Author Topic: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics  (Read 15524 times)

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Offline mAJORD

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Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« on: March 12, 2012, 01:10:46 pm »
Hi All

Long time Lurker. First time Poster.

Thought I'd come in and give back some of what I've taken lurking around the place.

Currently upgrading my workshop throughout, and first on the list was a decent Multimeter in the $200-$300 range.

I was left with the following shortlist:

Amprobe X38R
Agilent U1242B
Sanwa PC510a

This turned into a tug of war between the Agilent (cheaper) and the Sanwa, (slightly more accurate) . What swayed me in the end, was my  Curiosity I guess.

So anyway, Iv'e noticed this Meter or similar models come up around here, so on with some impressions and Photoes, and a little Vid. I'll try and let the pictures do the talking, and concentrate on good or bad standouts, as everything else is pretty much WYSIWUG.


US$188  - AU $325  (MIB instruments Hong Kong , RS components AU) - Beware of imitations though apparently

Features and Main specifications:

-3-4 / 5 digits 5000 count
-0.06% Basic DC Accuracy
-AC True RMS
-RS 232 interface
-CAT III 600V CAT II 1000V input
-Update rate: 5x /s

In The Box:

A pretty classic looking box. Inside is the Meter, Test leads, Thermocouple, Manual, Quality certificate.

First Impressions:

The first thing that struck me was the small size. The photos make it look quite large, but in reality it's smaller than a Fluke 189 (as you can see in the video). it's a pretty conservative, old school shape. I'm not sure how old this design actually is.

Holster is a bit soft, and doesn't extend over the front.

Selector switch feels pretty good. Not as good as the Flukes as in that it doesn't force itself into each intent as positively, but it's quite light to turn. It is a tad small though I have to say, and each function is  a bit tightly spaced.

The Tilt stand is OK.. It does the job but repetative pushes on the buttons will eventually knock it over as it moves slightly each time. It's quite narrow, but the flat base makes it as stable as the big fluke laterally

Once you Remove the holster, its apparent the construction is not particuarly sturdy. Which I found surprising.
The casing is held together by two machine thread screws at the bottom, which is good, but only clips at the top. Also, when you squeeze the case, the sides flex inward as their is no U channel in the casing! Clearly this meter is not suitable for Utility use. The CAT ratings would also suggest that working on sub stations with this thing would be a no-no anyway.

In essence, it seems this meter is clearly targeted for workshop / Engineering use. and in this environment, these factors become a bit of a non issue. the holster will soften the blow of workshop knocks and drops, on what is admittedly not a very solid design. Further to this, it doesn't actually have a backlight! quite odd.
Probes are a bit weedy, and CAT II 1000V Rated. Good for small hands. The tips are gold plated

Time to take it apart:

The Fuse / battery cover comes off with the removal of one of the machine screws, revealing a 9v Battery, and the Two Small HRC fuses

Removing the other Machine screw allows the whole rear case to come off.

First impressions of the PCB are excellent. It is well laid out, and soldering is top notch.
There's some unusual design aspects that will probably have a polarized response from people.  In a nutshell though I'm pretty impressed.

The Stand out are:
-Soldering quality
-Gold plated Range switch pads, + gold fingers on the dial.

What I didn't like so much:

-use of high gauge wire link for the Common connection
-Input protection is not brilliant, though the use of what appears to be Gas arrestors in place of MOV's is interesting. There are also some Fusable resistors, and a total of 3 PTCs around the place.

Really though, whilst unusual at times nothing inside turned me off.

Operation , With Comparison to Fluke 189:

So all that aside, Whats actually important at the end of the day, is how does it operate.

Well, pretty damn well. It has a huge, clear no-frills display, which as mentioned has no backlight. However, possibly as a result of this it has excellent contrast, with the use of a very reflective backing. So in well lit workshop it's actually better than the fluke, and most meters for that matter. You might notice this in the video. At times it looks like a backlight is on, but it's just the light reflection.

It's quite responsive, and seems to do everything its supposed to. Just a no fuss meter really.

I've attached a Youtube video, showing some of the basic operation back to back with the much higher end Fluke 189 series (Last calibrated in October 2011) as a reference (Why did they discontinue these instead of rebranding them a lower price point?, they're really good!)

Appologies in advance for the dodginess of the Silent movie btw.

Apart from being a lower count display obviously, the biggest downsides next to the big fluke are:

-Slightly slower Auto ranging
-Non latching continuity (though it is instant response)
-Slow recovery after mains on OHMs range
-Slightly longer pause between mode selections.

Overall though, I cant see any  issues with operation. I've been trying out over the last few days and it appears to be very stable, no quirks, and in general I'm very confident in it.



At first I have to say the case construction  of the unit let me down a bit. For a meter of this price range, even if it's not target at utility type use, it really should be more solid. The Rubber holster will obviously protect it somewhat, and it's like it's about to fall apart or anything but all the same. Not its strongest point that's for sure!

If you put that aside though, what you're left with is an accurate, Gimmick free Meter, with all the essential features, and quality construction under the hood.

However, it's not the best value mainly because the Agilents either side of its price  give you more features/dollar, and their casings +CAT ratings are better. Of course, You can get these on Ebay for around AU$188 as mentioned, which if legitiment is quite good value.

The MIB instruments page seems pretty legit (Hong Kong) , but who knows! (Someone buy one and find out? :p)

One final thing.. I need to get hold of the 232 link And softwate to try it out, Will update when that happens.

over an out...

Offline FenderBender

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2012, 09:57:53 pm »
I think it looks like a decent meter..but like you said, definitely not the best value.

Offline Frant

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 10:03:44 pm »
The prices of Sanwa instruments can differ as much as 50% depending on the part of the world where they are sold. For example, I bought a PC5000 several years ago directly from their distributor and it was less than 150 EUR. It was definitely a great value for the price. However, it might not have been such a good deal if it were 250 EUR, which was the price quoted in some catalogs at the time. Anyway, I'm very satisfied with it. I have one at home and several of them at work. It lacks a few features (backlight and a proper hold function), but in terms of measurement performance it is quite comparable to Fluke instruments that cost 2-3 times more. Sanwa recently introduced new models (PC7000, PC700 etc.). PC7000 has a backlit dual display.

Offline nukie

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 10:16:01 pm »
Is the PC510a made in Taiwan?

Offline T4P

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2012, 02:03:14 am »
Definitely a very old design , heck , the boxes look the same as the analog meter i had many many years ago !

Offline zaoka

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 04:02:23 am »
This is their older model, they have PC700 now. I asked them to send me meter for review, Sanwa representative agreed and forwarded email to Mexican dealer, however, he never sent it to me...

Maybe Dave could ask for one?

Offline Spawn

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2012, 08:24:45 am »
Tbh I am surprised to see how much effort they put in protection  :o Really nice

Offline T4P

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 09:56:53 am »
Tbh I am surprised to see how much effort they put in protection  :o Really nice
Really interesting protection , i don't know anything about GDT but they sound like a better option then a MOT blowing a patch in your meter .

Offline mAJORD

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Re: Sanwa PC-510a DMM, Mini Review + Teardown Pics
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2012, 11:47:50 pm »
Is the PC510a made in Taiwan?

I'm not 100% sure. There's a tiny gold sticker under the box says Made in Taiwan, then the part no sticker says Made in Japan!
Maybe the Box is made in Taiwan

BTW, I slapped together a short vid on ACV RMS measurments, with some cheap Jaycar meters for company.

The little meter on the right is really just to show real world effects of an avg sampling meter on non sine waves
The True RMS Jaycar on the Left does fine on Tri and square waves, but falls over on on the last waveform :p


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