So you want to tinker around with some electrical systems and appliance huh? Well obviously, otherwise you wouldn’t be painstakingly browsing the interwebs for the best multimeter.
For our newbie electricians, a multimeter is simply a standard tool used by auto mechanics, electricians, and other technicians to keep circuits and electrical appliances running in peak condition.
This device allows us to easily detect faults in electrical systems and find quick solutions before things get worse. If you’re looking for a multimeter, you can rest easy because you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve compiled a detailed review of the best models of multimeters, their rightful application and some very helpful information after the reviews.
Compact and affordable model with a wide range of functionsRead Our Review
Model built for advanced residential application and some light commercial workRead Our Review
Incredibly versatile and affordable unit that became an instant hit with professional electriciansRead Our Review
Cheap and affordable unit, ideal for home electrical troubleshootingRead Our Review
What Is a Multimeter?
Wouldn’t it be great if someone defined a multimeter without all the confusing words and electrical jargon?
It sure would, that’s why we’re doing it today without all that nonsense. Many people consider these handy little devices to be way too complex to handle. However, don’t let all the fancy terms and knobs fool you. Simply put, a Multimeter is a hand-held device used to measure a wider range of electrical functions.
So when you need to measure your appliances and electrical systems for things like resistance, raw voltage, and even capacitance, then you’ll definitely need one of the 10 bad boys we just reviewed above.
In the field, professional electricians use multimeters to test if a wire is live or not before being able to diagnose it and carry out repairs.
But while all multimeters perform similar basic functions, the honest truth is that not all units are made equal. Multimeters vary greatly according to a number of features as well as accessories and design. Many of them will have add-ons and special probes for whatever your purpose is. This takes us to our next segment where we will look at the top features of a great multimeter and how you match them to your job.
Main Features of the Multimeters
It’s been said time and time again but we’ll go ahead and reiterate; the real difference between high-quality multimeters and your average tester lies in the features. A reliable unit will have all the crucial functions designed to make work easier and more efficient.
I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that you want to keep all your fingers and actually make it home alive after a day on the job. If yes, then you need to make sure that you are as safe as possible and fully protected. After all, live currents and the human body have a way of disagreeing once in a while.
Fortunately, multimeters are rated at different CAT levels so that users can quickly discover if their choice is safe for the operational range or not. Additionally, it’s not just the main voltage that you’ll have to worry about; there’s the transient voltage that could come into play. In our reviews above, you’ve undoubtedly come across ratings labeled CAT. Let’s find out more about how that works.
- CAT I: If your multimeter is labeled CAT I, then it is designed to be used only in circuits that are not connected to the main power supply. The ideal setting would be bench power supplies or 24V circuits.
- CAT II: Multimeters with this rating are suitable for use with electronics that are directly plugged in. But there is a caveat; the circuit must remain under 100A at all times and must be protected to keep it under 22,000V. CAT II multimeters are ideal for systems reading 110V to 240V.
- CAT III: Multimeters rated as CAT III are engineered for pretty much all applications prior to the main breaker. This basically means all categories for devices directly plugged into the main such as refrigeration systems and three phase motors.
- CAT IV: A rating of CAT IV on a multimeter is practically as high as it gets. This means that your multimeter will be suitable for working with a direct power source from a transformer and into a building.
Other models take your protection to the next level by adding layers of security. One crucial feature is the automatic cut off that keeps you safe just in case the amperage reaches unsafe levels. Additional safety features include banana plugs to protect probes, wide flanges for slip resistance and internal blast shields for when the dung really hits the fan.
Aside from the safety aspects of your multimeters, others are rated according to the specific range of electrical energy you will be operating around. Let’s look at it this way; your needs will be quite different from someone working with small energy circuits at home if you operate in massive industrial circuits.
Typically, many high-end meters are more than able to cover a broad variety of uses, from working with a power main to measuring mV. You should make sure you take note of the fact that the different ranges of measuring capability may and will vary between AC and DC power sources.
As such, there are two different specifications you’ll definitely want to check on. And while some multimeters are able to find their own range, others require you to input it. This is where the Auto Vs Manual ranging debate comes in.
Build, Size and Design
The size and durability of your tool are very important, especially for professionals who are always out in the field. With all the hazards and dangers out in the field, you’re going to want to check a few boxes off when inspecting the design of your multimeters.
