Best Multimeter of 2021
Through weeks of testing, the AstroAI 6000 earns its spot as our all-around favorite multimeter. Compared to other premium products, this model combines an impressive set of both AC and DC measurement capabilities in a convenient and affordable package. This meter has plenty of additional functionality, allowing you to check components like transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors, as well as measure temperatures using the thermocouple. For DIY electronic projects, household wiring repair, or working on 12/24 VDC systems found on cars and boats, this meter is an excellent option.
However, we did find a few minor flaws with this product. The magnetic hanger isn't particularly strong, so there is a possibility that you could accidentally knock it off if you are using it to adhere the meter to a magnetic object. Also, the magnet tends to collect metal flakes, component leads, dirt, and other loose metallic objects. The kickstand can be tricky to unfold, and it is very hard to pull the probe covers off if you need longer ones. It has a greater tolerance than some other products out there, but this shouldn't matter much unless you are doing very high-end technical work. Despite these small critiques, the AstroAI 6000 is an exceptional digital multimeter. It's a great tool for troubleshooting all sorts of circuits and wiring and is the product we recommend first for most people.
The KAIWEETS TRMS 6000 HT118A is another fantastic multimeter. This meter is auto-ranging and has a solid set of voltage and current measurements for both DC and AC. It's capable of measuring frequency, temperature, continuity, and resistance, along with diodes and capacitors. Even better, this model has a non-contact voltage sensor and a live wire detector, both of which will illuminate the backlight orange once it registers over 80V or so, alerting you to the presence of significant amounts of AC running through the wires you're measuring. User friendly, the display is large and very easy-to-read, and the connectors will light up to show you where to plug in the test leads, helping prevent some of the most common mistakes when using these products. This unit even has an integrated flashlight.
However, this meter might not be the best option if you are doing lots of projects with digital circuitry, as it lacks the ability to directly measure transistor gain. We also found the interface to be a bit confusing since it has so many features and functions. It's easy for beginners to use when it comes to their knowledge of electrical theory, but the meter itself has a bit of a learning curve and takes a little time to figure out where all the different measurement tools are and how to use them. All in all, the KAIWEETS TRMS 6000 HT118A is a fantastic meter and we readily recommend it.
If you only have the occasional electrical project and are searching for a low-cost option to toss in your toolbox, check out the AstroAI AM33D. This simple multimeter can help with troubleshooting AC and DC circuits and has the crucial audible continuity check to help you track down a broken wire or loose connection. It includes a set of simple probes and has some of the basic convenience features we want in a multimeter, like an integrated backlight and a data hold function. It also features a square wave generator, though that's a feature most people probably won't use much.
Unfortunately, this meter isn't auto-ranging, which in our minds is its biggest flaw. This can make it much more difficult for beginners to use — and can even trip up some more advanced users if they aren't paying attention. We also wish the backlight was slightly brighter and that the integrated stand held the meter at a better viewing angle. Despite these flaws, this meter can get the job done at a fraction of the cost of the top-tier models and is a good choice if you don't frequently use one of these tools.
For beginner DIYers getting started with electrical projects, we recommend the Crenova MS8233D. This capable multimeter is jam-packed with functionality at a price that won't break the bank. It can measure resistance, alternating and direct current, voltage, and frequency. It has a diode test and continuity check and includes handy features like a backlight, hold, and max functions. The MS8233D comes with the typical point probes, a pair of alligator clip test leads, and a nice storage case to keep it protected in a tool bag.
Built more for beginners and not advanced users, this meter lacks some of the more advanced features, like a temperature probe or a dedicated transistor test. It only has a maximum function — no minimum function. Still, it's a great value and easy to use, so we think the Crenova MS8233D more than compensates for its flaws, making it our top recommendation to beginners or those looking for basic functionality at a bargain.
