Author Topic: U3401A buy or not?  (Read 13551 times)

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Offline DrirrTopic starter

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U3401A buy or not?
« on: May 20, 2011, 04:28:21 pm »
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 06:12:04 pm »
It is Agilent's entry-level bench multimeter. It should have some Escort 3136A DNA in its blood. Agilent bought Escort in some years ago, and used their technology for Agilent multimeters. 
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Offline ruessel

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 06:19:40 pm »
Hello,
bought a U3401A 8 weeks ago. The Agilent looks like a modern replica of my 20 year old Fluke 45. Bought it to replace my ageing Fluke 45. Both meters work fine, but the new Agilent is slower ranging in AC mode, also the diode test is not as reliable as the Fluke (not always beeping when a diode is detected).
Hoped the new U3401A is an improvement over the old Fluke, but it is not so!

Don't get me wrong, the Agilent is a nice bench multimeter, but my old Fluke does the same. So I'm willing to sell the U3401
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2011, 07:35:22 pm »
Why buy a bench DMM when a handheld can work on the bench and away as welll...
Only reason I can think of is if you need the higher performance of the higher end bench DMMs.
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Offline Bored@Work

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2011, 08:09:29 pm »
Bench meters are nice. I know Dave doesn't like them and likes to dis-encourage people from getting them, and I can see field electricians having no use for them, but that doesn't change that they are nice.

Never is the battery flat when you need them, never do you have to dig through your stock to find a new battery and then taking the dammed meter apart to get the battery into the meter.

It is extremely difficult to misplace a bench meter. Mine never mange to unexplainable move into a drawer or some dark corner. They happen to sit and keep set at their shelf places. Which also means they don't take up precious space on the work area on the bench, which is always to small. And this despite their name "bench meter".

They don't tip over when you operate them, they don't shift around on the bench. It is hard to drop them from the bench if you properly set them up on the shelf.

Many have nice, large, easy to read VFDisplays with great contrast and no hassle with the backlight. Because there is no need for a backlight. You will love the displays when your eyes get older.

And they have buttons. A nice bunch of buttons and for every main function a dedicated button, unless you get some wannabe bench meter where a Chinese engineer had a brain fart when doing some menu system ...

They are typically stackable, and you get other equipment with the same form factor you can stack with them.

In a company: Usually difficult to take from your bench, colleagues rarely try.

Not to long ago they had exclusive features you didn't get in a handheld. Remote controllable, with a PC connection. Autoranging, secondary display, etc.

And on top of that comes their normal multimeter function.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2011, 08:22:51 pm by BoredAtWork »
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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2011, 10:49:51 pm »
OK there are a few advantages, however unless you have  a big budget, in terms of general usefullness a bench DMM should be about the third or fourth DMM you buy.
I have a 34401A I bought a while ago when I needed high-precision, but it typically only ever gets used once or twice a month when all 3 fluke handhelds are already occupied, or if I need datalogging or 4-wire resistance.
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Offline EEVblog

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2011, 11:37:26 pm »
I agree with Mike.
Those "benefits" of bench meters sound nice in theory, but I find that in practice it's much better to have your meter display next to the job you are working on. Having to look up onto your instrument rack to see the reading in a real pain. And I find that jobs are typically all over the place, often out of the reach of the bench meter. Those two things I think outweigh most of the "benefits".

It's a personal thing, and yes, they are nice, but that doesn't make them as useful as a handheld meter.

But if the bench meter if your only meter, then I think you are genuinely at a big disadvantage, no question.

Dave.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2011, 11:39:58 pm by EEVblog »
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2011, 08:49:32 am »
I agree with Mike.
Those "benefits" of bench meters sound nice in theory, but I find that in practice it's much better to have your meter display next to the job you are working on. Having to look up onto your instrument rack to see the reading in a real pain. And I find that jobs are typically all over the place, often out of the reach of the bench meter. Those two things I think outweigh most of the "benefits".
As well as being in the same eye-line, On a crowded bench it's useful to have the meter close to where it's connected using short leads to reduce the amount of "bench spaghetti" cluttering things up.
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Offline saturation

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2011, 10:39:28 am »
Based on Farnell prices, the features of the U3401A are similar to 1252a HH, which is a very good Agilent meter, and same digits. 

http://uk.farnell.com/agilent-technologies/u1252a/multimeter-50000-count/dp/1263218

The main difference is the bench is 0.012% vs HH 0.025% DC accuracy, and count rate is 120,000 vs 50,000 for the bench and HH respectively.  But most other ranges are on par, some being better on either platform.  It depends now one which feature is and accuracy level is better for you.  The difference is £44.
Best Wishes,

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Offline Kiriakos-GR

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2011, 11:03:27 am »
Everything haves to do with the style of your work ..