Now, this may come as a surprise and may not be on top of everyone’s checklist, but you might want to consider a multimeter that is orange or yellow. This helps prevent accidents and losses since you’ll be able to spot vibrant colors much easier.
Similarly, some of the top multimeters are actually tiny so as to help maneuver around tight spots easily and allow for more portability on the field.
Auto Ranging or Manual Ranging?
As the name suggests, auto ranging multimeters have the ability to immediately recognize what it is you are testing. Imagine, you don’t even have to input your range!
Just set up the device and let it do all the work and output your desired measurements. Not only does this save you the time and effort involved with calculating ranges, it also helps avoid the hassle of having to know all those capacitance, resistance, voltage and other values involved.
On the other hand, manual ranging multimeters are a whole different ballgame. With a manual unit, you will have to find these values yourself, often a very painstaking process for newbies.
Sure, some of you here will argue that you don’t have to know the ranges since some multimeters come with preset values. However, these preset values are not usually custom made for every single appliance, electrical system or engine on the planet. And you still have to know and account for values like voltage, resistance, and capacitance.
The accuracy of your meter is another crucial feature that must be considered when selecting the ideal unit. This especially applies to professionals who require extremely accurate readings. Without an accurate multimeter, you might as well be using your fingers as temperature and voltage probes.
Of course, it’s only in a perfect world where all multimeters give 100 percent accurate readings. Due to factors like cheap components, manufacturer defects or user errors, a lot of things could go wrong.
This is why it’s always advisable to spend more money and get high-quality instruments that won’t falter or fail when it matters most.
And while some of our cheaper, less fancy models may not be as accurate, you’ll still appreciate something that gives a good ballpark value.
Digital Vs Analog Multimeters
- Digital Multimeters
Also known as DMM, Digital multimeters are used by technicians in the electrical industry to measure values such as resistance, current, and voltage. These units replaced needle-based analog models and brought a new level of precision and accuracy. Digital multimeters combine an array of features in one small device to give you a numerous task meter.
Typically, most digital models incorporate advanced features for technicians who require specialized instruments. Your average digital meter will have components such as display, buttons, rotary switches and input jacks for test leads.
Modern DMMs have evolved significantly when it comes to precision and sensitivity. Not only do these units give users a ton of versatility, features like auto ranging save you plenty of time and hassle.
- Analog Multimeters
Whereas digital meters are steadily taking over, analog multimeters are still pretty useful and relevant for good reason. The main difference between these models and digital units is the way they deliver readings. An analog meter has a needle that swings across a calibrated scale compared to digital LED displays.
So, why on earth are analog multimeters still relevant?
For starters, they deliver results much quicker and with more precision than digital models due to the lack of any delay. Analog models also don’t break down as much as digital units due to the lack of sensitive components and electronics.
However, the needle and spring mechanism in the model can be de-calibrated by shock, vibration, and impact. The analog scale will also require some expertise to read and interpret correctly.
Landing a Balance Between Multimeter Cost and Efficiency
Let me ask you this, dear readers; how far would you go to ensure that you get the best value, performance, and efficiency out of your products?
Poll’s in and the results say that you should go as far as your budget allows you.
However, you should never go shopping with the notion that an item’s quality determines the case. More often than not, this is usually not the case.
For example, people looking for a simple unit for occasional home use may want to go for less accuracy and fewer features which ultimately translate to lower costs. There’s no point spending loads on features like high voltage capacity and pinpoint accuracy unless you want something for commercial purposes.
Long story short.
The key to finding a middle ground in terms of multimeter cost and efficiency is shopping according to the device’s intended purposes and applications. You simply can’t go wrong with that approach.
We’ve finally come to the part where all our reviewers come together and have a brutal fight where the winner gets to decide our champion product for the day.
As always, the criteria for our decision is always both customer and performance oriented. We have to consider how easy to use and convenient the product was as well as what serious users are saying about it. So without further ado, allow us to introduce the highest rated, most recommended, do it all multimeter and champion of them all – the Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter.
The Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter is packed with so many features that we wouldn’t have a conclusion if we listed them all. It’s plain and clear to see why professionals and experts only trust the best there is. If your productivity is on the line and what you need is instant problem solving, then the Fluke 87-V is your new best friend. Apart from delivering unrivaled levels of accuracy, this unit troubleshoots all the capabilities you need and takes the guesswork out of troubleshooting.
We’ve done our part and delivered the top 10 best multimeters and what makes them excel; the ball is in your pitch now. All the best of luck in your search; do let us know how it goes.