The Fluke 117 is a highly technical meter for highly technical work. Offering plenty of advanced features and functions, this DMM is designed with electricians in mind, especially when it comes to taking AC measurements. We love that this multimeter features an integrated non-contact AC probe and comes with a clear and intuitive interface. This true-RMS meter also has a low-impedance input that can automatically detect the type of voltage being measured and choose the appropriate range. You can also purchase a current probe separately if you need to measure anything above 10 amps.
While the Fluke 117 has an impressive set of technical measurement functions, it's geared more towards anyone working on home — or even commercial — wiring rather than a hobbyist playing around with DC circuits. It costs significantly more than an amateur might want to pay and doesn't have dedicated NPN/PNP transistor testing. All in, this is a fantastic professional-grade multimeter; it's just a bit more specialized than many people's electrical projects require.
If you're seeking a meter for electrical work on your car or boat, we'd steer you towards the INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter. This meter features a handy wrist mount that makes it incredibly convenient and easy to use when working on a car or boat's electrical system. It has some built-in battery test settings for the most common battery voltages for a quick and easy visual reference. It also has an auto-ranging resistance measurement and is a Category II meter rated up to 600 VAC, making it more than suitable for working on typical household circuits.
However, the INNOVA 3320 is limited in features when compared to some other models we tested. It lacks options for testing transistors or capacitors, so there are better products out there if you're doing electrical projects on the component level. It can't measure more than 200 mA of alternating current, and the 10A direct current plug is unfused, which gives us some cause for concern. Still, the INNOVA 3320 is a fantastic choice if you are primarily looking for a multimeter to help with your work on 12 or 24 VDC electrical systems in cars, boats, or RVs — along with the occasional home outlet or switch replacement.
If you routinely measure large AC currents, the Etekcity MSR-C600 is the multimeter for you. The key feature of this machine is the integrated non-contact current clamp, which can measure much higher AC currents than just about every other meter in this review. For the best results, you simply set the dial and then clamp it around a non-shielded single conductor, which allows you to measure higher currents without worrying about breaking the circuit or blowing a fuse.
However, the Etekcity MSR-C600's current measuring capabilities come at a bit of a cost. Its inability to measure current for DC applications and frequency, capacitance, or transistor gain makes this meter a one-hit-wonder when it comes to electrical measurements. It also feels a bit more awkward to use than a traditional DMM when you aren't using the clamp probe. Though hard to beat when it comes to measuring large alternating currents, it isn't the best option if you don't do this frequently.
The Neoteck NT8233D Pro is a very similar meter to the Crenova MS8233D, making it another excellent option for novices shopping on a budget. The Neoteck even has a capacitance measurement, which is something the Crenova lacks. Inexpensive and easy to use, this meter is a great option for the DIYer just getting started, with the safety covers on the point probes as a bonus.
However, we did give the Crenova MS8233D a slight edge over the Neoteck NT8233D Pro for a few reasons. The Neoteck doesn't include a case or an integrated probe holder, which can make it a bit difficult to keep organized. It also doesn't have a "Max" function, which we found to be just a bit more useful to beginners than a capacitance measurement. If you're just starting out, though, this model is worth considering, especially if you happen to find it on sale for a better price than the Crenova.
This basic model has a bare-bones set of functions that can help with simple electrical systems, and that's about it. We like that it's one of the cheapest models of the group and includes some acceptable probes and a molded boot around the meter to give it some impact protection. This model has a backlight and a data hold feature as well.
The interface is equally hard to use since you need to select the correct range and interpret the results correctly. Auto-ranging meters do this for you, making them a much better option for someone new to multimeters. The Etekcity MSR-R500's main selling point is its low price tag, but there are much nicer meters for just a few extra bucks. However, this could be a good option if you need a secondary meter to throw in a toolbox or just want to have an extra around.
