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  • EEVblog #99 – $100 Multimeter Shootout – Extech Amprobe BK Precision Ideal UEi Uni-T PART 2of2

    Posted on July 11th, 2010 EEVblog 55 comments

    PART 2 of 2
    Dave compares six $100 Multimeters:

    BK Precision BK2709B
    http://www.tequipment.net/BK2709B.html
    Extech EX505
    http://www.tequipment.net/ExtechEX505.asp
    Amprobe 34XR-A
    http://www.tequipment.net/Amprobe34XR-A.html
    UEi DM391
    http://www.tequipment.net/UEiDM391.html
    IDEAL 61-342
    http://www.tequipment.net/Ideal61-342.asp
    UNI-T UT61D
    http://www.uni-trend.com/UT61D.html


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    55 responses to “EEVblog #99 – $100 Multimeter Shootout – Extech Amprobe BK Precision Ideal UEi Uni-T PART 2of2” RSS icon

    • Dave,

      The shootouts are nice but it seems like too much work for you and maybe a bit too much data all at once for the views. I for one would be just as happy if you did one meter at a time and posted them as you finished each one. That way you wouldn’t have such a terrifically challenging job and we would get more of a regular feed of great reviews. Plus we could then re-watch just the reviews for the specific equipment we maybe considering purchasing without watching a full hour video. Then after all the single postings you could post a shootout summary.

      Maybe its time for another polljunkie.com poll. :)

      Todd

      • @ Todd
        Yeah, I agree. It seemed like a good idea at the time!
        I’ll have three LCR meters soon, I’ll probably be a glutton for punishment and do another shootout. But 3 units should be just manageable.
        Or would people really prefer 3 separate videos?
        Dave.

        • Jeremy Driver

          The individual reviews of each device makes it easier to keep track of what a specific device is capable of. I confess that for your $50 multi review, I got confused about which models had which issues, etc.

          On the other hand, side-by-side comparisons are great shopping tools.

          I think that you can get the best of both worlds by planning a system of tests you’ll consistently apply to each device in a series of reviews.

          Let’s say you have twenty test categories, from build quality to accuracy to usability. You could present a scorecard for each device in the individual review and have a summary video that presents the scores for all the devices and your recommendations.

          You could have one final blog post that links to all the individual reviews and the summary post. The shootout results could also be presented in a one or two page PDF. That’s extra work though.

          I appreciate all that you’ve done, btw. Great job. It means a lot to me. :-)

          • You could have one final blog post that links to all the individual reviews and the summary post. The shootout results could also be presented in a one or two page PDF. That

            • I like these shootouts, but six contestants is bit too high. Probably four could be optimal, so that the viewers can keep track on the devices and the length and work for it is still somehow manageable. So I’d be waiting for that LCR-meter shootout.

              But those separate videos might work as well. The only way to see is to test the idea.

              Anyway, excellent work Dave and keep it on!

    • Good review, Dave. I never knew watching multimeter reviews was this interesting. I learned something while watching too. Thanks a lot.

    • “240 volts on the ohms range locks it up…

      …lets try it again!”

      Awesome!

    • I bet the Extech people already have an alert system in place. “Hey, Dave is touching one of our meters! Activate the damage control team!”.

    • Why is there no ESR measurement in any of the meters? With all the capacitor plague going on for 10 years you’d think it would be in every meter? AFAIK it needs a 100 khz sinewave to measure it that shouldn’t be hard to do for a meter with all that circuitry.

      • I completely agree, integrating an ESR meter in a multimeter should be trivial, and it would be very, very useful for troubleshooting bad caps. What would one require for a reasonable 100kHz sine wave generation? A 555, some supporting passive components, and an op-amp for active filtering?

        Anyways, I’m totally in the market for a decent $100 DMM, and this review came just at the right time. For some reason, at work, they just don’t have any really good multimeters to use, which can be a pain in the butt for doing specification measurements.

        Thanks a bunch, dave!

    • Great thanks for the info, i witch every time i went to buy something i could do a autopsy and trial, thats were you help out.

    • Congrats Dave.

      Your blog is referenced on Extech’s web site. They are bragging about their EX330 winning the $50 meter shootout.

