Best Multimeter of 2020
Claiming the top spot overall, the AstroAI 6000 is our all-around favorite multimeter. Compared to some of the other first-rate products, this top-tier multimeter combines an impressive set of both AC and DC measurement capabilities in a package that is both convenient and relatively inexpensive. This meter has plenty of other functionality and allows 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 flaws with this product. The magnetic hanger isn't super strong, so there is a possibility that you could accidentally knock it off if you are using it to hold the meter. We also noticed that the magnet tends to collect metal flakes, component leads, 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. All in all, for most people, the AstroAI 6000 is an exceptional digital multimeter. It's a great tool for troubleshooting all sorts of circuits and wiring and is a product that we highly recommend.
If you are a beginner DIYer getting started with electrical projects, then we strongly 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, and voltage, as well as frequency. It has a diode test and continuity check, as well as handy features like a backlight, hold, and max functions. The Crenova MS8233D includes not only the typical point probes but also a pair of alligator clip test leads and a nice storage case.
This meter does lack some of the more advanced features, like a temperature probe, duty cycle measurement, and dedicated transistor test. It only has a maximum function — no minimum function. However, with great value and ease of use, we think the Crenova MS8233D more than makes up for this, making it our top recommendation to beginners or anyone shopping on a budget.
If you only have the occasional electrical project and are searching for a low-cost option to toss in your toolbox, then the AstroAI AM33D is a great option. 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. On top of all that, it also has a square wave generator, though most people probably aren't going to use it all that 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 a little bit brighter and 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 infrequently use one of these tools.
If you need a highly technical meter for highly technical work, then the Fluke 117 is a fantastic option. 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 easy to understand 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 is more expensive 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 might require.
If you are looking for a meter for electrical work on your car or boat, then we definitely recommend the INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter. This meter features a handy wrist mount that makes it incredibly easy to use and convenient 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. The INNOVA 3320 has an auto-ranging resistance measurement and is a Category II meter rated up to 600 VAC, which makes it more than suitable for working on typical household circuits.
However, compared to some of the other products, the INNOVA 3320 is limited when it comes to features. It doesn't have any options for testing transistors or capacitors, so there are better options out there if you are 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, then the Etekcity MSR-C600 is the multimeter for you. The key feature of this machine is the integrated non-contact current clamp, which is capable of measuring 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, allowing 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 DC current and frequency, capacitance, or transistor gain, make this meter a one-hit-wonder when it comes to electrical measurements. This meter also just feels a bit more awkward to use when you aren't using the clamp probe compared to a traditional DMM. It is hard to beat when it comes to measuring large alternating currents, but it isn't the best option if you don't do this all the time or if you are just starting out.
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 NT8233D Pro even has a capacitance measurement — something the Crenova MS8233D 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 NT8233D 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 are just starting out, it's worth considering, especially if you happen to find it on sale for a better price than the Crenova MS8233D.
The WeePro Vpro850L is a rather run-of-the-mill product. We like the integrated kickstand and the rugged protector, as well as its bright backlight. Weighing approximately 6 ounces, the Vpro850L is a compact digital multimeter (DMM) that can easily fit in most toolboxes. It has plenty of DC voltage and current measurement capabilities, along with component test features. There are dedicated functions to test diodes and transistors, as well as a "Hold" feature to save your data.
However, because the WeePro Vpro850L doesn't automatically detect and set the measurement range for current, voltage, or resistance, it can be a bit more difficult to use than some of the other products. This DMM also can't measure alternating current levels at all and won't automatically shut off if you leave it on, which always seems to lead to a dead battery at the most inopportune times.
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 just starting out. The Etekcity MSR-R500's main selling point is that it's fairly affordable, though, again, a much better meter can be had for just a bit more. However, this could be a good option if you are searching for a secondary meter to throw in a toolbox or just want to have an extra around.
Working with high voltages, currents, and electrical systems, in general, can be an extremely risky and dangerous task. Using a multimeter is no substitute for proper training and knowledge. If you feel 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 the licensed professionals.
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 curriculum 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 both 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 fairly 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 best of the best, we tested them head-to-head in order to score all of their different functions and rank these machines. 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 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 four meters are all auto-ranging, making them very easy to use. The Crenova MS8233D and the Fluke 117 also are both very accurate, having a tolerance for most ranges of plus/minus 0.5%.
However, when measuring current with the AstroAI 6000 and the Crenova MS8233D, you do 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 you 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 it comes to 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 117 can only measure up to 10 amps of current in its stock configuration, the Etekcity MSR-C600 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 Fluke 117 or the AstroAI 6000, if you want to measure higher currents with other products. It is also worth noting that, like the Fluke 117, the AstroAI 6000 is a True-RMS meter. This means that it 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 the temperature using its K-type thermocouple.
The Neoteck NT8233D, Fluke 117, and the Crenova MS8233D can all measure capacitance as well. The WeePro Vpro850L or the AstroAI 6000 can be useful with their 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 did think the universal socket on the AstroAI 6000* is a little more finicky — and something that we would easily lose — than the integrated sockets on the WeePro Vpro850L.
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. When it comes to setting the range, you can't beat any of the auto-ranging meters, like the AstroAI 6000, the Crenova MS8233D, the Fluke 117, 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 and the AstroAI 6000 both have. With the exception of the INNOVA 3320 and the Etekcity MSR-C600, most of the products have a backlight.
While most of these devices also include a kickstand, we like that the AstroAI 6000 has a magnetic hanging strap as well. The Fluke 117 has this too, but 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 that come 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 like that the Neoteck NT8233D Pro and the Crenova MS8233D include the typical point probes as well as a pair of alligator clip probes.
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