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6 Benchtop DMMs for $500 or Less

· test,test system,DMM

I thought it'd be fun to check out what's available in DMMs. There are a lot of options out there, so to make this a little easier, I have a few criteria:

  • Must be programmable (USB, RS-232, GPIB, etc.)
  • Benchtop unit (No battery powered handhelds or PCI/PXI cards, though I would have made an exception for standalone USB units.)
  • Pricing is readily available online (no need to go to the company for a quote)
  • Readily available in the US
  • Under $500

A couple other things to discuss first.

  • This is unlikely a comprehensive list.
  • The only comparison points I list here are price and digits.  Those shouldn't be your only criteria.  What measurement types do you need?  What accuracy, resolution, and noise performance are needed?
  • The listed pricing is either the MSRP or what is readily available on a large distributor's website.  It may be possible to find cheaper pricing elsewhere.
  • I have never worked with any of these devices.  I'm making an assumption that they're programmable based on the presence of USB, RS232, etc.

Here's my list:

None of the big traditional names made the list. (Keysight's U3401A missed the price cutoff by $7.) I do like the idea of getting a 5.5 digit DMM for $500. And I worked on a proposal recently that had a few coarse resistance measurements and that might have been one use case for using one of those Tenma units, though I've been somewhat conditioned under the philosophy of you get what you pay for.

One other consideration is the ease of getting a measurement up and running. For the big companies, I'm fairly confident I can get basic automation steps up and running in a day (maybe in an hour.) If it takes a couple days to create (or fix) drivers for these units, it might be better to just get a 6.5 digit DMM where you can get your software up and running immediately.

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