      Check it out.

      http://www.extech.com/instruments/product.asp?catid=48&prodid=277

      I wonder if the EX505 will be creditted with the Rube Goldburg award for the wire bridge to jumper the broken circuit board.

      Smile :)

      Bearman

    • Dave, another great review !

      Any plans on reviewing some bench power supplies, I know you have some individual units tested in the early blogs. But it would be nice to have them compared side by side.

    • I bought EX530 and it had some hand-soldered jumpers and dry solder joints. I called Extech and said I’ll ship it to Dave for a teardown. They promptly exchanged it. Congrats, you now have a pull in the test equip industry.

      If Extech reps are reading this, you guys really got to grill your chinese friends on quality because while features and price are pretty close to Fluke, internally even your flagship 530 is not anywhere close to even older Flukes.

    • Not exactly the best place to post this, but dave did you know that the back to the future ride had closed. Dont know about you but I was gutted.

      SMD.

      The blog is great as always..

    • I have an amprobe and did not like how loose the cables were at all, but by simply pushing tack to the back side of them opens the metal up a tad and makes them a lot tighter. But either way you’d think that the manufacture could do that before they package them.

    • Do you plan to do another review for $200+ meters?

      • Do you plan to do another review for $200+ meters?

        No plans at all.

        • I’d be pretty happy not to see another meter review for another year or so. Not that isn’t good stuff, but there’s only so much you need.

          When it comes down to it, multimeters don’t change much at all.

          The $50 meters were a very different bunch, and there was a clear winner.

          None of the $100 meters were bad. And let’s face it, if you can spend $100 on a meter, if it doesn’t meet your requirements, you can buy another.

          Spend anymore, and you might as well go for whichever Fluke or Gossen that has specs that match your needs.

    • Absolutely stellar work, Dave!

      I went into this rooting for the Extech, mostly on the basis of that nice display it has. But after seeing the QC issue and the crap high voltage performance… no way.

      Now seriously considering the Uni-T for my second meter.

    • One thing missing from these meters is REALLY “true RMS.” Most meters that claim “true RMS” really aren’t. They are all AC coupled on the AC voltage range.

      Your favorite, the BK has a big brother, the 2712 that will measure RMS + DC which is the only way to accurately measure RMS. Without the DC component the measurement is worthless. The 2712 is only $10 more than the 2709B.

      Is there such a thing as “untrue RMS?”

      • wow K5HJ – I think you might have just given Dave a new episode “Untrue RMS and DC offsets”.

        -Duncan

      • Didn’t know about that model, looks like great value for money.
        Shame it doesn’t do sub uA resolution, and cap stops at 40uF. But otherwise, 0.15% 40,000 count with AC+DC TRMS for $110 is a bargain.

        • I just picked up the BK 2712 meter.

          It seems pretty nice overall, but there are a few drawbacks compared to the 2709B you tested.

          The autoranging is much slower, and so is the continuity test.

          Along with the more limited capacitance, frequency, and current ranges, I’d say it’s a bit of a toss up.

          Most people would probably be happier with the 2709B, and I’d recommend the 2712 only to people who really want the extra precision.

          All that said, it’s still a nice meter, and I don’t know any other good quality 40000 count meters for $120

    • Great work.
      I really appreciate the hard work you put into these video’s. Even thinking about all the work involved makes me break into a sweat.
      I’d go on holiday after attempting something like this.

    • Do all meters measure capacitance with same frequency of 100Hz or 1kHz ?

    • Hey Dave,

      You will soon be able to build a garden shed using nothing but meters and mortar. :) I would be curious if anything got shifted or bent inside after the drop test.

    • wartexmaul

      Glad to hear you commented on the EX530. I was thinking about pulling the trigger and buying one soon. Did Extech step up to the plate and fix your issues? If so, is the new unit any better?

      Thanx.

      bearman

    • JoeLaBidouille

      Hi,

      Great a deep review. At this price, all multimeters are well working, it was not the case of the 50$ series.
      The uni-trend multimeters are sold in europe under the “voltcraft” name (germany)

      Thanks,
      JoeLaBidouille

    • Its funny, I have cheapo meters in my lab, bought nicer meters for others, and tonight, all you did was convince me to spend the extra and get myself a fluke.

