The Best Multimeter for your SDR Lab in 2020

A multimeter is one of the most basic instruments for testing. You can use it to test DC voltages, resistor values and as well circuit continuity. At OneSDR we use our multimeter to check voltages on USB ports, at the terminals of LNAs, bias tee voltages, and troubleshooting. A multimeter is an essential tool for anyone working with electronics, hobbyist, or professional, everyone needs a multimeter of some kind.

The Gold Standard

Fluke 87-V Industrial Digital Multimeter

The Fluke 87-V Multimeter

The Fluke 87-V is an exceptional multimeter. It can perform a wide range of measurements, form the most basic such as voltage, resistance, and current, while even offering an option to measure temperature, which can occasionally come in very handy.

Not only does it have a lot of features, it is also extremely accurate and reliable, which it had better be considering its price tag. 

We consider this multimeter to be the gold standard. It is reliable in just about any situation, and has enough functionality to fulfill the needs of anyone working with electronics for decades. This is not a multimeter who’s specs will be out of date, and will need upgrading in only 5 years time. 

There is one obvious downside to this multimeter though, and for most this downside will prove to be a deal breaker. It is expensive, more expensive than our current top rated oscilloscope. For this reason, we will not name the Fluke 87-V the best multimeter, as it is probably out of range for most people. If you can afford this tool, it will serve you well, but the rest of us will probably have to turn to more affordable options. 

PROSCONS
Multitude of features and functionalityPrice
Industry leading reliability
Top of the line safety features
PROS and CONS of the Fluke 87-V

Best Multimeter

Fluke 115 Compact True RMS Digital Multimeter

The Fluke 115 Multimeter

After extensively researching multimeters our top pick is the Fluke 115. Not only does it have the same excellent reliability and safety testing as is done on Fluke’s more expensive models, it is also priced far more reasonably, and is within range of a more typical hobbyist. 

A multimeter should be able to make the basic measurements of voltage, resistance and current. The Fluke 115 is an ideal choice for these main applications as it covers all of these applications. It also has excellent accuracy at + 0.5%. The Fluke 115 is also a True RMS multimeter which is important considering the requirement at times to measure digital control pulses in the SDR circuit.

Not only does the Fluke 115 meet our specification requirements, it also has a large user basis. Being that it is one of the more affordable Fluke multimeters, and that it does not compromise quality at its price point, many people around the world rely on the Fluke 115 for all of their multimeter needs. 

While there are other similar multimeters on the market, oftentimes with similar specifications at a lower price point, the Fluke 115 simply does its job better, and is able to provide its measurements more reliably, and much faster, lowering your margin of error even further. Check out this video by TECHNOLOGY TIPS, where the Fluke 115 is compared with a similar generic multimeter, this helps illustrate the advantages which the Fluke 115 has over its competitors. 

The only major negative with the Fluke 115 is the display which can be difficult to read and appears washed out at different viewing angles.

PROSCONS
Reliable and RobustDisplay can be difficult to read at different viewing angles
Well tested
Accurate and precise
Reasonable price point for quality
Wide range of functionality, fulfilling the needs of the vast majority of electronics enthusiasts, specifically when working with SDR.
Pros and Cons of the Fluke 115 Multimeter

Runner Up

Fluke 101 Basic Portable Multimeter

The Fluke 101 is our runner up. It is the most basic multimeter from Fluke offering only voltage and resistance measurements. It’s a great starter instrument for SDR as these are the two most basic measurement requirements. It is also small and compact so you can carry it around with you if need be.

While it is a very basic multimeter, it is also Fluke’s most affordable multimeter. At almost a quarter the price of a Fluke 115, or a tenth the price of a Fluke 87-V, this multimeter is well within the budget of most electronics enthusiasts. 

There are other multimeters with more features and functionality available at the same price point, however none offer the same reliability and precision as the Fluke 101. The true benefit of the Fluke 101 is that it shares the same rigorous testing, impeccable build quality, reliability, accuracy, and precision which many of its older siblings are known for, all at the price of the average hardware store multimeter. 

