity test with a buzzer, a DC voltage range of 200mV to 500V, an AC voltage range of 200V/500V, DC current range of 2,000 micro-amps to 10 amps, and resistance range of 200 ohms to 200 mega-ohms. The MSR-R500 is light at 10 ounces and measures 5.1 inches by 2.9 inches by 1.4 inches. That makes it portable, but it is still built tough enough to survive a small drop. You probably shouldn’t test it out on any big impacts, though. The display is LCD with a button to freeze it so that you can keep the results on the screen. It updates two to three times per second when it is reading. The MSR-R500 delivers great value for new owners, especially first-time buyers, and it is quite cheap. Considering that professional multimeters run for over a hundred dollars, the MSR-R500 is practically a steal.
INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
The reputation of INNOVA is a company that makes multimeters which appeal to people who want to use the meters to diagnose problems with their car’s electronics. This is a very common reason to need a multimeter, so it is an important niche in the market. The 3320 model lists for around $35 before any sales or discounts. In comparison to the MSR-R500, it is built tougher with more rubber on the corners for drop protection, and it also weighs a little more. The dimensions of the unit are two inches by ten inches by five inches. In keeping with its role as the meter of choice for people trying to diagnose problems with car batteries and similar applications, the 3320 has color-coded markings to help you check your battery. It also comes with an auto-ranging feature that saves you the trouble of dialing in on the correct range for testing, which takes about two seconds for this meter. That is considerably faster than most of the similar meters that cost less than $100. The battery testing is highly accurate and useful for all kinds of batteries, although it is most well-known for its ability to test car batteries. If that’s what you want to do, then the 3320 from INNOVA is a good buy for you.
Etekcity MSR-C600 Digital Clamp Meter & Multimeter
The MSR-C600 lists for $55. Unlike the two meters we have examined so far, it is a clamp meter. This is a different form of construction and form factor and it creates a different role for the meter. The MSR-C600 has many of the same features that are common to several multimeters, such as a continuity test, autoranging, and an LCD screen that can hold onto the results of a test for your convenience. The purpose of the clamp is to allow you to test a circuit without needing to break that circuit. The process of breaking a circuit to test it is potentially dangerous, and the clamp multilmeter allows you to bypass that step. You can test resistance, voltage, diode, and continuity with a fairly simple interface, and the meter operates quickly, although not as quickly as the INNOVA. In terms of accuracy, it is equal to meters that cost much more. This is a very good AC meter with a clamp, especially when you take the price into account, so if AC is all you need and you prefer the clamp, then the MSR-C600 should make your shortlist. It weighs about a pound and is of similar size to other handheld meters.
Etekcity MSR-P600 Digital Multimeter
The MSR-P600 is another Etekcity model. At a list price of $42, it is a little bit more expensive than the first meter on our list, but as usual the meter is very frequently available for a significantly lower price. This is a small meter: it only weighs half a pound and measures 9.5 inches by 5.2 inches by 1.2 inches. That makes it small enough to use in the palm of your hand. The probes can reach up to 22 inches away from the body of the device, giving you plenty of reach to test things in and around your home. The MSR-P600 is built and marketed as an entry-level multimeter. It shares many features and characteristics with the MSR-R500, also from Etekcity. The MSR-P600 has a somewhat larger range on the tests it can do, has a more detailed display, and can do capacitance testing. Between the two models, the MSR-P600 has a higher price and a little more value for your money because of the extra features in it. The difference is fairly small, however, both in terms of price and features. Both of these make excellent first meters. The best thing to do is to look at both of them and see which one is lower-priced at the time and see how much of a savings there is. Choose whichever one is cheaper at the time.
Etekcity MU600 Digital Multimeter
Yes, Etekcity is on the list again. There are several brands that build many different models of meter to appeal to different segments of the market, and Etekcity is an example of that. It lists for around $30, making it cheaper than the other Etekcity meters we have seen so far. That bears out in the feature set. It is most like the MSR-R500 in terms of its range and other features. There is one thing that sets the MU600 apart from other meters, and that’s the hFE measurement test. Many of Etekcity’s other multimeters don’t have this test. There are a few convenience features that make the MU600 appealing. It has a stand to keep it upright, a backlight, and each one comes with an appropriate battery. In all honesty, the low price tag on this meter means that just about anyone will be able to get one, but at the same time the fact that it is not quite as full-featured hurts the MU600. If you think that the hFE measurement will be an important feature for you, then the MU600 is worth a look. For everyone else, there is probably no reason to get this over the MSR-R500 unless you get it on sale. A side by side comparison shows that it undercuts the MSR-R500 in both price and quality, but that’s dipping too low for most users.
