# Is it worth really buying a Fluke for hobbyist use?

Well, the question is the title: Is it worth really buying a Fluke for hobbyist use?

I have a cheap meter at the moment. Is it worth spending a 3 figure sum on a nice, shiny, new Fluke? I honestly don't think so, but I'm curious what other's opinions are.

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 As a note to add on to what everyone has said. Fluke makes very high quality equipment. The thing I love is that it is very hard to break one. This is especially critical if you think you might ever drop one or accidentally hook it up wrong. It may be worth it to just keep buying cheap ones every time one breaks. That's more of a personal opinion though. – Kellenjb Sep 30 '10 at 18:44

I think you should make sure you select a multimeter that answers the questions you need answered. Or start with a cheap one, and if you need more features / better accuracy, get a better one.

Most folks working on digital electronics need to know if:

• Is this signal high or low?
• Is this signal switching?
• Is this wire continuous?
• Is my transistor PNP or NPN, and is the Radioshack package correct? (it wasn't, once, for me)
• How much current is running through this section of the circuit?
• What is the duty cycle of the PWM signal? (This is easily found by doing a little bit of math based on the voltage)

Really, to solve all those problems, a $5USD digital multimeter does all that and more. If you need to measure capacitors, inductors, are panicky about your duty cycle, or need tight accuracy, or you need the thing to survive falling down a waterfall or being inside crazy EMF fields or your'e gonna beat the thing up, I'd look for a Fluke or something. If you need to watch really fast signals, you should be doing that with a logic analyzer or an oscilloscope anyway. - Nice answer, but I think at$5. the question you will be asking of the multimeter is "why doesn't this switch work properly"... – joeforker Oct 23 '10 at 16:50
@joeforker - While I'd agree with you in principle, in practice I've never had that problem with my cheap multimeters, and I've had them for about 3 years now. – J. Polfer Oct 25 '10 at 13:57
In that case, I'm off to pick up a $5 digital multimeter. – joeforker Oct 25 '10 at 17:00 I have had the same Fluke 8060A for over 20 years. It is well designed, well built and documentation is available. Since I use it professional I would buy another one. The Extech meters seem to have good specifications and appear to be popular among hobbyists who are looking for something between a$10 meter and a professional grade instrument.

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Was that the same Fluke? I'm a student, so I'll probably need a DMM for 20 years, but I don't want to need an upgrade in 5 years because my DMM is obsolete. In my closet, I have an old analog multimeter - it's probably 20 years old, but I don't consider it adequate. – Kevin Vermeer Sep 30 '10 at 18:02
The same Fluke 8060A. Sorry about that. If I were to buy a new meter today I would probably get one with a USB port so that some bench tests could be automated. I would certainly look at Fluke but I would also look at Agilent. – jluciani Sep 30 '10 at 19:12
I think it depends on the Extech. I got one from Radioshack in the US that had similar specs to a Fluke 87-V for about $50, and it was extremely slow in doing readings of any sort, and in general felt rather unreliable. – J. Polfer Oct 1 '10 at 0:16 reemrevnivek - I doubt any DMM will go obsolete, unless science discovers new electrical attributes to measure, or if we need better performing instruments in the future. – J. Polfer Oct 1 '10 at 0:18 Going back to obsolescence, sometimes the old analog meters are better than the digital ones. While you can find low-impedance digitals (or just put a resistor across the leads) and you can get digitals with averaging functions, an analog meter is perfect for those applications. I know of a few technicians who routinely use analog meters for certain functions. When they need accuracy, they go for the digital, but when the question is "Is this 12VDC supply putting out anything?" they usually just hit it with the analog that's been on their bench for decades. – Jesse Oct 1 '10 at 2:18 The big thing is whether or not you're ever likely to be using mains voltages - quality gear like Fluke has significant safety features to prevent injury when things go bad. For hobbyist use, issues like accuracy, robustness and lost time when it breaks are much less important than for professional use, so the benefits of an expensive unit are much lower. If the decision is between cheap DMM plus a cheap scope, or an expensive DMM, the former would usually be more useful to you. Also consider a used name-brand over a new cheapie. You will usually get a better bit of kit for your money, albeit maybe a bit bigger and less shiny. - I have to give props to mastech for my meter. Set it on ohms when plugged into 230V and it only shows "OL", no damage, same for cap + continuity ranges (continuity range beeps at 50 Hz.) I suppose though it wouldn't stand a surge on the line. It only has a wimpy PTC and a two fuses for the current ranges (500mA and 10A.) I already have a second hand scope which is very nice (would be very expensive new, quad channel 100 MHz digitising.) – Thomas O Oct 23 '10 at 21:05 @Thomas Dave of the EEVblog loves sticking cheap multimeters on ohm setting into mains - like in this$100 multimeter shootout - sadly, none of them blew up :) – romkyns Apr 30 '11 at 14:27
+1 for safety. I have been careful and have only killed one of the DMM's I've ever owned (1 for 4), but if you do repair work or household maintenance with yours, please please get one with a Category rating. Most good ones are rated. The categories are I (low voltage), II (mains voltage), III (service entrance volts and higher) and IV (outside line work). Fluke meters are usually Cat III. My little Triplett that I use all the time is Cat II. I can't overstress this--I want you to be around after you blow up your project! – dmoisan Jun 5 '11 at 16:11
very true , had same pain experience with a Alda cheap indian scope. – sandun dhammika Apr 27 '12 at 13:37
@dmoisan - 99% of DIY home electrical work and troubleshooting only involves measurement of voltages. It's only when you get more advanced that you need to measure current. Most of the time you can infer the flow of current from the presence of voltage and then checking continuity out of circuit. For this reason, I strongly recommend getting something like a Fluke T50 that only measures voltage and continuity. There is no room for someone to "measure the current" across phases or the like. – Cybergibbons Apr 30 '12 at 9:47

A brand-name multimeter is absolutely worth it.