      –mike

    • I was disappointed that only one of the multimeters selected for inclusion in your $100 shootout had USB or even RS-232. Why bother reviewing stone age meters? I consider that a minimum requirement for a $100 class meter. There are even a number of $50 meters with a USB port. Data logging signals vs time (such as in your new torture chamber) is one application but also just plain recording of measurements (statistical process control). Don’t just measure it, record it. Paper doesn’t cut it. Put a netbook or better on the bench and/or your field kit. Even some PDAs now have USB master ports. The question isn’t whether a meter should have USB but rather whether it should also have bluetooth so you don’t have to deal with the cable and so you can use it with a USB impaired PDA.

      For all its faults, the UT-61D was the clear winner of the shoot-out; all the others should have just been disqualified. Your readers kept asking for it. Why? It wasn’t stellar specs. PC interface.

      Fluke – used to love your meters but it is downright reprehensible to be selling $300 meters without a computer interface today. Sad thing is, with the optical port, it costs practically nothing to include it in the meter (the cable costs more, but at least you can upgrade). Out of 17 current models, only 2 (287/289) have USB and only 5 have at least one of RS-232, USB, or GPIB. And I think 3 of those are “bench” meters. The only hand holdable ones are the $400 to $550 280 series meters with the 15 second battery life and functions like “zero/rel” that should still be single key press relegated to menus. The ones with enough computing power to run down the battery but not enough computing power to actually be a computer/PDA. If the thing costs $500 and needs to be charged daily, it better run Familiar Linux or at least Android and have bluetooth, wifi, GPS, and have a built in camera. Oh, and you can’t even plug the fluke into a charger, you have to swap out 6 batteries every shift? The 70 and 80 series? A good meter 20 years ago. Not today. After 5 versions, what does it do that it couldn’t do 20 years ago? Not the one thing your product needed most – a deficiency that was noticable 20 years ago.

      Wake up people. Stop making shit products that don’t talk to other products. This is worse than the tropicana orange debacle.

      USB isn’t just a feature you need on your one “good” meter, either. Tomorrow, you might find yourself needing to take multiple measurements simultaneously. For example, you might want to log supply voltage, supply current, and circuit output on the device you just stuffed in the torture chamber. And temperature. Thats 4 meters. You may want to graph supply current vs supply voltage on something. That is two. Want to measure degrees C per watt on a heat sink: volts, amps, and temp – 3 meteres.

      Those who don’t consider a computer interface an essential feature probably are not doing something right in their operation. If it is worth measuring, it is worth recording and if it is worth recording, it is worth recording properly.

      Ship 1000 units of a product? Test them? What was the statistical distribution of Vcc or Vref on them? How does that correlate with product return rates? How did Vcc compare when the product came back for repair vs when you shipped it? How does it compare with the value you measured 15 minutes ago?
      And there are plenty of hobby level uses as well.

      Seriously, this is a feature I would even consider desirable in a pocket multimeter.

      It is bad enough that your multimeter won’t interface to your camcorder or digital camera (and record the readings as captions or EXIF metadata); to not be able to talk to your netbook, PDA, laptop, or desktop is just pathetic. Speaking of which, more shit products that don’t talk to other products. Got a digital camera or camcorder that you can’t control from the computer, which is the vast majority of them? Shit product. Can’t connect to your USB audio 5.1 channel sound adapter? Shit product. Can’t connect to your USB GPS? Shit product. Can’t read data from USB TMS or USB Communications Device Class (aka USB Serial) or HID device and inject the data received into the image header or video stream? Shit product. Have a PDA without a usb master or OTG connection? Shit product. Got a meter that doesn’t have a serial or TMS talker only mode that streams the data without polling or when “touch hold” occurs so you can do the above without having to program the camera to send the right query? Shit product. Got a camera that won’t let you program it so you could send the right query (as in CHDK)? Shit product.

      If a multimeter does not ship with a USB port, then you must be able to open it up and stuff in a $10 board that adds one. Or buy a $10 cable that provides USB by talking to the LED/photo transistor already built in. Not negotiable.

