For electronics technicians looking to buy a digital multimeter, the choice can sometimes seem overwhelming. Especially when ordering online, it takes quite some research to figure out which digital multimeter your specific situation requires. That is unless you keep reading because, by the end of this article, you will be confident in your buying decision.
In this article, I will save you a lot of time by going through the five most commonly bought multimeters for electronics technicians. I will discuss each model and their features separately, so we will look at the pros and cons of every model, and compare features side by side. This way, you’ll be able to make a clear buying decision about your digital multimeter without going through the stress of doing hours of research.
How do we compare multimeters?
To compare the multimeters, I’ll look at a few different factors. First, I simply make sure all the features are listed properly, so you know the key features of every digital multimeter. Next, I put the multimeters to the test in real-life situations to see whether the features promised by the manufacturer also work when you really need them.
After I’ve taken those real-world experiences into account, we weigh how the multimeter holds up compared to other multimeters, how it performs in its price range, and if the features make sense for what it is made to do. All this is condensed in the buying guide at the end of this article, where you can find which multimeter fits your situation best.
Top 5 Best Multimeters for Electronics Technicians
OUR TOP PICK
Fluke has been a household name in the multimeter niche for decades. Their robust designs and reliable multimeters have built a name for themselves since the company started in 1948. This model, the Fluke 179, comes with a combination package of industrial-strength test lead probes.
The Fluke 179 is specifically designed for field technicians and light industrial work. This all-in-one multimeter can be found in many factories and in the toolboxes for many different professionals such as electricians, electronics repair technicians, electronics engineers and professionals in the musical field. It is also the multimeter darling of plenty of DIY-ers and hobbyists (This model is one of the best fluke multimeter models for electronics on the market).
Standard features include manual and automatic ranging, display hold and auto hold, and as a True-RMS meter, it can read non-sine waves as well as sine waves. It measures frequency, capacitance, resistance, continuity, and diodes, and comes with an 80BK temperature probe, which gives accurate temperature readings on the spot.
In the real world, its many promises hold up well. I found no real problems with the Fluke 179, although it could use an option to zero the leads. And unlike other Fluke models, it doesn’t come with a protective case. But as a digital multimeter, it holds it’s own very well.
The Fluke 115 compact multimeter truly is a compact meter, especially when compared to the heavier-duty 179. Like the last model, it is specifically designed for field technicians. As a little extra feature, it is neatly priced at the lower end of the scale and still comes with a wide range of features. It is also compactly designed, making it easy and comfortable to handle in a work situation.
The 115 offers a nice variety of features. Although it lacks the specialist features of other models in its series, it measures resistance, continuity, frequency, capacitance, and diodes. As a True-RMS meter, it will also measure distorted waves under less-than-perfect circumstances.
I have found no serious problems with the Fluke 115, but the screen can be difficult to read from some angles. Fluke has tried to combat this with a backlight and a big and bright screen, but once I required the Fluke 115 to stay in one position, the problem popped up from some angles.
Other than its small drawback, the Fluke 115 is a great digital multimeter for people who want to have a fast, reliable, and robust multimeter for a great price. It lacks some more specialist features that other models have, but if you’re going to do a straight-forward job, the Fluke 115 might be a very straight-forward choice for you.
The Extech EX330 comes as an auto-ranging multimeter or in a manual variety. In this article, I will be looking at the auto-ranging option with advanced features. Those features are the Type-K temperature probe and the non-contact voltage meter, so you don’t have to actually touch a live wire to measure voltage.
The Extech is budget-friendly but comes with most of the same basic features and measurement capabilities. The most notable difference between these three models is the count capacity. Where the Fluke models both have a digital 6,000 count, the Extech tops out at 4,000. Practically speaking, the difference comes down to accuracy. The higher the count number, the more accurate the multimeter will be.
The Extech works well for most people, but I found some drawbacks in using this multimeter professionally. The non-contact voltage meter wasn’t always reliable. I had to get really close to the source, making the idea of a non-contact meter less of an advantage. It is also significantly slower than the Fluke models.
In short, the Extech EX330 does a fine job but falls short of delivering a solid performance for demanding professionals. It comes at a lower price than some models but cannot deliver the same high-quality results. For the hobbyist, DIY-er, or even a not too demanding professional, the Extech still delivers great value for a good price.
This digital multimeter is the first to take digital one step further; it is the very first digital multimeter that connects directly to a smartphone. The Bluetooth connection can send data to your phone, and the app (available on iOS and Android) will handle your data on your smartphone. Aside from these wireless possibilities, the TekPower TP9605BT also comes with a USB connection that can be connected to a PC. The data logger software is provided for free, as well.
Looking at standard digital multimeter features, the TekPower offers all standard features that the other multimeters offer, and the option to measure temperature as well. Price-wise, it is more similar to the Extech but does offer the 6,000 counts of the pricier Fluke models.
