Your Opinion of a Good, Cheap Digital Multimeter

Discussion in 'Test & Measurement Forum' started by buffumjr, Mar 24, 2018.

  1. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
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    There are so many, it is difficult to choose. I know, or think I know, Fluke is the best, but I don't want to spend $125+. I'm interested in the under $50 level.

    I'm interested in your experiences. Chinese meters are OK.

    -Durable
    -VAC and VDC to 400 at least
    -Amperage as much as I can get
    -Transistor testing
    -Diode testing
    -Capacitor testing
    -Resistance
    -Temperature would be nice to have, but is not necessary
    -Frequency

    Usage level is, perhaps, twice a week, most of it on the bench, or at the tool

    Will be used to test many things, but primarily electric power supplies, switching, diodes, resistance, continuity, power transistors.

    I'm looking on Ebay for my next multimeter. My current multimeter is an analog Radio Shack cheapo from the 1980's, that doesn't do half of what I need. Its circuitry is iffy, and needs to be recycled.

    Your input is highly valued.
     
  2. Ian Rogers

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2012
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    I have a cheapish one that I use for "everyday" use it's a Tenma.. It's now 6~7 years old and the dial switch is getting dubious!! I've cleaned it many times with alcohol, but it's had its day... For £40 ( $52 ish ) I definitely will replace it for another... But!! If you don't have a bench DVM then I would suggest a bottom end fluke.. It will last longer than the mid range, and it's far more accurate.

    The difference between my bench fluke and the mid range £40 meter is apparent when working at precision!! The Tenma was just for field work..

    I reckon £100+ ( $140ish ) will get you a decent DVM...
     
  3. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    Models I am looking at are
    Unbranded Chinese DT151D - $25
    Jensen Tools JTM-69A - $40
    Klein M400 - $34
    Unbranded Chinese Eoteck - $40
    Fluke 15B. - $99

    The Fluke has half the features, and costs twice as much. The Fluke 101 costs about $50, and does most of what the Fluke 15B does. Both lack a transistor test, though that can be done with current checks in three steps.

    The old Radio Shack cost $10, decades ago, but now, you have to tap it to get a reading, occasionally. I had to fabricate new test leads out of nails, heat shrink tubing, and wire. The case is badly cracked. It needs to go.
     
  4. Dodgydave

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 22, 2012
    8,263
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    Try Tenma, Uni-T, Velleman, Duratool, Amprobe, Extech, compare the functions you want in your price range, Autoranging is better.
     
  5. danadak

    Distinguished Member

    Mar 10, 2018
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    absf and dendad like this.
  6. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
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    Ooooh! I like the Extech 380280. Costs a little more, but has all the whistles and bells. - $65
    The Mastech MS8269 looks good, too. - $35

    Looking at Flukes that cost $65, the Fluke 177 does everything except transistor. Same with Fluke 106. The AN8008 has similar features. This from what I read on Ebay.

    I'll probably go with the Extech.
     
  7. KJ6EAD

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 30, 2011
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    This is from 2010 but still good.
     
    MrSoftware likes this.
  8. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
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    Liked the video.
     
  9. nsaspook

    Expert

    Aug 27, 2009
    6,185
    6,965
    Skip the transistor testing function of a meter, buy the Fluke.
     
  10. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    When I started as an auto mechanic, many moons ago, I had a choice of what tools to buy. Cheapo Horror Fright Tools, Craftsman, MAC, Snap-On, Cornwell, and others. Craftsman was not the most expensive option, but it had a lifetime warranty. Snap-On was highly prized, but the price was ridiculous. ($40 for a WRENCH?!? In 1974? Just ONE?) I never regretted my choice. Most of my tools, today, are Craftsman, except for certain Snap-On wrenches I needed for their close tolerance on brass fittings.

    The thing that attracts about Fluke is that the pros use them. Pros try to avoid things that break down. Break downs cost them time.

    The Fluke 101 ranges in price, on Ebay, from $48 to $118. With such a wide range, I worry about clones. I was buying a rifle scope, recently, and saw that both Leupold and Bausch and Lomb were cloned by the Chinese. A check with the manufacturers found the manufacturers would not support the clones (of course). $48 to $118. Wow. I was able to check the serial number with Leupold of the one I did buy, and it was legit. I hope I can do that, here.
     