      Now, I trust the fluke to be more accurate than a Uni-T or similar meter. If a bad meter could result in a lot of expensive defective products going out the door, I am going to trust the fluke – or am I? The displayed accuracy matters less when you have a USB port. As long as the readings are consistent, they can be calibrated out in post-processing even if the display shows the wrong value. And calibration is easy when you have a USB port (provided you have calibration equipment in house). You can calibrate every meter daily. And it might not be long before you can use USB to download the calibration curves into the cheap meters so even the display is right. And a built in temperature sensor (which should already be present for thermocouple data) could report meter temperature along with the data. The chinese meters are just a tad below the trustworthy level – how good is their temperature compensation? But then my confidence in a Fluke 87 isn’t really all that well founded. What has happened to that meter since last year’s calibration? Does it record temperature with each measurement? Oh, yeah, it doesn’t have a computer interface to record the measurements with, let alone report the temperature. Have I ever run a calibration pass on it in 1mV steps against a calibration standard? No, I can’t – it doesn’t have a computer interface. Did the calibration lab? No, it doesn’t have a USB interface. Have I ever repeated the test in a thermal torture chamber? No, I can’t. Has Fluke? Probably not, no interface. Has the calibration lab? Nope, no interface. So, the fluke 87 might have a good design but do I know my specific meter even really met spec when it left the factory? Do I really trust an outdated piece of paper from a calibration lab that did not test over temperature and only tested a handful of data points? Even if the cal lab could do a serious calibration, how many defective products can I ship between the time the meter is drop calibrated and the next calibration or someone actually figures out there is a stuck at one fault on one of the A/D converter bits? 20 years ago, a Fluke was pretty much the best thing going for a handheld DMMM. But lets be honest. How many people who aren’t already in the habit of buying Flukes from 20 years ago are going to get in that habit today? When they are essentially selling 20 year old meters. And when they totally botched their attempt at making a modern meter. Fluke is standing still and the competition is moving fast. Don’t change it, Don’t change it, Don’t change it, Our customers report our meters are hopelessly out of date. Change everything indiscriminately – pull a tropicana. Must have got that manager from the same place microchip got Mr. D. Head.

      A meter with a computer interface may not be trustworthy, but a meter without one could be considered inherently not trustworthy.

      American manufacturers, in particular, wake up. It isn’t just that the chinese are undercutting your prices with cheap shit – you are undercutting yourself with crappy products. You can not differentiate your product on quality unless you actually have quality. If it comes down to a choice between unsatisfactory cheap shit that costs $50 and unsatisfactory expensive shit that costs $300, the cheap shit product will win almost every time. Especially considerting it isn’t just cheaper, in many respects it is better. Even the people who care about quality will buy the cheap shit to tide themselves over until a real product comes on the market. No USB port? Do not pass go, do not collect $300. At least the Chinese, for the most part, know that shit products need to be priced accordingly.

      Lets test a few meters:
      5.0000V reference (4.9997V at 70F (not that it is 70F now)).

      bought new 28 year old Tektronix 2236: 5.00V
      Traceable calibration long expired.

      20 years old? Taiwanese TES 2360 4.95V
      (inductance, capacitance, frequency, logic probe, temperature but not thermocouple) Claimed accuracy 0.5%+1count (3.5 counts), actual error 5 counts.

      Craftsman 82400 (fairly recent, made in Taiwan, needed type K in a hurry) 4.97/4.98V

      The quality US made meter decades out of calibration clearly wins on accuracy. The other two are within 1%. None of them have enough digits at 5V, a typical problem.

      For <=0.1% (claimed) accuracy, you are probably into the $150-$200 range.

      • For all its faults, the UT-61D was the clear winner of the shoot-out; all the others should have just been disqualified. Your readers kept asking for it. Why? It wasn

      • For all its faults, the UT-61D was the clear winner of the shoot-out; all the others should have just been disqualified. Your readers kept asking for it. Why? It wasn

      • Whitis is exactly right: not having a data port on a mid- or high-end meter is an insult to meter buyers! I just recently had to purchase a DMM for some datalogging duties. My choices were either 1.) settle for an import with lots of features but questionable accuracy and longevity; or 2.) buy an older, proven meter with RS232 interface and fewer features (still Chinese-made, but at least it’s not a new company).

        I certainly cannot justify buying a high-end Fluke, especially when they charge extra for the bundle with cable and software! Really, if you’re spending $500+, a cable and excellent software should be INCLUDED.