If you are on a budget, and need a multimeter that is reliable, and built to last, the Fluke 101 is for you! Or even if you have a larger budget, and you don’t find yourself ever requiring the features this multimeter lacks, then this little multimeter is perfect for you! It will perform reliably, and save you money along the way.

PROSCONS
Accurate and preciseMissing a few features which some users may find critical
Rigorously tested
Excellent display, easily visible from all viewing angles
Robust
Reliable
Excellent price
Pros and Cons of the Fluke 101 Multimeter

Best Low Budget Multimeter

WeePro Vpro850L Digital Multimeter

This WeePro multimeter is a deal. At less than a quarter the price of the Fluke 101, it is a true budget multimeter. While it is not accurate or reliable enough for the majority of SDR applications, or the majority of more advanced electronics applications in general, it is certainly suitable for learning. 

While we do not recommend the WeePro multimeter for the average electronics hobbyist (it is not nearly reliable enough, we recommend checking out one of the Fluke’s above), it is certainly a working multimeter, which at this price point is somewhat of a miracle.

The WeePro certainly has its place. Whether you are just starting your adventure in electronics, or are more experienced, and don’t have the extra budget to buy a multimeter, this tool is certainly better than nothing, and will definitely get you started. Additionally, at this low price point, this multimeter is an excellent learning tool. You could easily buy two class sets of multimeters for the price of Fluke 87-V, and it has more than enough features and reliability to provide a solid introduction and foundation for the use of a multimeter. 

The WeePro does have a few shortcomings, one of which is its blue text, which when combined with the black enclosure, many reviewers have commented on how difficult it is to read the settings. Additionally, a few people have indicated that it is not always 100% reliable, and should not be used in situations where the accuracy of a multimeter has serious safety implications. In other words, please don’t use this multimeter for high current and high voltage situations. If the electricity you are working with has the potential to cause harm, we recommend you use the Flukes mentioned above for their superior safety features and testing. We recommend you restrict this multimeter to low voltage and current applications, which pose no harm to the user. 

PROSCONS
Super affordableNot super reliable
UseableNot very accurate or precise
Good learning tool, especially in a classroom settingWill not exhibit the longevity consistent with other multimeters on this list
Little to no safety testing (for use in low voltage and current applications only!)
Pros and Cons of the WeePro Multimeter

Why So Many Flukes?

You may be wondering why this list seems to be made up almost entirely of fluke multimeters, the answer is simple. Here at OneSDR we value long term reliability and precision. When we buy a multimeter, we want it to last. You need a tool you can rely on, and you can trust in every situation.

Fluke multimeters are made to last, you can read this article to learn more about how they are tested. Among the many multimeters we have tested, we keep coming back to the Fluke, our one Fluke to be specific, which has been reliably serving us for quite a while, and continue to serve us for many more years.

The obvious downside to a Fluke is its price. When looking at a device such as the Fluke 87-V, it can be difficult to justify the cost. We justify this cost by looking at the cost per use, though the initial cost may be high, if the device lasts 30 years, then the cost per year is quite low when compared to cheaper devices which need replacing every few years. 

For these reasons, Fluke multimeters top our list, and will probably be there for many years to come.

Summary

In conclusion, there are many good options available in the world of multimeters. Whether you are a professional looking to replace an older tool, or looking for an upgrade, a hobbyist looking for a reliable and accurate tool made to last decades, or someone on a tight budget, there is a multimeter for you! Even if you need to buy a class set, that can be done. 

The most important consideration when choosing a multimeter is to consider your needs. Do you need to be able to measure current? Do you need something reliable? Do you need it to fall within a certain budget? Do you need it to measure temperature? How many do you need? All of these questions are good examples of things you should be asking yourself. Once you know the answer to these questions, choosing your next multimeter will be easy.

Gold Standard: Fluke 87-V

Best Multimeter: Fluke 115

Runner Up: Fluke 101

Best Budget Pick: The WeePro VPro 850L

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