TLDR; The Morpilot 17B Digital Multimeter will give you the most features for the price. If you don’t need temperature measurements or extra leads, the Etekcity MSR-A600 Digital Multimeter is also a solid option with its build quality.
A multimeter is the first tool you should purchase when getting started with electronics. At its most basic, it can measure current (in amps), voltage (in volts) and resistance (in ohms) using two test leads. It’s a tool that you will always need to do basic diagnostic and verification of your circuits.
There are a lot more features than that on the average multimeter, for example :
- Continuity testing: emits a tone when the two points of the circuit measured are connected, very useful for testing your prototypes.
- Temperature measurement: a special probe allows you to measure the temperature of the air, or of a liquid.
- Capacitance meter: measures the value of a capacitor. Unfortunately, the capacitor cannot be in the circuit while doing this.
- Diode testing: allow you to test the two orientations of a diode (the forward power drop in one direction, and an open circuit in the other direction) to make sure it works properly. The diode cannot be measured in the circuit either.
In general, more expensive multimeters are more accurate and are built better. The multimeters reviewed here are on the cheap side, but they are precise enough to get you started and will still last you for a good while when used occasionally, while still having the features you’ll need. Many of them will also include AC measurement features for household electricity, but you’re not likely to need to this for the average electronics project.
Here are the best budget multimeters that I selected to review:
- AstroAI DT132A Digital Multimeter
- Morpilot 17B Digital Multimeter
- Neoteck 8233 PRO Multimeter
- Etekcity MSR-A600 Digital Multimeter
- Proster Digital Multimeter 3999
All the multimeters here are auto-ranging, will find the right scale at which to display the value measured, without you having to change the scale manually. In most cases, it can be turned off when you don’t need that feature and will be measuring many values in the same range.
Also, some of the meters are True RMS, which allows you to measure accurately sinusoidal and non-sinusoidal AC waveforms, which is useful for some commercial and industrial applications (even household electricity work does not need this level of precision). For small electronics projects with Arduino and Raspberry Pi where you’re only going to measure DC current this does not have any impact, so you do not need to worry about this feature.
This AstroAI multimeter comes with all the useful measurement options: voltage, current, resistance, continuity, capacitance, temperature and diode testing.
The probes come with a protector cap that’s probably easy to lose, but somewhat useful to prevent stabbing your fingers with the probes (the probes themselves being not that fragile)…
The stand and battery cover are pretty cheap, and many reviewers report problems with the temperature probe, so you should avoid this one if you’re thinking of measuring temperature. Also, like many other multimeters with a backlight, it doesn’t stay on very long, but you can also use the data hold function to keep the current value on the screen.
This meter comes with a large range of tests, from voltage, resistance and current measurement, to capacitance, diode, continuity and temperature tests. It works with a 9V battery (included).
It comes with a backlight, but it only stays lit for a few seconds like many others to save power. On the other hand, it comes with 10 extra test leads, which is always useful if you don’t have some of them on hand already.
Beside that, the build of the unit is good, the large screen is easy to read; it’s a good choice for a budget multimeter.
The Neoteck multimeter comes with the usual measurements such as voltage, current, resistance, continuity, capacitance, temperature and diode testing. It works with a 9V battery (included). The meter also comes with alligator clips that can be used on the probe, which is often useful.
The capacitance measurement is not very reliable and doesn’t measure values under 1uF, which are values you are likely to encounter.
For continuity, you have to remember to enable the beep with the Func button, which is annoying for one of the most used features. It also beeps if it’s been turned on for too long, even if it’s still in use.
This Etekcity meter is simpler than the other meters reviewed here: it has no extra features likes temperature measurement, alligator clips or a fancy case. It works with two AAA batteries (included in the meter).
The build is of a good quality, the backlight stays on for 30 seconds which is longer than most other meters and the stand is sturdy. It also has a data hold to keep measurements on the display while you write them down.
It still comes with all the common measurement you need such as voltage, current, capacitance, resistance and continuity. If you don’t need the extras, it’s a great meter to get.
This Proster meter is pretty complete with voltage and current, resistance, frequency, duty cycle and temperature measurement. It works with two AAA batteries (included in the meter). Another thing to note is that the temperature reading is in Celsius and not in Fahrenheit.
The meter comes with a nice carrying bag to hold the meter and the probes. The probes themselves comes with a convenient alligator clip attachment. The meter can also hold the current value so you can write it down.
On the other hand, the stand is not very usable, which is a shame if you want to work at your bench. It does not have a backlight either. Some reviewers also report that the auto-ranging feature can slow down the meter a bit, but you can turn that feature off.
The Morpilot 17B Digital Multimeter will give you the most features for the price, while being well built and precise enough for the price.
If you don’t need temperature measurements or extra leads, the Etekcity MSR-A600 Digital Multimeter is also a solid option. It’s also built well and easy to use, but the screen is slightly smaller.