Fluke multimeters are some of the most reliable out there. They respond faster than most cheap DMMs, and most of them have a analog bar-graph that tries to bridge the graph between analog and digital meters, and is better than a pure digital readout.

Also, one thing that I do not see mentioned, and is very convenient about them is that they run forever on a single 9v battery.

It may seem a trivial thing, but I've used a lot of no-name DMMs, and they all go through batteries every few weeks, particularly if you forget to turn them off.
Flukes, on the other hand, turn themselves off automatically, and I think I have had the same battery in mine for 3+ years.

It's extremely nice to know that your battery powered equipment will just work when you turn it on, rather than having to try and track down the proper batteries so you can take a measurement.

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I've rarely found the battery to be an issue. The cheapy "Golden Power" batteries they come with don't last, but put a new 9V battery in them and they work for years. (My el-cheapo multimeter has an auto power off function.) – Thomas O Oct 1 '10 at 6:57
Huh. I have a bunch of various fry's DMMs floating about, and they all die all the time. I guess there's a lot of variation. – Connor Wolf Oct 1 '10 at 8:36
+1 about the battery. I actually have an expensive branded DMM that eats batteries like an SUV. – Rocketmagnet Apr 29 '12 at 19:27

As always it depends on your exact requirements, but I would prefer a cheap multimeter and a digital oscilloscope, than a great multimeter.

I've heard good things about the Rigol DS1000E (2ch 50MHz) and they retail for around USD400.

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 I bought myself a second-hand scope about a year ago. It is an invaluable tool. I paid £150 for it, about \$200 US. It has a 100 MHz analog bandwidth and is digitising (HP 54501A.) It only has 10 MS/s single shot speed though - which is the only disappointing thing. – Thomas O Oct 1 '10 at 14:40

Even if you are only a digital hobbyist, a reasonable meter for about £20-£40 is worth it, a second-hand fluke will fit, and so might an Extech. I have a really nice one of dubious brand name, it's works like a fluke, but eats battery - my Fluke (at work) never did that to me. You will need a backup instrument of some sort anyway, as a beginner so if you have not got something else that gives rough measurements as a reference point it's not so much fun. I go with Andrew K (but I'm still unable to vote here for some reason)

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 There, one vote for you, though you should be able to vote. Could you kindly mention the brand name/model of the really nice but power hungry one? Finding cheap ones of decent quality is hit-or-miss. – Kevin Vermeer Sep 30 '10 at 23:27

Depends on how important it is to you to have high-quality good accuracy gear. I bought two Fluke 73 and a Fluke 87-III off ebay YEARS ago. Calibrated them once (a shop I know people at had their calibration people in so I got mine thrown into their calibration run) and they've never, ever let me down.

Personally I try to never buy equipment new. My oscilloscope, logic analyzer, meters, soldering equipment... all used. The only items I purchased new were a Usbee SX, Bus Pirate and my inspection microscope. Sure, the equipment's not latest-tech but generally speaking you don't need it. It's like buying a new car vs buying one a few years old, except that test equipment generally does not die, and Fluke equipment (getting back to your question) is built rugged as hell.

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 I bought a barely used Fluke 85-III recently off of eBay for £85 - excellent buy and was the same price as many inferior mid-range multimeters new. If you can get one cheap, always buy a fluke "used" over another brand "new". – Mr. Hedgehog Oct 23 '10 at 11:00

Like everything, it depends on what your are doing... For must applications a cheap meter will do the job. One of the advantages of Fluke multimeter is that they give true RMS readings for ac readings. Most of the readings you will be taking will likely be sinusoidal anyways, so this shouldn't be an issue. Other meter's have different capabilities like measuring power. for example a cheap meter will not be able to give an accurate measure of ac power because you will not know the power coefficient, but you would be able to measure its VA's...

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You have to be careful even with the Fluke "True RMS" reading meters. My 87-III is a "true RMS" meter but if you look at the specs you will see that their accuracy is affected by crest factor. The AC waveform you're measuring has to have a crest factor under 3.0 at full-scale to meet their accuracy specs. This is fine for almost all general applications, but if you're trying to do some measurement of fast-rising waveforms you may need to defer that measurement to a 'scope. – Andrew Kohlsmith Sep 30 '10 at 16:13
@Andrew, Good Point. An oscilloscope is a must have tool, can be a bit pricey for a general hobbyist though – Richard Sep 30 '10 at 16:32
I've also heard something about True RMS AC+DC. Most TRMS meters only do AC coupled True RMS. I already have a 100 MHz DSO I bought for £150 (HP 54501A.) It does True RMS, both AC and DC, but its vertical accuracy is only ±1.5% and its ADC is limited to 8 bits. – Thomas O Sep 30 '10 at 16:32