Working with high voltages, currents, and electrical systems is inherently dangerous. Using a multimeter is no substitute for proper training and knowledge. If you are unsure or confused about what you are doing, then you most likely shouldn't be doing it. At some point, you do just need to leave it to a licensed professional.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert multimeter tester, David Wise, has well over a decade of experience designing electronic circuits and building electromechanical systems. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Ocean Engineering from MIT in 2014, he worked on the electronics systems for deepwater ocean gliders, electric Formula-style race cars, and developed hands-on electronics curriculums for local schools. He is a published author in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Young Engineers Paper contest for his work on the design and prototype of an electromagnetic gallium pump and has a wide background in digital and power electronics. Additionally, he is an avid DIYer, undertaking plenty of electrical projects and improvements on his own home — with only the occasional unexpected spark. He has spent more hours than he would like debugging and testing all of those systems with practically every type of multimeter imaginable, bringing his extensive experience to this review.
We spent dozens of hours comparing and scoring these products side-by-side, completing a handful of electrical projects along the way. We checked the resistance, capacitance, and gain of a plethora of electrical components, as well as the voltage of just about every outlet and battery we could find. This also gave us a good idea — and some strong opinions — about the included probes and the overall ease of use and user-friendliness of each meter.
Analysis and Test Results
To determine which multimeter is the cream of the crop, we tested them head-to-head to score and rank all of their different functions. We compared their electrical testing abilities, ease of use and operation, and included probes with our side-by-side analysis in the following sections. We have divided electrical measurement capabilities into DC and AC voltage and current, as well as other functions for ease of understanding. While there are a few features that can fall into multiple categories, we've left these in the most commonly used category for clarity.
DC Voltage and Current
In this metric, we consider the Direct Current (DC) measurement abilities of each device. Most electronics hobbyists get started with low-voltage DC circuits, given their less risky and much more forgiving nature. We rated and compared the DC voltage and current measuring abilities of each product, as well as any other unique DC-specific features for each model.
The AstroAI 6000, the KAIWEETS TRMS 6000 HT118A, the Crenova MS8233D, the Etekcity MSR-C600, and the Fluke 117 all impressed us in this regard. When it comes to taking a DC voltage, these five meters are all auto-ranging, making them very easy to use.
However, the KAIWEETS HT118A has a separate setting for measuring millivolts and milliamps, so it is slightly less auto-ranging than the others. We found the Crenova MS8233D, the KAIWEETS, and the Fluke 117 to be very accurate, having a listed tolerance for most ranges of plus/minus 0.5%.
However, when measuring current with the AstroAI 6000, the KAIWEETS HT118A, and the Crenova MS8233D, you'll need to set the correct range — something you don't need to do with the Fluke 117, which can automatically select the range for you.
Also standing out in this metric with its series of common-sized built-in battery load testers is the INNOVA 3320. One of three LEDs will light up to let you know if the battery is charged, on the border, or is depleted.
The AstroAI AM33D is rated to measure up to 500V with a Category II insulation rating. However, it isn't auto-ranging, so you need to set the appropriate scale for your measurement, choosing between 0-200mV, 0-2000mV, 0-20V, 0-200V, 0-500V, with the precision (number of decimal places) of each measurement changing for each range.
AC Voltage and Current
Next, we compared how these products did with Alternating Current (AC) circuits. Two products immediately stand out when measuring AC voltage and current: the Fluke 117 and the Etekcity MSR-C600. The Fluke 117 is a true electrician's True-RMS multimeter, featuring a series of advanced AC measurement tools, like an auto-volt feature with a low-impedance input and a non-contact voltage sensor. It is auto-ranging for alternating current and voltage and is also able to measure frequency.
However, when it comes to measuring large alternating currents, even the Fluke 117 is outperformed by the Etekcity MSR-C600. While the Fluke can only measure up to 10 amps of current in its stock configuration, the Etekcity can measure up to 400 amps using its non-contact current clamp. Even better, you don't need to break the circuit and wire the meter in series when using a non-contact clamp. This feature works best when you only measure a single, unshielded wire at a time. However, you can buy a current clamp separately for other products, like the aforementioned Fluke or the AstroAI 6000, if you want to measure higher currents with other products.
