Best Multimeter for Beginners – an instrument for every budget in 2021

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A good multimeter is a necessity for anyone who needs to work with electrical equipment. When you’re starting on your journey into the world of measurement it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused by the hundreds of specifications, brands and features.

We’ve simplified the process of selecting a multimeter for beginners. We’ve sifted through confusing specifications and simplified the selection process for you. Our top pick for beginners is the Amprobe AM-560. Coming in a close second with the best features is the Fluke 179.

In this article we will present to you a list of the best beginner multimeters in the market along with a buyer’s guide.

Quick Summary of our Top Picks

Before we get into the detailed reviews, let’s get a quick snapshot of the different products that made it to our list.

  • Editor’s choice – Amprobe AM-560 “We were looking for an affordable, safe, true RMS multimeter for my son who is starting a 3 year Electrical Eng Technology Program. Spent some time researching multimeters and chose the Amprobe AM-530” 
  • Best features – Fluke 179 “After reviewing several Fluke models, I felt this one offered the most features for the lowest price. “
  • Best Price to Performance – Mastech MS8268 “Especially in a world with an increasing number of electronic devices surrounding our lives, this acts as a nice sanity check for making sure things are conducting, putting out voltage, actually off when you think they’re off, etc.”
  • Budget Pick – AstroAI Multimeter “I am an amateur, but even I was able to test a couple if batteries for electric fences and then used the current detection feature. The short user guide is very good and simply written. No faff. “
  • Best Performance – Fluke 87-V “jam packed with useful and accurate measurements that make it appealing to electricians and electronics professionals alike.”

Editor’s Choice – Amprobe AM-560

Making it to the number one spot on our list is the Amprobe AM-560. This is a mid-range commercial HVAC digital multimeter. With this multimeter, you can measure

  • AC/DC Voltage up to 1000 V
  • AC/DC Current from 600µA to 10A
  • Resistance from 60Ω to 60 MΩ
  • Capacitance from 60nF to 60 mF
  • Temperature from -40°C to 1000°C
  • Frequency range of 60Hz to 60 MHz

Apart from this wide range of measurement capability, this multimeter can also perform an audible continuity test and diode test. This device also supports low impedance mode and no contact voltage detection, which adds to the safety of the device. On top of that, Amprobe AM-560 features both manual and auto ranging for user’s flexibility. This model also has a low-pass filter which allows the user to measure voltage and frequency on variable frequency drives. This meter meets the safety standards for Category III to 1000V and for Category IV to 600V.

PROS

  • Price
  • Supports no contact voltage detection
  • Auto ranging feature
  • Includes low-pass filter
  • Supports dual thermocouple which is very useful when working with HVAC Systems
  • Built-in flashlight that helps to see wires and fuses in the dark
  • It has a backlit LCD display

CONS

  • Does not support true RMS measurements
  • Inaccurate DC readings

USER REVIEWS

For the most part, users had very good experience with the Amprobe AM-560. Some of the users observed minor deflections in DC voltage readings. Other than DC voltage, all the other readings are very accurate but you may face a delay before they’re displayed on the LCD. This may be frustrating but at this price point, that may be an acceptable performance trade off.

Overall this product is very good at what it does and is on the top tier at this price point. As this is a commercial grade multimeter, the safety ratings on this device are also quite acceptable. If you’re looking for a decent multimeter and you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a high-end multimeter, then AM-560 is the best device to consider.

Best Features – Fluke 179

When it comes to multimeters, Fluke is considered one of the most reliable and premium brands in the industry. Professional technicians from all around the globe use this device as their main driver at work. Fluke 179 belongs to the high tier price category. Like any other professional multimeter, this device has all the features necessary to troubleshoot an electrical system.

With this variant of Fluke, you can measure

  • AC/DC Voltage up to 1000V
  • AC/DC Current up to 10A
  • Resistance up to 50 MΩ
  • Capacitance up to 10,000 μF
  • Frequency up to 100 kHz
  • Temperature from -40℃ to 400℃

This device is very reliable, fast and precise with its readings. The durability of this device and the safety features justify its price. Fluke 179 is also tested and approved for safe use in CAT IV 600V and CAT III 1000V environments. This model also supports the Min/Max-Average recording feature along with display hold and auto hold feature.