I found the TekPower to be really slow, especially the auto-ranging function. The speed increased when I switched to the manual option, but in the field, this isn’t always feasible. The display also isn’t as clear and bright as the others, and this was the one model in which battery life really disappointed me. Part of this problem might be the unreliable auto-off function.
The biggest differentiator for the TekPower TP9605BT is the feature it prides itself on: the wireless and wired data logging options. If data logging is going to be a big part of your measurement activities, it could be worth buying the TekPower just for this reason, even if their software could use some improvement. If you’re looking for a reliable multimeter with a good set of features, the TekPower might also serve you well. If you’re a professional in need of a reliable and fast meter that will last for decades, keep looking, because that’s not where the TekPower excels.
One place to keep looking is in the storefront of Fluke. Like the 115 and 179 we discussed earlier, the Fluke 87-V is heralded among its users. In some circles, the older models are still legendary. Naturally, it is pricier than the non-Fluke options, but the 20,000-count option will be worth the difference when accuracy is key.
It offers higher measurement ranges than any of the other meters discussed. Most impressive are the 10,000 µF capacitance range for components and motor caps and the measurements up to 1,000 V in AC and DC.
Practically, the optional magnetic hanger makes the multimeter easier to set up, and Fluke has done everything to prolong battery life and to make changing batteries as easy as possible.
Aside from the standard features on digital multimeters, it also offers a built-in thermometer. The only drawback reported is the price. For someone who doesn’t need (or wants to pay for) the impressive measurement ranges, speed, or reliable readings, cheaper options might be more feasible. For the professional who is willing to invest for everything the Fluke 87-V has to offer, this digital multimeter is almost a no-brainer for electronics technicians (electronics engineers also prepare this Fluke multimeter model).
Best Multimeters for Electronics Technicians Buying Guide
While all the digital multimeters discussed in this article are very different, they generally offer the same baseline. All five are True-RMS meters, so they can be used to measure distorted waves. Additionally, they all are CAT-III 600V certified, but the Fluke 87-V is the only meter that stretches that baseline to a CAT-III 1000V and CAT-IV 600V safety rating. This makes all five meters an option for professionals working with electricity behind the box.
Three out of the five meters are from the same brand. Fluke meters are known for their reliability, speed, and accuracy. While the other meters hold up to most people’s needs, they don’t have the robust qualities that are ascribed to Fluke meters. Naturally, this also creates a price difference. Fluke multimeters cost more than the other brands and are expected to last for decades. The TekPower brand hasn’t been around long enough to make similar claims, and the Extech is not priced or built to make the same claims as to the Flukes.
The specific differences in the meters not only make each meter unique, but they also offer an optimal experience for different audiences. All three Fluke meters are aimed at professionals, such as field technicians or electronics technicians. If you rely on accurate and fast readings on a regular basis to do your job well, buying a Fluke is easier to justify that when you’re a hobbyist who needs a solid CAT-III multimeter every once in a while.
To make your buying decision easier, I have listed each model below. For each model, I will tell you which buyer profile is best for buying it. I will also summarize the key points for each multimeter.
You should buy the Fluke 179 combination pack if you’re a professional such as a field technician or dealing with light industrial equipment on a day-to-day basis. The Fluke 179 sports a broad range of features, and offers the robust quality of the Fluke brand. There are hardly any problems that will pop up when using the 179, and it will last for years.
The Fluke 115 is your best choice if you’re a professional or hobbyist looking for a great all-around performance from your multimeter. It doesn’t pack the punch of the 179 but delivers great quality readings on every front for a good price. When you’re interested in the basic features, but don’t need the speed and precise reliability in readings, another cheaper multimeter might just do the job as well.
The Extech EX 330 is a great find for you if you’re a hobbyist looking for good value, or a professional who needs a decent multimeter every now and then, instead of heavily relying on one. It offers a good set of features, is well-built, and has the additional option of non-contact voltage measurements. As seen in the review above, it doesn’t provide as precise a measurement (or as fast) as the more expensive models in the test.
You’ll best appreciate the TekPower TP9605BT if the data-logging features make your job a lot easier and make up an essential part of your measurements. Like the Extech, the TekPower does a fine job when it comes to basic features, but excels in the data logging department. Its free software is not optimal but can make logging a lot easier. Additionally, wireless data logging in real-time.
You should buy the Fluke 87-V if the quality of your work in your professional job depends on your multimeter. This is the heavyweight among the five multimeters and has a wider range for some measurements. Additionally, only the Fluke 87-V has a CAT-IV safety rating for 600V, with all the other models not going beyond a CAT-III.
The Fluke 87-V wins any contest between these five digital multimeters, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you (Suggest also to check our TOP10 best multimeter reviews here). In this article, the differences between the different multimeters have been highlighted, and each of the models can be a great buying choice depending on your specific needs.
Professionals will be leaning towards the Fluke models, while DIY-ers and hobbyists can find a good multimeter for a non-industrial price.