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  • EEVblog #57 – Agilent Thumbs Up Furore

    Posted on January 29th, 2010 EEVblog 46 comments

    Dave responds to the furore over his thumbs up rating on the Agilent U1253A Multimeter And it’s all about the love, really.

    ADDED COMMENT:
    Agilent make the exact same meter in an LCD version (U1251A or U1252A) with longer battery life. So you get the choice of display vs battery life!

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    • Ben

      I saw both videos and the video response.
      Honestly I would love to have that multimeter in my bench, I think Agilent are on to something here, remember competition motivates, it has many great things I would like to see in mainstream equipment, like it or not other manufacturers are going to look into this design in the near future because it’s an absolute novelty, the menu, the options, the accuracy, the refresh rate, everything except for battery life is hi tech. love it.
      Thanks Dave, you are doing a great job keep it up

    • Jens

      Hi Dave,

      you asked for opinions about your rating of the Agilent meter. Probably it’s a thing of different mentality. I was also surprised by the Thumbs up at the end of your review. Some of the weaknesses do not match with the brand and the price of this meter. I can also follow your arguments why it’s anyhow a good meter. My suggestion for a less controversial rating is, say for what this meter is a good choice and under which circumstances it is a bad choice. Then everyone can decide for his own if he likes it or not.

      Thanks for your great blog,

      Jens

    • BOFH

      Yes, doing an objective summary at the end of the reviews is a good idea, I think.
      Otherwise some people will only hear what they want to hear.

      They likely will anyway of course, but at least they can’t so easily persuade other, more rational people of the fantasy they’ve concocted for themselves.

    • http://truthspew.wordpress.com Tony P

      I just use a cheap R/S meter. I can’t remember the last time I changed the batteries in it. I really don’t need the high precision and I’ve tested this baby with various power sources on voltage and it’s right on for household power (125VAC), or when I rig it up to the power supply and set the supply to 5V it registers 5VDC.

      I just can’t see spending close to $500 for a meter. Maybe I would someday but not today.

    • Daniel

      The last 10 seconds supercar analogy sum up the review best.

    • Haim

      Hi Dave!

      I’m following your blog since the early posts, and I must say that you rock..

      I like your reviews just the way you make them.
      Some might want a more conclusive dichotomous judgment, not me! You assume people have some.. well.., something up there and are able to decide what suits them best.

      So.. BIG THUMBS UP to you Dave!

      Haim, Israel

    • Tim

      Dave,

      Does the fact that the multimeter has the name Agilent on it mean that its good? Maybe you have far different buying habits than I do but I’m not going to buy a piece of equipment without doing some research into it and other brands as well. Any multimeter in my opinion with such a short battery life is useless and should stay in the showroom because thats what this unit sounds like it was made for.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Does the fact that the multimeter has the name Agilent on it mean that its good?

        Of course not. That’s why I checked out all the pros and cons of it in order for people to make up their own mind. But Agilent has a very long history of NOT making shit products, and they ARE the biggest name in the business of Test & Measurement, that is a fact. So the backing of Agilent does for some people lend some weight to whether or not this will be a dependable meter.

        Maybe you have far different buying habits than I do but I

    • http://www.andrewcraigmackenzie.com Macka

      I really enjoyed the review, the video response and this follow up.

      What I got from the review was:
      * I wouldn’t buy this meter for my hobbyist needs, I certainly don’t need the accuracy or speed and I like a meter I can take outdoors. At this stage my $20 meter suits me quite well.

      * It would probably make an excellent benchtop meter for use at uni, where they hardwire most of the multimeters to a PSU and screw it down to the benchtop.

      * If/when I get a job in the EE field I would consider it as a benchtop meter in the lab, and not in the field

      IMHO, I think your original review was spot on and the meter deserves the thumbs up for functionality and quality, despite it’s battery shortcomings and other flaws.

      Looking forward to your Agilent U1253B review,

      Andrew

    • Kumar challa

      Hey Dave,

      I’ve been a long time follower of your podcast and it rocks!

