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How Do I Choose the Best Pocket Multimeter?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing the best pocket multimeter depends on factors such as how you intend to use the device and your budget. Pocket multimeters can be obtained in both analog and digital designs, each of which is best suited to different situations. Analog versions are sometimes less expensive, though they can be more complicated to use and read than an auto-ranging digital pocket multimeter. These devices can also measure other things, including electric resistance to current and temperature. Before trying to choose the right pocket multimeter for your particular situation, you should determine the types of measurements you might want to take so that you can select the best unit.

The first choice to make when trying to choose a pocket multimeter is whether you should go with analog or digital. Analog multimeters use pointers and a number of printed scales, which typically represent every type of measurement that the device is capable of taking. Each measurement range can have a different scale as well, so it can be important to read the correct one according to the way you have configured the device. Digital multimeters typically have numeric displays, so they are often easier to read. Some digital pocket multimeters have an additional auto-ranging feature, which can further simplify the measurement process.

Other important factors to consider are resolution and accuracy. Resolution is a reference to either how many digits a particular digital multimeter can display, or the increments and needle-width of an analog device. Some low cost pocket analog multimeters compress the high end of the resistance scale, so it may be a good idea to look for a meter with more than one scale if resolution is important to you. Multimeter accuracy is determined by the quality of the testing circuits it is comprised of, and digital multimeters tend to be more accurate than analog versions. Accuracy is often reflected in price as well, since it is more costly to produce accurate devices.

After you have decided between analog and digital, you may want to consider the types of measurements you will need to take with your device. The simplest pocket multimeters are known as volt-ohm meters (VOMs) because they only measure voltage and resistance. If you only need to check battery voltages, this type of inexpensive pocket multimeter may be your best choice. More complicated devices can also measure current, and some include a built-in clamp for that purpose. It is also possible to find devices that can measure temperature, capacitance, check diodes, and perform other tasks.

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