What makes one multimeter worth so much more than another?
Multimeters can be priced anywhere from a couple hundred dollars, to literally thousands of dollars.
And it's fair to question why there's such a big price range, and what makes the cheaper options any different to those that cost more money. And are the meters at the higher end of the pricing scale really worth it?
Of course, often the higher priced multimeters will come with extra (or specialty) features, which can justify the price difference. However, the biggest (and more subtle) difference can be reliability. Specifically, the meter's accuracy in measurement ability and durability.
You may find that a lower priced multimeter can suit your needs in terms of having all the functions you need. However, these meters may not be able to measure as accurately as you require, particularly if you're working in a professional capacity. They also may not be as durable or reliable as you require, in various work environments.
For example, if you're working in a wheat processing plant, or a quarry, there's a good chance there's excessive dust in the air. This dust can cause issues with the functionality of your multimeter. A higher quality meter (often higher priced) will usually come with an IP rating, and be much more suitable for these types of working environments.
To explain further, let’s look at 2 differently priced multimeters...
Gossen Metrawatt M2400, MetraHit Outdoor Multimeter - $1,566
This multimeter has the ability to measure AC or DC voltage, AC or DC current, resistance, continuity, capacitance, frequency, and diodes. In addition to these functions, this multimeter has Duty cycle and Temperature measurement. It is CAT IV rated for up to 600V, CAT III up to 1000V.
It is IP65 water resistant, so considered quite durable.
It has a screen count of 12000.
Tenmars TM-88, Multimeter - $275
This multimeter has the ability to measure AC or DC voltage, AC or DC current, resistance, continuity, capacitance, frequency, and diodes. In addition to these functions, this multimeter also has Duty Cycle and Temperature measurement. It is CAT IV rated for up to 600 V, CAT III up to 1000 V.
So far, this meter is identical in features to the Gossen Metrawatt M2400 (which is $1,566). So why the difference in price?
Firstly, this meter does not have an IP rating, so doesn’t have any rating for ingress protection against dust or water.
Secondly, this meter has a much lower screen count, of only 3999. This gives a lower resolution shown for each range of measurement.
Let’s look closer at some of the functions both meters have…
DC current -
The resolution for GMW M2400 is down to 10 nano amps (which is 0.00000001 amps).
The resolution for Tenmars TM-88 is 0.1 micro amps (which is 0.0000001 amps).
So the resolution of the M2400 is higher by a factor of 10.
Accuracy on DC current -
Accuracy of the GMW M2400 is ±(0.5%rdg + 3dgt)
Accuracy of the TM-88 is ±(1.0%rdg + 2dgt)
So the M2400 has greater accuracy for DC current.
AC and DC Voltage Resolution/Range -
The Gossen Metrawatt M2400 has a resolution of 10μV on 100mV range, 100μV on 1V range, 1mV on 10V range, 10mV on 100V range, 100mV on 1000V range.
The Tenmars TM-88 has a resolution of 0.1mV (which is 100μV) on 400.0mV range, 0.001V on 4.000V range, 0.01V on 40.00V range, 0.1V on 400.0V range, 1V on 1000V (750V AC) range.
The Gossen Metrawatt M2400 will measure much lower voltage, and has a resolution factor 10 x better than the TM-88 on all ranges.
Accuracy on DC voltage -
Accuracy of the GMW M2400 is ±(0.09 % rdg. + 5dgt)
Accuracy of the TM-88 is ±(0.5%rdg + 3dgt)
So the M2400 has greater accuracy for DC voltage.
AC+DC is a function that allows accurate measurements of wave forms that are not symmetrical about the x axis.
These wave forms can often be found in electronic and acoustic circuits, making this an important feature for professionals working with electronics.
The Gossen Metrawatt M2400 has this function as an included feature, whereas the Tenmars TM-88 does not.
Although both multimeters guarantee their stated accuracies, and recommend recalibration each year, only the Gossen Metrawatt M2400 comes with the internationally valid DAkkS calibration certificate.
As you can see, although both meters have the same functions available, the Gossen Metrawatt M2400 is by far the better meter, due to it’s reliability, durability, resolution, range and accuracy. Hence the price difference.
Further to this, Gossen Metrawatt is a very well known brand, and trusted for their quality and precision.
When searching for the best multimeter for you, keep in mind not just your budget, but also how and where you will be using your multimeter, and the importance of each of the meter’s functions and accuracy.