      As for the review and the followup video, all I want to say is people spending ~500$ on a multimeter should be knowledgeable and mindful enough to make their own buying decision based on the specs and the price vs. need factors. This is not a consumer electronics review for the average Joe but a review of a high precision instrument for (mostly) engineers and those who are on the way to become one. It is YOUR review for god’s sake and it is from your point of view based on your experience as an engineer.
      If some one thinks the battery life is atrocious for their needs, well, there are many more multimeters with good batteries in them.

      What I liked most about the first review was that for people like me (who is an electrical engg. grad student) who won’t have that many opportunities to see such expensive equipment in real life, you give a good picture of what to expect form these products.

      Also, I really like the way you do your reviews and PLEASE don’t dumb them down. There will always be someone who is not satisfied by whatever you do and that percentage is only going to increase as your audience increases. You will never be able to satisfy everyone all the time.

      Keep up the awesome work!
      Really appreciate the effort you put in these p(v)odcasts :)

      Kumar challa

    • http://charlespax.com/ Charles Edward Pax

      I just feel good that I live in a world where people across the planet gather together to discuss the finer points or a multimeter. Thank you, Internet, and thank you, David.

    • TrentO

      Dave,

      I appreciate the revisit and clarification.

      Still, I believe that the minuses you reiterated will accumulate over time and force a change to a ‘thumbs-down.’ Perhaps a “long-term test review” segment is in order, perhaps 3-6 months down the line? All the car magazines like to do this, because even the little things can become unbearable over time.

      Keep up the good work. Your passion for this stuff is contagious.

      -Trent

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Still, I believe that the minuses you reiterated will accumulate over time and force a change to a

        • Rubi

          The B modell looks super ugly.
          Coulor scheme is orange and red.
          Even the sexiest display would not help in this case.

          Unfortunatly I could not find data about the other “improvements” on the Agilent site.

    • http://www.toddfun.com Todd Harrison

      I really liked this clarification video.

      After watching the first video I kind of felt you were just sliding a thumbs up to Agilent because of their name. I understand your thumbs up rating system better now.

      I normally consider a summary rating system like thumbs up or down to be more like a movie review. If I trust a good movie reviewer and they give lots of poor points in a movie and then give it a thumbs up it would leave me quite confused, as your first video did.

      I guess the thumbs up for the Agilent meter is OK now that I understand your rating isn’t your personal use rating.

      IMHO for equipment reviews that have well defined performance categories I would like to see thumbs up or down for each performance category and then just a sum at the end like: 5 thumbs up 7 thumbs down total. This way each person can weigh the importance of each category for themselves and decide if the product is a thumbs up or thumbs down personal purchase for themselves. This type of category review system would still work about the same as your old reviews but would leaving you out of the frying pan with your viewers as well as with the vendors that may send you equipment to review.

    • Rubi

      I love HP, the 3478A bench meter is one of the best gear I ever had. I also like my Fluke 8060A and the Keithley 136 multimeter.

      These is 10 to 20 year old gear, which still works like a charm.

      If I could afford it though, I would buy the Agilent. The display is awesome and the Usb adapter is affordable.I would not buy the Fluke,because it would make me crazy to have a data logging meter and no pc connectivity, because they charge a ridiculous price for their usb connector.

      Also Agilent usually publish their protocol. As a software engineer I love this, because I can develop my own interface software. Like in the good old GPIB bus days.

    • John R

      Dave, your reviews are great and you got the message across perfectly first time. Don’t waste your time explaining yourself to the hacker/arduino nerds… they really don’t know anything anyway.

      • John R

        In a more serious response:

        I guess the confusion comes from the fact that you didn’t specify that the meter would be great in a situation where you only need to use it in a lab/indoor environment where:

        a) you can see (supposedly glorious) the screen clearly.
        b) you are never far away from power

        Thats the impression I got from your review anyway, perhaps others could not formulate that from your pros/cons list.