PROS

  • Durability
  • Fast and precise
  • Good safety standards are maintained
  • Supports true RMS
  • Auto off feature to save battery
  • Large and clear display
  • Excellent Battery Life

CONS

  • Relatively high price point
  • Larger size

USER REVIEWS

Out of 192 global reviews, this product had no one-star review. This says a lot about the user’s experience with the product. These devices were durable enough to last for decades and the accuracy on the device was remarkable. Some of the users had complaints about the quality of the leads but other than that, the users were very satisfied with the product.

Due to the build material, this device is quite bulky. On the flip side this adds to the durability of the device, which is a fair trade for most of the users. However, the price of Fluke 179 is high so it is always recommended to look for a cheaper option if you can get away with less accuracy in your usage. For professional use or if you plan on keeping your multimeter for a decade or longer, this is probably one of the best choice.

Best Price to Performance – Mastech MS8268

The Mastech MS8268 is the upgraded version of the MS8229. This is a relatively inexpensive multimeter for beginners and a good option for casual users or DIY enthusiasts. This meter has all the basic measurement options like AC/DC current, voltage, frequency, resistance and capacitance. On top of all these options, this multimeter also supports hFE diode check continuity. For this price, the performance of this meter is remarkable. It has the best accuracy among all the other multimeters available at this price point. There is also a warning mechanism for using the wrong jack which is quite handy for new users.

At this price point, the build quality of the device is very remarkable but some users had issues with the durability of the device. However, the fuse on this device comes with 1-year warranty and they work really fine considering the price of the device. MS8269 is powered by 3 AAA batteries and it also comes with an auto-off feature which enhances the battery backup on the device.

In the transistor hFE test, this device uses very low current for biasing the transistor so it is not very useful. This is due to the fact that most of the discrete transistors are not biased this way in the circuits which makes the reading useless.

PROS

  • Price
  • Accuracy on this device is very good
  • Good battery life
  • Auto-off feature to avoid battery drainage
  • Bright and clear display with backlight

CONS

  • Less Durability
  • Works slow with auto ranging
  • Does not measure RMS

USER REVIEWS

Most of the users had a good experience with the device. But the durability of the devices is not so great. For many users, the device started malfunctioning after one year or so. According to most of the reviews, the auto ranging feature made the reading a lot slower but you can compromise on that for this price.

Budget Pick – AstroAI Multimeter

If you’re someone who is starting off with electronics, then AstroAI is a good option to consider. This multimeter lies on the lower end of budget and has all the basic features that one needs to start off. AstroAI has all the basic measurement features like current, voltage, resistance, temperature, capacitance and frequency.

Unlike other low budget devices, AstroAI has auto ranging and supports the true RMS. It also has some additional features like Data Hold, Auto-off and hanging magnets which makes the device more efficient. On the down side, the build quality on this device is not very good which you can expect for a device at this price point.

The safety on this device is relatively good. It is tested and approved for safe use in CAT III 600V and CAT II 1000V environments. The fuse on this device are also made of ceramic material rather than glass which is a plus.

PROS

  • Price
  • Plenty of features
  • Supports true RMS
  • Has a bright and large display

CONS

  • Less accurate
  • Durability
  • Not safe for use in professional environments as it is only approved for CAT II in 1000V environment
  • Slow sampling speed

USER REVIEWS

Most of the users were okay with the product. There were a lot of negatives but at this price point, there is not a lot you can expect from a multimeter. Users had issues with the accuracy and durability of the product. For most of the users the device worked perfectly fine in the beginning but eventually it started malfunctioning.

Remember that AstroAI is a low budget option for someone who is just getting started with electronic. It is never recommended to use this type of multimeter in professional environment. For professional use, one must invest into a better multimeter.

Best Performance – Fluke 87-V

For the best performance category, we have the Fluke 87-V on our list. This is an upper mid-range multimeter that you can use for casual as well as professional purpose. This meter has auto ranging feature that is quite responsive and it also has annual bar graphs. As expected, this meter has all the basic measurement options along with the true RMS support. The meter also has a ‘Delta’ button which allows the user to calculate the relative change in two readings.

The display on this device performs well and is extremely responsive. It has a refresh rate of 4 updates per second and the bar graph gets 40 updates per second. The safety on this device is also top notch. It has high quality ceramic HRC fuses which ensures maximum protection to the user. It is tested and approved for CAT IV at 600 V and CAT III at 1000 V.

Last but not the least, the Fluke 87-V is remarkable with its accuracy. For AC voltage the accuracy is around 0.7% + 2 counts at mains voltage and for DC voltage, the accuracy is around +/- 0.05% + 1 count. The error does not increase 1% for any measurement type. Also the Auto Hold feature is extremely useful and works brilliantly well.

PROS

  • Durability
  • Accuracy
  • Safety
  • Great, responsive Display
  • Packed with a lot of features

CONS

  • Price
  • Does not have LoZ (Low Impedance) range
  • Leads are very stiff
  • Does not have a manual in the package

USER REVIEWS

Fluke has a huge fan base, so it was not a surprise that most of the customers were very satisfied with the product. Only major complain was about the leads. The leads were very stiff and hard to adjust. It could’ve been a lot better if they provided silicon leads instead.

At this price point, users also complained about not including a Low Impedance range on the meter. This feature is helpful when testing for ‘ghost voltages’. These are small amount of induced current such as in parallel runs of wire. Despite being a good device, there were a lot of bad reviews regarding the customer service of Fluke. This is definitely the area where Fluke needs a lot of improvement.

Overall, Fluke 87-V is one of the best multimeter in the market. But due to the price, it is not recommended for the casual or occasional DIY use. On the other hand, if you want a multimeter that you’re going to grow with and use on a regular basis; a multimeter that you can count on – both for reliability and accuracy, then the Fluke 87-V is the one.

Buyer’s Guide

Now let us have a look at the list of things to consider when buying a multimeter. At the end, we will also share some tips that will help you when purchasing any other multimeter.

Safety

The first and foremost thing to consider is safety. Working with electricity is full of hazards, so your multimeter must have internal fortification against fire, shocks, overheating etc. This is where CAT safety ratings are useful. With CAT III rating, you can work on most panel boards, feeders etc. CAT IV is the highest rating which includes service drops and underground installations. In other words, CAT III is the minimum rating that you want on your multimeter.

Also, NEVER exceed the CAT rating. Doing so can expose the meter to damage or, in worse cases, can cause a fatal shock to the user. Another thing to consider is the material of fuse used in the device. Always choose a meter with ceramic fuses rather than the glass ones.

Accuracy

The accuracy of any instrument is another important thing to consider. This is important when buying a meter. The level of accuracy depends on the use case. If you are a professional than you should go for a meter with more accuracy but it will cost a lot more. For casual users, going for a more feature packed multimeter is more valuable. However, this thing is highly subjective to the user but accurate meters are a lot more expensive.

Extra features

Having extra features is always nice. Consider buying meters with backlight LCD and other extra features like auto off, magnetic hold etc. These small features add up a lot in enhancing the user experience. But do remember that these should never be your prime focus. Always ensure basic features first and then look for the one with more extra features.

Price

Cost of a multimeter is another key aspect. It is always recommended to invest some money in a good multimeter if you are planning to use it for a long while. But not everybody needs a 300+ dollar multimeter. So if you are a beginner who can get away with less accuracy then getting a low-range multimeter is probably a better option.

Tips

  • Always go for a digital meter
  • Consider buying meter with auto ranging feature along with manual ranging
  • Get a multimeter with at least 10M Ohms of input impedance
  • Consider buying a meter with separate volts and amps jacks
  • Buy a meter with maximum test voltage for diode test function (If you need to use it more often)

Summary

So this was our take on the best beginner multimeters available in the market. It all comes down to your use case and how much you are willing to invest in a multimeter. However, Amprobe AM-560 is the sweet spot to start from. It has all the feature along with the reasonable safety. On the other hand, the Fluke products are every remarkable with the performance and safety but they are a lot more expensive.

As a recap here is the list of best multimeters for beginners:


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