I have had this discussion with a lot of people over the years and in general my opinions on what makes a good budget meter hasn’t changed much.
I think a meter has to be at least class III and needs to be fused, I think true RMS is a must (It provides true readings even when measuring distorted or non-sinusoidal waveforms and or noisy signals). I also think in this day and age it should be auto ranging. Accuracy of 0.5% or greater.
Now can you get all these features in a 90 dollar meter? Yes you can. The EXTECH EX210T runs 89.99 and is an excellent multimeter which also includes an IR thermometer. I happened to pick one up with a ten dollar coupon so for 79.99 it is a steal of a deal!
This is a great low cost digital multimeter that is well built, reasonably accurate, full featured meter that can handle mains voltage safely. When it comes to multimeters you do tend to get what you pay for.
The specs for the EXTECH EX210T are as follows
TrueRMS for better accuracy when measuring distorted waveforms
Built-in IR Thermometer with 4:1 distance to target ratio and laser pointer
2000 count large backlit dual LCD with easy-to-read digits
Low current capability with resolution to 0.1°A
Includes input fuse protection, maximum hold, auto power off and data hold functions
AC voltage range: 600V; Max resolution: 0.1mV
DC voltage range: 600V; Max resolution: 0.1mV
Basic accuracy (VDC): 0.5%
AC current: 10A; Max resolution: 0.1μA
DC current: 10A; Max resolution: 0.1μA
Resistance: 20MΩ; Max resolution: 0.1Ω
IR temperature: -5 to 446° F / -20 to 230° C
And here it is next to my cheap velleman and my mid range Radio Shack auto range DVM. Yes I realize that the velleman is a cat II unfused meter. I tend to use it occasionally and only on low voltage DC electronics circuits. I also have a cheap velleman DVM850BL that rides in my laptop bag. If it gets busted or stolen I am only out a few dollars. But when it comes to real work the EXTECH is my workhorse! If you really stop to think about it, do you want to hold a cheaply made multimeter when testing current draw on a mains voltage circuit? That current is going right through that meter. I want one that is well insulated and fused if I am going to hold it with current running through it!
If you are new to electronics you might wonder why one would want or need multiple meters, the answer is really quite simple and two fold. First it is often the case where you want to measure the voltage and current simultaneously and that requires two meters and the second is the fact that if you have two meters you can check one against the other to give you confidence in your measurements. You will certainly end up with more than one meter eventually.
The addition of the IR Thermometer is really nice. As most of you probably already understand, sometimes its just not safe to check the temperature via direct contact.
More information on the EXTECH EX210T can be found at the EXTECH website
This is not to say that this is hands down the best digital multimeter in the world. But when it comes to sub 90 dollar multimeters I think its the best bang for the buck! And in my case in the sub 80 dollar range it is certainly the best money can buy. If you have a lot of money to spend on a fluke that’s great, You won’t regret it. They make great meters. But if you are looking for something in the 80-100 dollar range its a great meter at a great price. Are there other meters your looking at in this price range? feel free to mention them in the comments selection below…
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