      • Todd

        Quote from John R
        “Don

    • iva

      Hi Dave, like a lot of other people here I saw one of your videos by chance and since then you got another Italian fan!

      Please keep the reviews the “original Dave’s way”, your spontaneity is a gift and together with your funny accent is one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much.

      Maybe a summary at the end of the video would be nice (I loved the last 10 second this time :P ) but if you go over all the points in your reviews I don’t really care too much about the thumbs up or down, I got the info I needed anyway.

      Now please put your energy on something more productive than explaining the previous explanations that didn’t manage to explain everything! (is something about FPGAs/CPLDs coming or not this year?!?!? :P ).

      Cheers, iva

      ps you got another “hater”, my wife has you on her blacklist since an unexpected package with a Rigol scope arrived… after I saw your video review :)

    • Neil

      You mentioned in the original review that Agilent were saying wait until the mark 2 came out.

      Any takers that when you look at that you find most of the things that annoyed you have been fixed.

    • Robert

      You wanted input on how you do reviews so here goes. This might drag out a bit so grab some coffee:
      Don’t change a thing.

      *phew* Hope you didn’t fall asleep there Dave!

      I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank you for what you do. I’ve spent a couple of hours each night for the past week going through most of your videos and I’m absolutely loving what you’re doing.

      I’m not an engineer, I’m just a guy that likes to tinker a bit and I’ve done a couple of _very_ simple projects with PICs. With that background I can’t say I understand everything (or most, for that matter) you talk about but it’s still entertaining as hell and I can’t stop watching.

      The world needs more people like you.

      Rob, from a place that is currently about 50C colder than your place ;)

    • XynxNet

      Hi Dave,

      I like your aproach on reviews, your detailed description of good an bad aspects and your thumbs system.

      To be honest, I actually was surprised at the thumbs up for the agilent meter, but that was because I, as viewer, have a narrower perspective than you as a reviewer.

      During your review I kept thinking “is this or that aspect relevant for MY situation”. Clearly, for me the agilent multimeter would be the wrong tool for the wrong circumstances, but that’s a personal conclusion only I can create.

      This different and narrower viewpoint was responsible for my surprize about the thumbs up.

      But that’s what your wonderful detailed diskussion of good and bad aspects of a product a for, to create our own conclusion considering our own needs and situations. :)

      So…thank you very much, Dave, and keep up the good work!

    • Newton

      Hey Dave,

      Regarding your request for comments on how you should rate the products on your reviews:
      I think you should do a final sum up at the end listing good and bad and give a final thumbs up or down at the end.. As you have been doing all along.

      Cheers and have a good weekend.

    • walter delbono

      you are absolutely right dave…

      keep on rocking the engineering…

      :)

    • walter delbono

      it’s awesome to hear the negative critics because in the market when you go to the site or ask for the guy that sells a product he will say you that it’s the better thing in the world…

      thanks to tell us the negative aspects of the products…

      and your reviews are awesome…

      when you hear a critic always you have the subjective point of view from the person how is doing it…

      we all are human beens…

      and if the people don’t like the review…

      because it’s so negative or anything it’s because they don’t want to hear the truth or they don’t have their own point of view…

      to think and meditate about the things that they hear…

      i love eevblog…

      it’s amazing…

      :)

    • Qno

      Hi Dave,

      You are right. Just because a few features are not right on the mark, many are at the top of the range in the business. It takes a good man to not be blurred by a few negatives.
      Have we become that lazy that we expect every new product to be better in every aspect than stuff we know.

      I wonder if the B version has the continuity and the beeps “upgraded”. Maybe this is why Agilent did not send you an /A version. Maybe they had the same response from their customers. As I understand this meter did not come from Agilent directly. New Flukes have a load of AA cells to make the 400 hour mark.
      And ‘leds’ be honest. If you put the Fluke, Gossen and Agilent side by side its the OLED display that catches your eye. Its build for speed, not for comfort.

      Please continue Dave. I like your blog. I cannot wait to see the next one.