The KAIWEETS HT118A also deserves some praise when it comes to working with AC. This meter, like the Fluke 117, also has a non-contact voltage sensor and has a live wire detector using a single test probe, making it very handy for seeing which circuits are live — particularly if you are working in a tight spot.
It is also worth noting that, like the Fluke 117, the AstroAI 6000 and the KAIWEETS HT118A are both True-RMS meters. This means that they can accurately measure complex non-sinusoidal waveforms, like those found in HVAC systems and variable motor drives.
While AC and DC measurement abilities are critical for any good multimeter, it is important not to disregard all of the other measuring capabilities these products have. All of the models that we tested have a diode, resistance, and audible continuity check, with a few meters going even further. The AstroAI 6000 can also measure capacitance, transistor gain, duty cycle, and temperature using its K-type thermocouple. The KAIWEETS HT118A also can measure temperature with a similar thermocouple.
The Neoteck NT8233D, Fluke 117, the KAIWEETS HT118A, and the Crenova MS8233D can all measure capacitance, as well. The AstroAI 6000 can be useful with its NPN/PNP transistor gain functions if you are doing lots of circuits with surplus transistors. While this isn't the most useful, it can be handy for getting a rough idea of the DC gain when using surplus parts or other semiconductors that you can't locate the datasheet for. We found the universal socket on the AstroAI 6000 to be a bit finicky, too, and see potential that we would lose it at some point.
While this isn't necessarily a measurement function, both the AstroAI AM33D and the Etekcity MSR-R500 have a dedicated square wave output, which is useful for testing amplifier circuits. These also have a diode check — handy if you are working with LEDs.
Ease of Use
After the electrical measurement tests, we rated and scored how easy it is to use each of these devices. We considered how simple or challenging it is to set the range, if it comes with a "Max", "Min", or "Hold" option, whether or not there is a backlight, the quality of the kickstand, and the overall user interface. In terms of setting the range, you can't beat any of the auto-ranging meters — the AstroAI 6000, the Crenova MS8233D, the Fluke 117, the KAIWEETS HT118A, or the Neoteck NT8233D Pro. The Etekcity MSR-C600 is also auto-ranging.
"Hold", "Min", "Max" functions are also quite handy when diagnosing circuits, something the Fluke 117, the KAIWEETS HT118A, and the AstroAI 6000 all have. With the exception of the INNOVA 3320 and the Etekcity MSR-C600, most of the products we tested have a backlight.
The screen of the KAIWEETS HT118A is particularly easy to read, and its backlight will change colors depending on your measured results. Additionally, it has a built-in flashlight, and a light will illuminate around the ports you should be connecting your test leads to whenever you change the measurement type, helping prevent you from plugging a lead into the wrong port.
While most of these devices also include a kickstand, the AstroAI 6000 also has a handy magnetic hanging strap. The Fluke 117 has this too, but it is sold separately. However, we do like the integrated probe holders on the Fluke 117, which keeps the test leads nice and organized.
Finally, we assessed the quality of the included probes. Since you can always get higher-quality probes separately, this isn't a huge differentiator. However, there are a few standouts that are worth mentioning. We liked the safety covers included with some probes, such as the ones on the Fluke 117 and the Neoteck NT8233D Pro.
These let you change the amount of conductive surface exposed to match the application. We also appreciate that the Neoteck NT8233D Pro and the Crenova MS8233D include the typical point probes as well as a pair of alligator clip probes.
These can be exceptionally convenient for measuring components or other circuits and give you a reliable way to get a good connection without holding the probes in position, freeing up your hands, and reducing the likelihood of an intermittent connection.
We hope that this review has helped you narrow down your options for your next digital multimeter. Working on electrical circuits and systems can be extremely dangerous and should only be done if you have the proper knowledge and training. With that in mind, stay safe, and best of luck on your next DIY project.
— David Wise