On the previous page, we’ve looked at about half of the digital multimeters that are being reviewed. The meters on this page are slightly higher quality, so they don’t have issues with soldered-on fuses, weak jacks, or springs instead of battery snaps.
iEquus Innova 3320 digital multimeter.
The Innova 3320 is a step up in price to $39 (including shipping). This gets you a compact autoranging multimeter with an attractive case and most of the important features.
The meter has auto-off and a continuity buzzer, but not capacitance and transistor testing. There is a stand on the back. Additionally, there is rubber on the corners to significantly reduce the chance of the case cracking if the meter is dropped. It has a fuse socket and high quality test lead jacks.
It uses a pair of AA batteries, which will provide a longer life than a 9V, but won’t light up white and blue LEDs in the diode test mode.
The Innova 3320 has a feature that none of the other reviewed multimeters have -- a battery load test.
iEquus Innova 3320 has a nice battery load test.
Unlike standard voltage measurement mode, in battery load test mode the Innova draws power from the battery it is testing in order to see what the voltage is when the battery is supplying energy. Many people are fooled by a 9 V battery that reads something like 8.2 V on other multimeters, because they don’t realize that the battery voltage drops significantly when operating a device. Yet, since you now know this is the case, you can mentally subtract half a volt when measuring a battery on another meter.
The Innova 3220 is a fine, attractive meter, but it seems like it should have a few more key features for the price.
RSR MS8268 digital multimeter.
This autoranging digital multimeter comes from Electronix Express for $31.95 (not including shipping). With the exception of a couple of features (minimum value, maximum value, data output, and white LED testing), this is the first reviewed meter that exceeds the old RadioShack/Metex meter I bought ten years ago.
This meter includes:
In addition, the RSR MS8268 multimeter has two unique features I haven’t ever seen before on a multimeter. First, it has an automatic resetting low-current fuse (see “PPTC Overcurrent Devices” in Chapter 8 of Intermediate Robot Building). If you apply too much current, simply disconnect the meter from the circuit to reset the low-current fuse. No replacement is necessary. (The 10 amp fuse is located in a socket beside the batteries, and would need replacement if you exceed that maximum current.)
Light-up sockets in a multimeter make test probe connections easy for beginners.
This second feature is pretty awesome. If a test probe is not in the right jack, the correct jack lights up depending on the measurement mode. This can be very helpful for beginners that aren’t quite sure when to switch jacks between current and voltage measurement.
If only this meter could light up white and blue LEDs, it would become my daily multimeter. It uses three AA batteries, which will provide a longer life than a 9 V. With 4.5 V supplied by the batteries, there really is no excuse for not lighting up all LEDs in diode test.
One last thing, it is a tad slower to display a final value than the other meters.
VC97 digital multimeter.
The VC97 is generally comparable to the RSR MS8268. Among other things, it has a stand, rubber boot, auto-off, transistor test, buzzer, 3999 display, capacitance test, and so on. The eBay price is $23 including shipping (I paid $32), if you look around for the best reseller.
Unlike the previous meter, this doesn’t have a backlight, resettable fuse, or light up sockets, but it does have temperature measurement probe. Like the RSR MS8268, this meter also fails to test white LEDs.
This is a very good and complete digital multimeter. I wouldn’t hesitate to include it in my toolbox.
Victor VC830L digital multimeter.
This multimeter comes from SparkFun Electronics (#TOL-09141) for $14.95, not including shipping.
This is a manual-range meter that only has basic functionality. However, it was worth including in the multimeter review test because:
VA38 DMM digital multimeter.
This is the high-end, nearly most expensive multimeter in these tests. It cost $168.94 including shipping. This was entered into the review shootout to act as the top end for comparison purposes.
It has almost every key feature mentioned so far, but also includes a USB computer interface, minimum value, and maximum value. It lacks a transistor test and the rubber covering is less adequate than a standard boot.
The very best feature of this multimeter, that none of the other meters in this review include, is the ability to display values up to 49999. That’s an extra digit and a half. Theoretically, this implies the meter has a higher resolution and accuracy when compared to meters with shorter displays.
Protek 506 digital multimeter.
The Protek DMM is the first auto-ranging meter I ever purchased, which was around the time I was writing my first book. I bought it from the now-defunct Active Electronics retail store for $169.
It has almost all of the key features, except duty cycle and transistor test. The meter displays values up to 3999, which is better than the 1999 limit on most meters. It can test inductors and temperature; it has an RS-232 computer interface, timer, signal out, min, max, relative, hold, and average.
It connects to its 9 V battery supply with a high-quality (thick) battery snap. My old Radio Shack meter has a superior capacitance range and was still needed for transistor testing, but otherwise the Protek has been my daily multimeter for the past eight years.
Next let’s examine a free (giveaway) meter and two types of meters that aren’t included in the final review.