    • Cecil

      Dave,

      Though I love most of your reviews, and I have always had a soft spot for HP and Agilent equipment I have to say if this meter ever left my bench it would be a dog.

      I work in an environment where I need to know if there are transient shorts and a 1 second response is pitiful at best.

      I put a meter in the back of my truck and expect it to work, not wonder if the poor battery or the light body construction are going to fail me when I need it.

      The metering can have any count per division, but if I can not count on it to be ready when I need it what good is it?

      You want to test the two meters against each other? Drop them from bench height several times and then let me know what one I can put in the lock box of my truck.

      I am concerned that Aglient put their name on this sub standard bit of work. It makes me wonder if I should get my next bit of test equipment from them. Or if I need to find someone else to trust.

      -Cecil

    • Brian Hoskins

      @JohnR – Oi! I consider myself to be a bit of a hacker, thank you very much! Not the movie kind of course, I mean the “take it apart, figure out how it works and then modify to suit needs” kind.

      Although I’ve never bothered with Arduino. But I could probably be considered a nerd. So I tick two of your three “don’t know anything” boxes!!! :P

      @Review

      Good review. I got the same things back from this one that I got from the last one, but it was good to see a rational justification for the review.

      I’m interested to see what they’ve done with the new one. If they decided to upgrade it, then I guess they must have had a product meeting to identify the old meter’s shortcomings. Surely, top of that list, will have been the battery choice.

      So… to be honest… I’m expecting at least something to have been done about the battery. Otherwise what’s the point in upgrading the product.

      Brian

    • Daniel

      Hi Dave,
      I am an electronics engineer, and I’m working
      for a company in germany.
      So excuse my bad english ;-)

      We have arround 10 x U1251A here to work with.
      Some are the LCD version, some are the OLED
      version.

      I totally agree with your review. The battery live of the OLED version is a joke, but overall in an “bench setup” you can handle it pretty well. If I get an OLED version I’m used to recharge them over night. But I’m also used to use them over my whole working day without charging in between.
      With the LCD version I have no problem at all.

      The main negative point in my eyes is this
      ridiculous slow beeper (or how the short circuit tester is called). I always take another multimeter if I use this beeping feature!
      But!!! I mostly use it for meassurements
      and in this areas the Agilents are really good. What I LOVE is the easy and affordable
      usb connection. So a + for the USB connection,
      a – for the damned slow beeping and a + for my personal use of the thing (meassurement) = +

      But only because I use the AGILENT this way.
      If I’d need it outdoors or over a longer periode without the ability to recharge it -
      without disturbing my work-flow – I would have kicked this meter out of the window.

      But I don’t need that. I need a precise,
      fast, easy meter. I can check temperatures,
      I can check pretty fast a capacitance (not as precise as an extra tool but for my main needs precise enough = +-1pF) and I can measure resitance, currents and voltages.
      All with the ability to log the data to analyse them later.

      To the persons who are asking why to buy
      such an expnsive meter.
      If you are asking this question you don’t need it. You need such a meter if
      you want a precise instrument for an every
      day use AND if you want the doubtless feeling that you can TRUST your meassurments.
      I can remember when the meters where bought
      my boss said: “500$ per meter is cheap
      if you compare it to the posible costs of a wrong/delayed product, because your meter was crap”

    • UGGYBUGGY

      Those who don’t work in the electronics trade need to learn how to evaluate the features of test equipment according to their needs. That is exactly what you helped everyone to do, be they experienced or not. And, those experienced with electronics hardware yearn for and appreciate great component and board layout, parts placement, the thought behind knob/controls placement and operability. Even if those things aren’t deal breakers in the process of choosing an instrument, they show that the designer(s) really “understand the show” and have “walked a mile in our shoes”. Cheap or expensive, the time response of the continuity test beep is actually really important as well as the time a meter expends doing autoranging. When you’re under the gun at work trying to verify densely wired cables or tracking voltages in instrumentation circuits, nothing is more irritating than for those two features to be sluggish. The emphasis on battery life? Spot on! Although portable, the Agilent is nearly a bench class laboratory instrument. The Fluke is a durable, fast, fire breathing workhorse that makes field or lab work easier without being chained to a charger. And the Fluke is so nicely planned and built (insert ‘Homer Simpson drool here.. HMMMMMM..) A future topic will be seeing how long the Agilent Organic LED displays last. Bullshit? NO! Agilent meter review? THUMBS UP !!!