  11. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
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    AHA! The 101 IS a clone. So are the 15B and 17B. Looks like buying the name Fluke does not guarantee safety, unless you are willing to spend more than a C-note.

    The online reviews are very mixed. Basically, there are two crowds: #1, BUY QUALITY. #2, Cheap is good enough. It seems to boil down to what you intend to do with them. If you are a pro, climbing around in pipes and wiring closets, only quality should do. Failure is an unacceptable annoyance. If you are DIY, and use it once a week, cheap but good is enough, esp if you baby it. If you are a researcher, relying on good data, the most expensive does not guarantee the best readings. GAAA! The review video liked three of the under $50 offerings.
     
  12. nsaspook

    Expert

    Aug 27, 2009
    6,185
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    A meter is a meter until it fails for some reason with a high energy power supply. Sure, a Fluke might stop working but most likely you will still have your fingers.

     
  13. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    What I want to avoid is spending $50 or so, and having something that is trash can filler after the first few uses. I've seen a few reviews where a tested multimeter fails for some unknown reason.

    Worried about Chinese Fluke clones, as, if it fails, into the trash can it goes. Horror Fright Tools is all full of Chinese tools.

    Mastech looks good, as does Exteck. But, again, Chinese. The cheapest Fluke, that is not a clone, is $120, and it has far fewer functions.

    Ooooh! Just had me a ahdeer! There is a flea market near me, every Wednesday. Will see what they have. Pawn shops, too. I've bought some very nice DeWalt power tools from pawn shops. Maybe I can find a good Fluke in a pawn shop. I'll go tomorrow.
     
  14. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    Reading Amazon reviews is daunting. Seems they all have QC issues. Just like Longellow's poem, "When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid." Seems like I'm left with what the carnival barker says, "Ya pays ya money, and ya takes ya chance!!" You can get one that works well, for years, or you can get one that never works, right out of the box. The only near "sure" thing is the major name brands; Fluke, Uni-T, Sanwa. You'll be paying $125+.

    My $10 Radio Shack multimeter from the 1980's is still working, albeit intermittently. You never know.

    Extech is well thought of by reviewers, as is Mastech, but you can still buy a dog. I'm still leaning toward the EX330 and the MS8268, but we'll have to see what the pawn shops have.
     
  15. dl324

    AAC Fanatic!

    Mar 30, 2015
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    Just buy one and start using it. If you find it isn't what you wanted, buy another. They're not that expensive.

    I have HP, Fluke, Simpson, Tektronix, Cen-Tech, and Radio Shack; I use my Cen-Tech P37772 the most. I think I paid $50, and the price is down to $24 now.

    None of them measures frequency and I'm okay with that because I have several brands of counters and oscilloscopes (the P37772 actually measures frequency, but I never thought to use it for that purpose). Few measure capacitance and I'm okay with that; I can use a current source to measure capacitance. Few measure beta and I'm okay with that; I have a curve tracer.

    Only the HP has autorange and I hate that feature. It takes too long to give a reading; so I use the manual ranges. You used an analog meter before, so you should know how to set ranges correctly.

    Here's a table from Jameco.com that compares features of the handheld meters they sell:
    upload_2018-3-25_9-42-53.png
     
  16. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    How did you bring up that chart? I don't see a link on Jameco.
     
  17. dl324

    AAC Fanatic!

    Mar 30, 2015
    8,714
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    I searched for a multimeter, clicked on the first one that came up, then clicked the "look inside" button:
    upload_2018-3-25_10-26-28.png
    Catalog page is attached for your convenience.
     
  18. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    Well, we'll see if the pawn shops have a good, used Fluke. If not, I'll pick one off the Jameco chart.

    Thank you guys for all the good advice.
     
  19. dendad

    Distinguished Member

    Feb 20, 2016
    2,921
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    I too vote for the AN8008. Very good value for about $20 to $25.
     
  20. buffumjr

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 24, 2018
    52
    3
    This week will tell.
     
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