Fluke 323 True-RMS Clamp Meter
Fluke might be the most well-known brand in the multimeter industry. They are a premium brand and tend to offer meters that are notably more expensive than the rest of the market, but the extra features and value that they pack into every model makes them worth it if you can afford to invest in one. The 323 is another clamp model. At 2 pounds, it has a little bit of extra heft to it, and it measures 9.5 inches by 4.2 inches by 2.7 inches. The explicit role for this meter is for tight situations where you need to get at particular cables inside smaller compartments. It’s common for Fluke to create highly specialized models of meter. This model can measure fairly high amperage, up to 400A. It also measures up to 600V in both AC and DC. There is an automatic range feature, but you can also turn it off if you want to set the range manually. Fluke also makes two other clamp high-amperage meters that are a little more expensive but each add on another level of features. If you can afford the list price of $130, then you will get an excellent clamp meter that comes with some neat benefits.
Fluke 62 MAX Infrared Thermometer
The second and last Fluke product on our list is not a multimeter at all, but an infrared thermometer. This is not as strange a choice as it might seem at first. Infrared thermometers are actually quite handy for checking on the temperature and the electrical conditions of equipment and locations. This is very useful in HVAC work in particular, and it allows you to measure the temperature without contact. The range of this thermometer is from 20 below zero up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit above, or 0 to 500 degrees Celsius. Once you select your surface, the thermometer can tell you the maximum temperature, the minimum temp, and the difference and average of those numbers. It is also IP54-certified for dust and water resistance, although you should not submerge this tool. This cannot, obviously, replace a true multimeter in your toolbox, but it still might be a good tool to have around. With a list price of $100 it is certainly not cheap, but that means it has great build quality and a notable feature set. Consider buying this if you have some extra room in your budget and you think you will be able to get some regular use out of it, because it performs its role very effectively. It’s just not a role that most people need at any given time.
Extech EX330 Autoranging Mini Multimeter
Extech’s EX330 is another interesting choice. The unit is not really a mini meter, because while it measures a slightly smaller 5.7 x 1.6 x 2.9 inches and weighs slightly below average at 9.9 ounces, these are not major differences. The EX330 lists for $60, which is higher than most others on this list but still less than the top. As the name suggests, it has an autoranging feature which you can disable if you would like to enter the range yourself. It is listed for CAT III environments and has a thick rubber grip to keep it safe. The unit packs a multimeter, a non-contact voltage detector, and a thermometer into the same frame without compromising on the quality of any of them. That gives you a lot for your money, even if you do have to pay a little more than you might otherwise be used to. The EX330 also comes with a stand and a set of AAA batteries to make it complete. The max hold and data hold features are standard, as are the test leads and ranges, but the wire probe for the temperature sensor is new. There’s a lot packed into this small unit, so take the time to make sure all of those things would actually help you and are worth paying for.
Uni-Trend Uni-t UT202A Voltmeter
The UT202A has the baggage of a Chinese manufacturer going into a market that traditionally demands durability and reliability, which have been problems with products manufactured in China before. The UT202A is another clamp meter that is a little smaller than usual at 6 inches by 3 inches by 1 inch and 7.8 ounces in weight. The model is in compliance with up to CAT III 300V and has reasonable ranges: 600 volts, 10 mega-ohms, and 600V of overload protection on both AC and DC. It does have auto ranging, although it is a little slower than the best in this area. In fact, this meter has just about all of the features you could ask for in a smaller model. Right now it lists for $69, which includes batteries, a carrying case, and the test leads. While it lacks the unique styles of a Fluke model it certainly gets the job done. The jury is still out regarding its durability over years of use. The one point of disappointment is the LCD screen, which could be bigger and more detailed.
Power Probe IV
Power Probe is a bit of an outsider in the multimeter market. The Power Probe lists for a whopping $275, which is really a lot for a meter like this. At that price tag, the Power Probe IV should have great presentation and customer service, but it doesn’t: almost nothing comes with the unit and customer service is difficult to reach. On the pros side, however, the Power Probe IV has some very useful tests and specialized features that no other meter can offer. For example, the automotive sector is one of the most common uses for a meter, so that gives you a reason to spend all that money on the meter. For example, knowing how often there are problems with the fuel injector, the designers added a special fuel injector mode to help you identify those problems. You can also test circuits safely using the PCM/ECM driver. If you are already used to Power Probe, then this could be a good buy for you. It is too expensive for a beginner, and even for someone with some experience a Fluke is usually a better choice. But the PPIV also checks pulsewidth, traces signals, and has a big 23-foot cable. This is definitely a meter to keep an eye on for whenever there is a sale or the price goes down. That would make it more competitive with the Fluke models and attract more attention to the brand.
All of these meters have a lot of features in common, but enough differentiates them that they are all worthy of inclusion into the list. If you are on the fence about buying a multimeter in 2016, then consider this a time-saving first step. There is almost certainly a tool in this list that will be perfect for you, and this is much easier and more convenient than scanning through online information and reviews by yourself. Each of these was chosen because it brought a unique combination of price and features to the table, so read each of the 10 reviews and decide which meter is best for your needs.
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