    • http://ed.zehome.com/ Laurent Coustet

      Hi there!

      Well, dave, I personally think you’re doing very, very good reviews. I think you’re “wasting” a looot of time doing this, and that’s really nice to give to all of us your opinions !

      Really, please, don’t change anything, that’s so natural and pleasant to view. I’m not as good as I would in English, and really, very good job, thanks a lot another time !

      I’m just an electronic hobbyist, really doing very simple things. and your review of this multimeter really really gave me the the want to buy it!

      So, Thanks a lot, another time dave for giving us so much of your time.

    • Sean

      Dave, I appreciated the original review. As I read listened, it basically breaks down to this.

      If you’re working in a workbench situation where you need a really fast, accurate multimeter for low to medium voltage with a lot of features, the OLED display Agilent would make a great choice. You might have to plug it in every night for recharge if you’re using it a lot.

      If battery life or sunlight visibility is an issue, you may want to sacrifice the Eye Candy and go for the LCD display.

      An avionics tech ringing out a 30 conductor wiring harness is going to hate the response time of the continuity indicator, however someone tracing shorts will like its variable frequency feature.

      If you need a meter you’ll drop onto concrete during field calls, that will survive long term being tossed into the tool box and bouncing around in a service truck in a rugged service situation, or may come into contact with kilovoltage, this may not be the meter for you.

      I give you a thumbs up on the review, it thoroughly covered the piece of equipment and gave anyone considering it for purchase everything they need to know to make a decision. There are always design tradeoffs, even in the best equipment.

    • http://www.uml.edu Joel

      I am just eager to see the review for the Agilent U1253B hopefully they made some improvement.

      I would also like to see more reviews of books, parts, equipment,and perhaps example / tutorials just like in the first few episodes.

      Joel

    • Qno

      Let us discuss the Fluke 123.
      Battery life 3 hours……

    • Chic

      Just my tuppenceworth, Dave often speaks in a shorthand, things like burden voltage, accuracy, repeatibility, and so on, he can simply quote the numerical value. And that takes a lot less time than discussing the shortcomings, where he explains why the shortcomings are shortcomings. Thus the shortcomings are perceived as taking up a lot more of the review than the highlights.
      I love daves work, and take his reviews in the spirit that they are made. Frinstance I have a pickit2 and an ICD2, but on daves recco I wont be getting a pickit 3, and i’ll wait to see what he says about the pickit 4 before I commit to it.
      Keep up the good work.

      Chic

    • Dirk

      Your review was published 2 weeks after my eBay U1253A arrived in Oz from the US. I think your review is accurate (and great entertainment as usual). One of the first things I did was to use the meter’s own logging function to confirm the NiMH battery life. I installed a lithium 9V right away, just as you’ve suggested, mainly because of possible self-discharge of the battery – I wouldn’t want to have to wait for a recharge if the meter’s been unused for a while. (This raises the only thing to really worry me – how can you log data for longer than the battery life? Attaching an external PS to the 9V battery clips seems just a bit ugly

    • pj

      I bought u1253A before I saw this review. I really like the OLED display and it’s high accuracy. I had fluke 289, and have armprob 38xr-a, also two other cheap multimeters. I sold the 289 for good money, keep the u1253a for bench use,and cheap no name DMMs for field use.just keep the armprobe as a spare.

      Compare 289 to 1253a, pretty much no big diff in functions. Only thig is that 289 has graphic logging function, which 1253a doesn’t. but u1253a has square wave output, it’s quite useful for my work. For the price, 1253a can only compare to 287, 289 almost 1.5 times to u1253a.

