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Any bench meters with USB ~$400?

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paulpthcom:
Hi All,

I'm looking for the bench equivalent of one of the Agilent 125Xb series.  Keys are reasonable accuracy, ~400 price point and USB (or I guess serial) connectivity (plus either free or reasonably priced software).  Neither Agilent nor Fluke have anything in that price range, at least nothing new.  This means I'm probably looking at either something Chinese or used.

Anyone have any suggestions?

alm:
I'd say forget new bench meters if you only have $400 to spend. The only candidates will either be crap (like the Keithley 2100, which isn't even that cheap) or won't offer anything above high-end handhelds, and be worse in many other aspects (eg. Uni-T bench meters). I believe Agilent has a cheap(ish) line which may be close to $400, no idea if it's any good, though. Saturation recently posted a review of a Rigol bench meter, which wasn't that positive, and I don't think that Rigol meter was anywhere near $400. I wouldn't bet on the even lesser known brands to do any better. I'd go with used (HP, Keithley and Fluke are the main brands). Used tends to be better bang for the buck if you can stand the risks.

Calibration is rarely economical, but I've been lucky so far and have rarely received anything significantly out of spec (unless it was broken), so my impression is that good equipment doesn't tend to drift much. Make sure you know what the seller means if you buy a calibrated unit, some may only mean that they hooked it up and pushed some buttons.

If you focus on USB, you'll be limited to the new $$$ stuff. An USB-serial converter (for recent-ish models) is $15 or so, USB-GPIB (for stuff from the eighties, which tends to be cheaper) is $150 (Prologix, don't fall for the worthless $30 ones). Accuracy tends to be plenty good on the 4.5+ digit models. For $400, you may be able to get a used HP 34401A or Keithley 2000 (both are still in production), which support RS-232. Older / cheaper stuff tends to be limited to GPIB, which is fine, as long as you have an interface. Plenty of good options from the eighties with 4.5-6.5 digits and GPIB, eg. HP 3478A/3455A/3456A/3457A, Fluke 8840/8842, Keithley 196/199 (and to lesser degree 192/195(A)). Beware that some basic features like AC or resistance may be optional on some units (I think AC and possibly GPIB is optional on the Fluke 884x). Some of them can be picked up for $100 or less if you get a good deal (eg. HP 3478A or Keithley 199).

paulpthcom:
Thanks for the reply.  The ~$400 Agilents don't have serial/USB in them so that knocks them out.  And thanks for the warning on the Rigol since I was looking at those, though they don't have anything that close to ~$400.

I've been looking at the 34401A but not the Keithley so thanks again for pointing that one out.

Bored@Work:
$400 will bring you in the range of the meters "no one" knows about or doesn't write about. Like Tonghui stuff or Picotest. Or BK Precision, Instek and the like.

alm:

--- Quote from: BoredAtWork on December 07, 2010, 07:17:08 pm ---$400 will bring you in the range of the meters "no one" knows about or doesn't write about. Like Tonghui stuff or Picotest. Or BK Precision, Instek and the like.

--- End quote ---
I believe the Picotest stuff is re-branded from the same OEM as the Keithley 2100 (no relation to the Keithley 2000, which is well regarded and a direct competitor to the HP/Agilent 34401A), which has gotten pretty bad reviews (though some of it is for a well-known brand selling such a shoddy product). Not sure if it's the same model, but I wouldn't bet on it being any better. List price is well above $400. Not sure about the other brands. The trouble with equipment no one knows about is that it's always a gamble, and if you only have $400 to spend, you can't afford that. If you have $1k to spend, you can risk $400 and spend the remaining $600 on a brand-name one if it turns out bad, but there would be no need for a cheaper unit in that case.

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