Bench DMM versus handheld?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by bobbyrae, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. bobbyrae

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 14, 2009
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    I am planning on buying another multimeter, but am quite puzzled by the differences between bench and hand held units.

    It seems to me that the bench units just cost a lot more and I cannot see why this is. When you compare the specs, even from the same manufacturer, it seems that you just get more for less with a handheld.

    I understand that with the really high end bench meters you can get better accuracy, but I am talking about those situations where the specs are about the same. Why would someone opt for the bench meter? Do they have longer lifespans? Or do lab people just have bigger budgets?
     
  2. hgmjr

    Moderator

    Jan 28, 2005
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    Did you have particular models in mind that you are considering? I myself favor the handheld versions for their portability and their battery powered feature. Benchtop meters are often powered by AC.

    hgmjr
     
  3. ELECTRONERD

    Senior Member

    May 26, 2009
    1,146
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    Same with me, I've always used a handheld DMM.
     
  4. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
    1,585
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    About the only function on a typical bench meter that's not on a hand-held DMM is 4 wire ohms. Some bench meters can display two values simultaneously (e.g., ACV and frequency or ACV and DCV), but there are DMMs that can do that too. The bench meters often come with an interface so they can be controlled by a computer (but there are DMMs that do also).

    If you're working at a bench a lot, then the bench meter could be appropriate because you can turn it on and leave it on without worrying about the batteries. I use both types and like having both. But the most-used electrical instrument I have is my trusty old Fluke DMM -- it's what I would have if I could only have one measurement tool.
     
  5. bobbyrae

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 14, 2009
    42
    1
    As a matter of fact, I had been looking at a B&K Precision 2880B. When I compare it to their bench models, I see many with similar specs, but priced much higher.

    Somebody must be buying the bench models and I am hoping someone here has done that and can tell us why.

    The only thing I can figure is that maybe bench DMM's are more repairable and designed to be used all day, whereas the handhelds are probably designed to only be on for minutes per day. And maybe you can't really repair them when they go bad. But when you think about Fluke handhelds that seem to last forever andway, I have to wonder.
     
  6. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    If you take them apart you will. The handheld is basically a single PC board with no wiring, the rotary switch sits onto the board. bench supplies usually have switches and knobs. More assembly = more cost.
     
  7. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
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    No, reliability is comparable. The benchtops will sit on a bench rack more easily. Handhelds have to set on the top of your workbench which is usually cluttered.
     
  8. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
    1,585
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    The handheld DMMs outsell the benchtop units probably by one to two orders of magnitude and are available from many different sellers. That is one of the largest influences on cost (i.e., low demand implies higher price). Unless you need 4 wire ohms, I'd recommend going with the hand-held.

    Oh, one other advantage of the benchtop unit is that they typically use vacuum fluorescent displays. These are easier to read than LCD displays for older eyeballs. My old HP bench meters use bright red LEDs which are even better than VFDs.

    Not too long ago I was interested in the B&K 2890, which is similar to the model you're considering. I rejected it because of the nature of its interface (optical instead of a standard RS-232 connector), but the DMM itself looked like it was pretty good (based on just the specs). If you get the meter, I'd sure appreciate seeing a review of its good and bad points.
     
  9. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
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    1,222
    If you put some money in a DMM. Be sure that it can do a true RMS AC measurement, not just 50/60 Hz mains related measurements. Also inspect the AC measurement bandwidth
     
  10. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,498
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    I recall the BK precision line had the best value on a TRMS handheld with very good specs overall. I think it was like $150 about five years back. Amazing the values you get for electronics these days...
     
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