      I don’t have the issue about sunlight reading problem on U1253a. Acctually, the readability is much better than 287/289 lcd both under sunlight or no light. For the beepping problem in david’s first review, you can just turn all them off in setup. And I took apart mine u1253a, no dry solder joint at all.

      Other reasons that I choose u1253a are: 1.it’s smaller and lighter;
      2.it’s much simpler for operating; you don’t need manual to operate u1253a. but it’s almost impossible for 287/289.
      3.and it’s less factory controll–u’ll need register to upgrade firmware on 289, and you’ll need pay for fluke pc software if u didn’t purchase the combo kit; Agilent has no extra charge.

      the problems of u1253a which I don’t like are:
      1.battery life, I use lithium or just cheap alkaline 9v, that rechargeable one really hold too short. If I work on something that is really long on bench, I hook up a old gramma’s 9v battery saver power adapter on. now, no issue any more.
      2.they should put a power button on the meter, I really don’t like turn around every time. Thought press any key can revoke u1253a from sleep.
      3.need buy ir-usb cable seperately for about 30-40 bucks for u1253a. for 289, if you didn’t buy a combo kit, u’ll need buy this too for higher price. so, no diff.

    • http://www.hoevendesign.com Paul

      Why are you using this whole blog defending your own opinion against people who do not (want to?) understand you? Is it the price for being popular?

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        It’s called engaging with your audience.

    • http://It'slikeStarTrek HeyJay

      Dave,
      Remember I watch your blog for the technical commentary.
      But tonight you helped me explain a bit of life to my 18 year old daughter. Your remarks at 4:54 “People only remember the negative things, not the positive”.

      This spurred a 1 hour discussion on how to deal with people who are not inspirational and elevating to yourself. I know it’s corney to say how Dave’s blog helped me deal with life. But it frickin true…..! Like the old Star Trek episodes where we love the technical spacey things, but there’s moral in the story that made me feel good.

      So Dave thanks for being honest and passionate in responding to the criticism, your words meant more to me than a meter review!
      Keep the passion alive!!

      HeyJay

    • Shorty

      Speaking of LITHIUM 9V batteries, has anyone tried dissecting a dead one? Do they have 6 AAA’s in them like most Alkaline 9V’s?

      Curious.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Alkalines have AAAA and not AAA batteries in them.

    • Shorty

      - On second thought; Dave, you might consider doing a simple 9V tear down during a video.

      It surprises me as to how many look on with wide eyes as I take a minute pop open an Alkaline 9V to get AAA’s on the cheap.

      Good on ya, Dave!

    • MyJules

      I just got 1253A at good price. it’s in mail and i hope i like it. For my hobby use, battery life and other issues people care are not an issue for me.

      Keep up your good work!!

    • Sebastian

      Thanks for the 1253A review. I am looking for a new Field-Work multimeter, but in fact…I could just switch over to the 1252B (but honestly I am more having an eye on the U1242B which should be “nice” enough for my needs (I haven’t found a really good review of that yet).

      Some points I#d like to mention:
      -Well…about the Malaysia, China, Taiwan := Bad quality talks…. to be honest, a product is just as good as it’s quality control. I had some photographic equipment from China and from France, but to be honest the China stuff is cheaper, more rugged, has a nicer finish and a lot better service. My only biggest concerns about production in China are more from ecologic and social aspects. A bad made multimeter you can check out and checker for other factories if your standards aren’t met, but if workers are working under bad conditions or so you may never hear about that.
      -You talked about the DC-Charging mechanism through the connectors, but I see that more as an disadvantage. The OLED display and short battery life are pushing it more to the Bench than your toolbox (as you stated out). Hmm, well, if you have to charge it about two hours through the plugs and have eight hours runtime that really would annoy me. How about a DC-Jack, covered by rubber maybe, that you can use on your bench and just use the battery when you are going out on a tour. That would really make more sense in my eyes…

      Thanks for your opinions, Sebastian