If you have an large bench in length , you can have your dissembled device for repair wide open,
plus all the parts that you had remove from it , and your tools too , on it .

Personally I hate the idea, of the hot iron to be in the same level with the DMM .
Or better , the DMM to be exposed next to the hot iron, this fear factor,  motivated me to buy ,
an hard case for it ( for just seating on the bench).
And if you own an expensive DMM , you have no choice other than protecting it .

I feel must safer now.  

And much better , that two years back , that I had no invest yet, about getting new or better gear ..
If you like this style in the picture , you do not need a bench meter or an also expensive HH.
 
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Offline shadowless

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2011, 01:24:21 pm »
Based on Farnell prices, the features of the U3401A are similar to 1252a HH, which is a very good Agilent meter, and same digits. 

http://uk.farnell.com/agilent-technologies/u1252a/multimeter-50000-count/dp/1263218

The main difference is the bench is 0.012% vs HH 0.025% DC accuracy, and count rate is 120,000 vs 50,000 for the bench and HH respectively.  But most other ranges are on par, some being better on either platform.  It depends now one which feature is and accuracy level is better for you.  The difference is £44.


Hey http://uk.farnell.com are  sell the u1252B cheaper than the u1252a.
 

Offline saturation

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2011, 02:07:16 pm »
Nice catch.  OLED screen apparently not a good seller, but it makes a great bench use meter.  The charger is very convenient but there have been one reported issue of the charger dying, fresh out of the box.  See a thread on eeblog search terms = grainger 1252 charger



Based on Farnell prices, the features of the U3401A are similar to 1252a HH, which is a very good Agilent meter, and same digits. 

http://uk.farnell.com/agilent-technologies/u1252a/multimeter-50000-count/dp/1263218

The main difference is the bench is 0.012% vs HH 0.025% DC accuracy, and count rate is 120,000 vs 50,000 for the bench and HH respectively.  But most other ranges are on par, some being better on either platform.  It depends now one which feature is and accuracy level is better for you.  The difference is £44.


Hey http://uk.farnell.com are  sell the u1252B cheaper than the u1252a.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline DrirrTopic starter

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2011, 05:01:26 am »
In this case performance is the most important for me. For portable measurng I own several handheld DMMs. There is also lot of place on bench, so the size of U3401A is ok.

Thank you all for the ideas! I'll think about it.  :)

By the way, what do you think about quality of construction of U3401A?
 

Offline saturation

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2011, 11:26:14 am »
I don't own a 3401A but Agilent construction is always first rate for the 2 other devices I do own of theirs.  My accessories are more crude in construction compared to its competition, such as test leads and accessory connectors, but I'd trust its electrically safe and its clearly functional.

There have been rare faults, but given their reputation, they provide superb customer support: technical data, servicing and exchanging any defective device you buy from them is very easy.

However, IMHO, compared to when they were still HP, its a notch lower in quality.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2011, 01:42:28 pm »
Support (eg. documentation, software) does seem notably worse for outsourced products (eg. the rebadged Rigol scopes) than for in-house designs. Not sure how the Escort designs compare. I wouldn't expect the U3401A to be in the same league as say the 344xxA series bench meters (which saturation may be referring to as the old HP designs), but I haven't seen a U3401A in the flesh either.

The recent(ish) Agilent designs (eg. 34410A) are just as good as the HP designs before it (eg. 34401A) IMO, and many current products were designed when they were still HP. The detail of service documentation has gone down, however, I don't think they still publish schematics for new designs. But that's an industry-wide practice, I think competitors like Fluke, Lecroy and Tek stopped publishing proper service documentation much earlier.
 

Offline nukie

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2011, 11:37:35 pm »
GPIB port and low ppm is important for me so bench is the way to go.
 

Offline Ronnie

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Re: U3401A buy or not?
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2011, 07:46:15 am »
What about for audio amplifier design; do I need a bench multimeter like 3401A or 34401A? Right now my multimeters are a Fluke 179 and some El Cheapo Chinese made.
 


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