I own a couple of multimeters – an Extech EX330 ($60 via Amazon) and an Extech MN26 ($45 via Amazon) – and I also have a few test samples at my disposal, including a rugged Klein MM500, USA-made Klein MM5000, and a fantastic Fluke CNX 3000 ($315 via Amazon).
But these are all handheld multimeters. My usage habits are changing, and I found myself needing a benchtop multimeter.
- Data collection and transfer abilities
- Real-time trending capabilities
- USB connectivity
- 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 digit resolution
- Measurements: DC voltage, DC current, resistance (2-wire and 4-wire), temperature (optional), continuity, and frequency (optional)
Included PC software was a strong preference, but not a must-have.
What I liked about the Fluke multimeters is how they have a dual display capability, where the meters will show voltage AND current measurements.
Why the Agilent 34461A?
I read and watched a few reviews, and it looked like the 34461A offered everything I was looking for, and more.
What I particularly liked is how Agilent provides some good-looking free PC software AND how data could be captured off the meter display with simple screenshots. This means easier data recording and access to good-looking presentable measurements without much fuss.
Following are two screenshots taken from the DMM earlier today. The meter was set to measure the voltage output of a Bosch 18V Li-ion battery pack.
The first shows a single measurement, and the second shows voltage measurements taken over 69 seconds. The dip in voltage is when I removed one of the test leads momentarily.
I then connected the meter to an adjustable DC power supply and connected the meter to my computer via USB. I fluctuated the voltage up and down a little bit to make the plot a little more interesting.
The PC software logs all the data and can also spit out a text file or spreadsheet.
If (when) I add another Agilent meter to the bench, the PC software can synchronize multiple signals, allowing me to plot multiple measurement signals on a single time axis.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
There are a lot of things I like about ToolGuyd’s new Agilent 34461A digital multimeter. It has inputs in the front AND back, and I can switch between them with the press of a button. Measurement accuracy seems spot-on, the display is superb, controls are easy to follow and use, and the included test leads are quite nice. Data logging and PC connectivity is easier than I thought.
I only have four minor complaints. First, there is a tiny brown fiber stuck between the LCD display and its protective glass. It’s in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen and I know it’s there. I can’t clean it out without disassembling the meter, which I won’t do for now.
Second, the PC software could use a little tweaking. I would like to be able to change Y-axis limits easily, but there doesn’t seem to be a way. If I autoscale, my measurement trace is centered. If I select divisions manually, the trace goes to the bottom.
Third, It took me trial and error to figure out the right way to turn remote control off. (Pressing shift after turning off remote collection resumes “local” operating mode.)
Fourth and finally, I wish the meter was a little less expensive. With a list price of $1095, it’s going to take me quite a bit of time to save up for a second. Until then I’ll use a manual meter, but it would be great if I could log voltage and current measurements at the same time right now. On the bright side, build quality is rock solid. This feels like a $1000+ piece of equipment.
The 34461A is a pricey multimeter, but it offers a lot of capabilities to justify the price. Lesser-branded 6-1/2 digit meters were only slightly less expensive, and lower resolution lesser-branded meters also cost several hundred dollars each. I was not very hung up on specs, and it was the Agilent’s graphical interface and computer software that sealed the deal.
I plan on using the meter for testing everything from sensitive sensors and microcontrollers, to DC battery packs. I don’t need this multimeter, or even a benchtop meter to do so, but I chose it for the graphical display, remote operation, and data trending capabilities.
There are times when I settle on lower-featured and less-expensive equipment only to have to spend more later on. This happened again recently, actually, when I ordered a lesser power supply than I now need. If I went with the Fluke meters mentioned on my shortlist, I would probably have regretted it.
While I am still learning the ins and outs of the device, I am VERY satisfied with my purchasing decision thus far.
The Agilent meter was purchased at full retail price from Techni-Tool.