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Old 21st November 2014, 01:37 PM   #1
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Default Multimeter recommendation < $250

Hi,

My ancient Fluke 8600a meter seems to have given up the ghost.
A new bench meter will be out of my price range. Instead,
I'm thinking of replacing that with a handheld meter, but something
better than the throwaway meters I already have.

I should add that I don't do high voltage stuff, just the first watts
type projects. I would like a meter that is reasonable refresh
speed and comes with calibration.

I'm thinking of the Keysight (Agilent) U1242B which is about $220 CAD.

Would anyone have any experience to share on this meter? Any
other meters I should consider?

Thanks,
Dennis
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Old 21st November 2014, 03:40 PM   #2
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I don't think one can do better than a Fluke for accuracy and reliability. They are an industry standard.
fluke multimeter | eBay
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Old 21st November 2014, 05:10 PM   #3
skidave is offline skidave  United States
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http://www.extech.com/instruments/pr...=48&prodid=283

I have one and it has been great. I have had it checked by a calibration company as well. No issues. Cheaper than a comparable fluke.

Also have one of these: Model 2831E, True RMS Bench Digital Multimeters - B&K Precision

Good price and features. As for USB connectivity, it works, but not the best. I think some of the more expensive models have GPIB.
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Old 22nd November 2014, 03:11 AM   #4
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Keysight isn't bad, I would avoid the Extech mentioned above. Extech has had LOTS of quality control issues, especially with the EX series meters. Most of the EX series meters are actually rebadged CEM-China meters. While the MM series is much better, its made by Brymen and typically is much pricier than the equivalent Brymen model. Brymen also makes most of the multimeters for Greenlee.

For that price range, you can pick up quite a few different combinations. If you want new, one of the best ones that you can get is the Brymen BM869S. It is one of the best handheld meters you can get period. Significantly better than the Fluke 87V in protection rating, features, resolution (500,000 count DCV) and accuracy.

Other options:
A used Fluke 87V (these pretty much hold their cal forever if they are treated well).
The Agilent you mentioned is OK.
A variety of other Brymen meters like the (BM857, BM859, BM867S plus the aforementioned BM869S)
Brymen BM257S + another cheap meter like the UT61E and a UT139C
Uni-T UT171x or UT181 (these might be a bit slow updating and sources for these tend to be mainly in china).
A variety of combinations for multiple budget meters (UT61E, UT139C, etc.)
I like the UT61E for it's 20,000 count resolution and included PC data connection; the UT139C for its additional features and safety.

Don't underestimate the usefulness of having two meters. There are many times where you want to measure both current and voltage at the same time (to get wattage for example).

Another option is to pick up a good solid meter like the BM257S (~$130), or a UT61E and UT139C, and a good quality LCR meter like the DER EE DE-5000 (~$100 with most of the optional accessories), also sold as the IET Labs DE-5000 (ignore the DE-6000 gimmick, its exactly the same meter). I have a Der EE DE-5000 and I absolutely love it. Here is my review/teardown of it

EDIT: One thing I will mention is that for many of these meters, you will be taking a step-down in resolution as finding a 4.5digit hand held tends to be much more expensive than a 4.5 digit bench meter. There are a variety of exceptions, most of the Brymen ones I mentioned, except for the BM257S, are at least 50,000 count That being said, you get a lot more features on the handhelds usually Though you do lose some accuracy and 4-wire resistance. IF you want to try and fix your current meter, post in the repair section over on eevblog. One of the gentlemen that designed a lot of the old fluke meters even posts from time to time.

Last edited by PedroDaGr8; 22nd November 2014 at 03:35 AM.
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Old 22nd November 2014, 09:23 AM   #5
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Yes, check out the Brymen line.
You'll be surprised by the build quality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXu0lsOjvDs

[If you opt for one, consider buying the PC connection kit.]
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Old 22nd November 2014, 10:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Hui View Post
and comes with calibration.
All multimeter s at that price point are perfectly calibrated from factory, by adding such a requirement you do restrict the available options down to very few.

Because there is no just one Best multimeter out there, you better make a wish list or requirements, including the number of counts.

There is several Gems at 30.000 up to 60.000 counts.
You may check ITTSB.EU Blog about getting ideas for the latest equipment.
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Old 23rd November 2014, 11:52 AM   #7
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When I mentioned calibration, I was thinking more along the line that
a new meter from a reputable firm will be calibrated even if you don't
have a certificate.

Thank you for all the suggestions.

An impulse purchase meant my hobby fund is low so I'll take some
time to do more research. I'll also checkout eeblog and see if any
repair on the old meter is feasible. (Thanks Pedro for the suggestion.)

Cheers,
Dennis
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Old 23rd November 2014, 07:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Hui View Post
and see if any
repair on the old meter is feasible.
They are, if you own additional reference sources which can offer functions found over of a multimeter calibrator so to test this meter.

The first reference (DC voltage / current) source which I got as used, was having a retail price of 600$ as new.

From the other hand is always wiser to inquire which meter you like best, and when the funds are enough for it, to make your move.
The impasionate people making the most mistakes even when buying goods.
Something very cheap has zero retail value if you think to sell it because your hobby changed in to something else, and you do not need it any more.
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Old 23rd November 2014, 07:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiriakos View Post
They are, if you own additional reference sources which can offer functions found over of a multimeter calibrator so to test this meter.

The first reference (DC voltage / current) source which I got as used, was having a retail price of 600$ as new.

From the other hand is always wiser to inquire which meter you like best, and when the funds are enough for it, to make your move.
The impasionate people making the most mistakes even when buying goods.
Something very cheap has zero retail value if you think to sell it because your hobby changed in to something else, and you do not need it any more.
Only if the damage is in either the ADC or voltage reference circuits is that type of device necessary. Most of the times, these old bench meters die in the power supply due to failed caps (either leaky electros or shorted tants). Get the power supply back up and running and 9 times out of 10 the meter is just as good as it was before.

Truth be told, most of us are not in industry and can get by just fine using relative measurements sanity checked with much cheaper voltage references. Most of the time we don't care if the value read is 15.745 or 15.894. As long as every time we read a specific voltage, it is reproducible.
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Old 7th December 2014, 05:18 AM   #10
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Just a quick update. It turns out one of the old D-size Nicd cells is bad.
I replaced it with just a AA Nicd in an adapter and the old Fluke now
seems to work.

I don't have a voltage reference but measurements on a few batteries
seem reasonable. Testing a couple of high precision resistors also gave
acceptable values.

Cheers,
Dennis
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