        If a US-based company would sell a GOOD, well-built meter with a PC interface for under $250, I’d be all over it. I don’t care if it’s made in the US or in Asia — as long as it is built WELL!

    • In my opinion: Buy a second hand Fluke. Ebay is full of ‘em.

    • 1st off, excellent, comprehensive review. Thumbs up. :)

      2nd, regarding the UNI-T, why not test the “E” model instead? It goes for ~$60 USD delivered (if you know where to look). It has that extra digit (22,000 cnt) and from my own observations (vis-

    • Keep doing the shootouts like this.

      It’s a bit long to watch the whole thing, but it really helps to make a decision.

      It’s easier than watching 6 different videos and trying to keep track of the results.

    • Whitis has a very skewed idea of what multimeters are about.

      Most people using DMMs are Technicians ,Electricians,Auto Mechanics,etc. Their main aim is to obtain a reading that is immediately useable.(Checking for correct voltage,current,& resistance values,as part of a troubleshooting procedure).

      Once these readings are taken,further action may or may not be required, depending if they are correct,or found to be incorrect.

      In some cases, the correct readings will be recorded.(If no fault present,or after repair).
      The incorrect readings are only very rarely recorded.

      We can hardly blame the DMM manufacturers for making a product to suit their largest market segment!

      Data loggers are available,& would be more appropriate for his purposes.

      VK6ZGO

    • I have BK an uni-t meter … its just like comparing McDonald and KFC. Up to you own taste. I prefer BK because of great customer support and service after sale.

    • The Extech test-unit had screwed up during part-1 video(design and safety defect) but you still include it into your test ? Why ?

      This part of the review is so boring; these auto-rangers are so slow, takes forever to take a reading.

      After you pay $100 for such modern test equipment, they still give you buggy results ??? CRAP?

      US Manufacturers are putting rubbish into their products; just like Lehman Brothers’s housing bonds.

      Chinese companies are humble and do appropriate marketing, while US companies create ‘INTEL’ myths which bubble-bust after 2 years.

      Finally, make a guess.

      How many of these brands come under Tequipment.com?

    • Thanks Dave, I just needed a new multimeter for hobby stuff, mainly RC car racing and general purpose.

      But I had no idea what to get, yet a lot of your vids helped me figure out what I needed (like I wanted a 4.200 reading on a lipo cell check, another of your vids made me realize I needed a 6000 count meter).

      And the $50 and $100 meter reviews helped a lot, mainly cause I had no idea what to buy on a tight budget, so you steered me in the direction of something I’ll likely have some trust in, while still preserving my budget.

      So thumbs up dude, though your reviews are soooooo long mate. LOL

    • Hi Dave I’m loving the videos and learning so much. I’m finding it very hard to find most of the quality products you’ve recommended at sensible prices from NZ retailers and Amazon and Ebay shops just won’t ship here. Anyhow i’ve finally managed to track down and order a pair of uni t UT61C meters from dinodirect. They look the same as the one reviewed here. $128 the pair inc shiping.

      Keep up the good work

      • Yes, unfortunately that is common here. The majority of my audience is US based, so I’m mainly catering to them as a baseline. It’s hard to review products when there are massive price differences all around the world.

    • Hello David, please don’t call me a “dickhead” for replying to an old thread. I need a new auto ranging ac/dc digital multimeter for all around home owner/hobbyist use and would like to see a new series of multimeter shootouts in the $100.00-$200.00 range.
      Your videos are awesome!
      Thanks,
      Rudy

    • Dave, I am a new follower of yours, as in the last few days, and am loving all your youtube shows and website.

      Could you please do a review of mobile portable oscilloscopes that are also DMM.
      I ended up buying the Uni-T UTD1025CL, and even though it only has one channel I am very much liking this unit so far. However, I am a white western poor person that can’t justify a Fluke. I would love to see how the Uni-T scopes compare with Fluke and other competition for a multi-purpose scope and DMM.

      I am wondering if I should bite the bullet and buy one of the Fluke 123 scopes or something equavalent (i.e. scope DMM combo).

      Would love to read and watch your thoughts/opinions buddy.

      Bless you from Downunder Australia,
      Matt.

    • Also, where can i donate something to you buddy?
      I don’t have money, but I got opal, you deserve some Australian Opal for all the free advice you give the world.

      Keep it up!

      Matt.

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