A multimeter is an essential measurement tool for making electrical measurement. Basic functions that every multimeter can measure are voltage, current, and resistance. However multimeters today are capable of measuring much more.
Generally speaking the more you pay the more functionality you get. However, depending on your application you may not need all the features that the top of the line multimeters may offer. In this post we delve into price and functionality tradeoffs to recommend multimeters based on your budget. In general our price cap for the study was $500.
The Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter tops our list as the best for your money. Coming in at second place is the Fluke 117. Our list includes other products to consider when shopping for digital multimeters. We also present a detailed review and a buyer’s guide to help with your selection.
Table of Contents
- 1 Quick Summary of our Top Picks
- 2 Competitive Analysis
- 3 The Detailed Review
- 4 How we picked the best multimeter
- 5 Summary
Quick Summary of our Top Picks
Before we get into the detailed reviews, let’s get a quick snapshot of the oscilloscopes that made it to the top of our list.
- Editor’s choice – Fluke 87-V “This is the fourth 87 I have bought. The quality is second to none.”
- Runner Up – Fluke 117 “If you’re an electrician, or new to the fire alarm or security game, this will do you a very very long time.”
- Versatile – Amprobe AM-570 Industrial Digital Multimeter “Amprobe makes the best meters for checking rotation, windings, etc. This product is no exception.”
- Most Compact: Klein Tools MM600 HVAC Multimeter ” a great quality multimeter which is well specified and extremely robust at just the right price point.”
- Most Popular – AstroAI AM33D Digital Multimeter “I bought this not expecting great quality. I was wrong. The selector knob feels solid and the accuracy of this little unit is quite good.”
In the table below, we show you how the multimeters compare taking their price points and target applications into consideration.
|Product||Unique Features||Target customers / applications||Price|
|Fluke 87-V||Built-in thermometer||Industrial||$$$$$|
|Fluke 117||Non-contact voltage measurements||Electricians in commercial or residential setting||$$$$|
|Amprobe AM-570||Built-in thermometer and flashlight||Industrial||$$$|
|Klein Tools MM600||Large backlit display||Basic Electrical||$$|
|AstroAI AM33D||Compact and lightweight||Beginner and hobbyist||$|
The Detailed Review
The Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter is a complete measuring instrument with all the features of most very high-end multimeters. It enables accurate frequency measurement, a built-in thermometer for temperature measurements, diode testing, continuity testing, inductance, and capacitance measurements.
The instrument measures both True RMS AC voltage and current. It is ideal for measuring both AC and DC voltages of up to 1000 V. It also includes a dual display with a resolution of either 6000 or 20000 counts. With a two-level backlight, this instrument can be used even in dimly lit areas. The Fluke 87-V also has a 9 V alkaline battery that can power it for 400 hours when the backlight is off. Another useful feature of this multimeter is the auto range that can be toggled on or off. Its analog bar graph that makes it possible to measure unstable or quick-changing signals is also a worthy feature.
- High resolution of 6000 or 20000 counts
- High-frequency measurements of up to 200 kHz
- Large dual display for clear readings
- True RMS waveform measurements
- Quick response to capture transients as fast as 250 microseconds
- CAT IV-rated
- Lifetime warranty
- Does not have a separate fuse compartment
- Relatively heavy compared to other models and meters
- Stiff Leads
The Fluke 87-V multimeter is a 4.9-star rated measurement instrument by customers because of its great features for the price. It is suited for both professionals and hobbyists. There are a few user complaints around weight and stiff coiled leads that make working with it under some conditions difficult. In general, it has all the features one would expect in a digital multimeter within its price range.
In addition to being a solid, reliable measurement instrument, the one notable feature of the Fluke 117 multimeter is its non-contact voltage detection ability. It is a safety feature that every electrician and engineer should be thrilled about because detecting stray voltages is now a breeze. Some of its other highlights are the frequency and capacitance measurements in addition to diode testing.
Fluke 117 also features a dual display with a backlight for work in poorly-lit areas. Its compatibility with magnetic hangers frees your hand, making it easy to use when you don’t have an extra pair of hands. It is one of the multimeters with the lowest input impedance, making it most accurate as ghost voltages are not captured.
- Dual display with backlight
- Non-contact voltage detection
- Low input impedance that screens ghost voltages
- High build quality
- Display hold preserves measurements for later reading
- Very accurate frequency measurements of up to 50 kHz
- No range for measuring small currents in the order of milliamps and microamps
- Not CAT-IV rated
- Less display contrast at some angles
Fluke 117 is a feature-rich measurement instrument and is the best for a multimeter within the price range. It is an ideal choice for most electricians. However given the inability of the Fluke 117 to measure low values of current, it is not recommended for electronics design. Users praise it for its ergonomic design, ease of use, and multiple functionalities packed in this small unit.
Amprobe AM-570 multimeter is popular among professional electricians and HVAC operators who need to maintain and troubleshoot electrical systems. It’s on our list as the most versatile because of its wide range of features, one of which is a built-in flashlight and LCD display with backlight. That means you can take measurements in dark areas and also connect your circuit correctly by reading the color codes even in the dark.
Some other notable features of the Amprobe AM-570 multimeter include non-contact voltage detection and accurately measure both AC and DC voltages and currents of up to 1000V and 10A. It measures frequency up to 60 MHz, being the best when it comes to frequency measurement. It is also the leader in temperature measurement, boasting a wide range of -40 to +1832 degrees. You can also use the AM-570 for capacitance measurements of up to 60 millifarads and resistance of up to 60 megaohms.
- In-built LED flashlight
- High display quality with backlight
- Low input impedance – stray voltage detection
- Many functionalities
- Wide range temperature measurements
- Frequency measurements of up to 60 MHz
- Slow response when taking resistance measurements
- Non-contact voltage measurement only works when the meter is very close to the conductor.
The Amprobe AM-570 comes with a good set of functionality for its price. Many users love its unlimited list of functions. Its relatively small size and weight are some of the highlights. It is reported to be perfect in measuring most of the electrical parameters. Its usability in poor lighting is also notable. However, it is not all perfect in all areas. Its response to resistance measurements is below expectation and detects voltages only when it is very close to the conductor.
The MM600 multimeter from Klein-Geneva Supply is very compact and portable as well. It is packed with all the features and functionality that any digital multimeter should have. Voltage, current, resistance, frequency, temperature, capacitance, continuity, and diode testing are all possible with this instrument.
It measures both AC and DC of up to 1000 V and 10 A. However users have cautioned that it should not be used to measure currents higher than 6 A or voltages higher than 750 V. The instrument is rated CAT IV/CAT III and considered safe for working in high-voltage environments. The multimeter is recommended for engineers and electricians working in controlled electromagnetic environments, light industries, and residential quarters.
- Very affordable
- Easy to replace burned-out fuses
- Impact-resistant – withstands a drop from a height of 2 meters.
- Auto-ranging – switchable to manual
- Data hold functionality
- Large LCD display screen with backlight
- Compact and sleek
- Slow response and not suitable for sensitive measurements
- Not True RMS technology
- Reduced contrast under certain angles
Many users are satisfied by the functionalities that this relatively cheap meter offers. Klein Tools MM600 may not be that popular among professionals, but users are generally satisfied with the features and specifications relative to the competitive price point. Another highlight of the MM600 Multimeter is its ease of use and ability to default to continuity testing after resistance measurement and diode testing. However, some users have reported problems with the meter, especially when measuring high voltages above 700 V and currents greater than 6 A. Also, the multimeter does not perform well in areas with strong RF signals.
The AM33D is an instrument that you can buy even when you are on a very low budget. It’s a quick replacement for your expensive meter or it can be used as a backup instrument. It is best suited for use in solving household and automotive electrical problems because of its limited functionality.
The AM33D measures AC and DC voltages, DC current, resistance, continuity, diode, and transistor testing. Some of its features include a backlight LCD display, low battery indication, data hold, and overload protection.
- Very affordable
- LCD backlight display for use in dark conditions
- Low battery indication
- Square wave output
- Data hold that allows later reading.
- Small and compact
- Does not test AC currents
- Limited voltage measuring range of only up to 200 V
- Not CAT IV rated
- Manual ranging
For the price, the AM33D provides compelling value. As might be expected there are many limitations on the specifications. The AstroAI performs best for measuring low DC voltages and currents. The meter is also compact and lightweight. However, it is not useful for measuring high voltages and currents, especially AC current, which it does not measure. But for a multimeter in this price range, it is ideal for home use, DIY and hobbyists.
How we picked the best multimeter
Digital multimeters are portable measuring instruments that you can carry along with you wherever you go. It does not matter whether you are a field service engineer or a stationed engineer. We considered that and other factors in our research for the best multimeters on the market. If budget is not a problem, then you can consider buying Fluke 87-V multimeter, which is a complete measuring instrument and has a lifetime warranty. AstroAI AM33D Digital Multimeter is also part of the list for you if you are very low on budget.
Here is a list of the major aspects we considered when compiling our list of the best multimeters for the money.
Features and Specifications
This is what distinguishes one multimeter from all another. As you would expect, the more features it has and the tighter the specification, the higher the price. Any multimeter should measure voltage, current, and resistance. Additionally, some multimeters can also measure frequency, capacitance, temperature, continuity testing, diode, and transistor testing. We have also considered the range capability of the multimeters and presented only the best.
The display quality is important for any digital multimeter. Without it, you cannot take accurate readings. The displays should not only be clear but also have a backlight for use in dark conditions as sometimes is the case.
Resolution and response time are key features of any electrical measuring instruments. In this case, we presented multimeters with high resolutions and quick response time within the price range. That allows the meter to take accurate measurements and capture transients.
Different multimeter models do not have the same price tag. The most expensive one may not always be the best suited for your application. In our research, we have picked only the best within a given price range so that you can get the best value for your money. The most expensive multimeter on this list Fluke 87-V may be overkill if all you’re looking for is an entry-level product for your hobby. On the other hand it may be just the right product, if you’re a student of electrical engineering that has committed to owning and using a multimeter for the next decade.
In a real-world operating environment, poor usability can frustrate a user and impact productivity. The user interface should be self-explanatory, and the instrument should have some features such as auto range to help the user. A complicated user interface is undesirable as people don’t want to spend time learning how to operate the instrument instead of making measurements.
Customer feedback helps confirm that the instrument performs as advertised or as expected. Our review is mainly based on the customer feedback where the instruments’ functionality and reliability have been verified. It also incorporates the benefit of real-world experiences with using the product.
A popular product is definitely desirable as it validates use in the real world. We have only picked the most popular multimeters among professionals and hobbyists.
We have made your work easy by giving you the best multimeter on the market for the money. Based on extensive market research, we have the following: