I have used quite a few multimeters in the past 16 years or so, ranging from $10 no-name garbage to an $1100 Agilent 34461A benchtop meter. The two Extech multimeters I own are in the $25 to $80 price range.
In addition to multimeters, I have used standalone voltmeters, ammeters, and probably a frequency counter or two.
I have been testing a range of handheld multimeters these past few weeks, and thus far the Fluke 87V has proven itself to be the best one by a significant margin. Maybe it’s the best handheld multimeter on the market, I can’t say, but I do know it’s by far the best handheld digital multimeter I have ever used.
Price Check: via Amazon
There are at least 8 qualities I consider when shopping for or judging multimeters. Overall performance is an important quality, but can be difficult to gauge in testing tools and other electronic devices.
Here are the factors that are generally most important to me:
Features – what can it measure, and how well?
Build Quality – can it survive a few drops, dings, and bumps?
Protection – if I overload the meter, will it blow up in my face?
Reliability – will it work when I need it to?
Accuracy – are the readings trustworthy?
Precision – are the readings repeatable?
Ease of Use – do I have to read the manual to figure out basic operations?
Probe Quality – do I have to spend more to replace junky probes?
The Fluke 87V, which is the 5th edition of the 87-series meter, is as great as can be in each of these areas. It has all of the measurement modes I could use, it’s very well built, I trust Fluke’s commitment to user safety, measurements are reliable, accurate, and precise, the meter is easy to use, and the probes it comes with are quite good. What more can I ask for?
There are other multimeter aspects to consider for specialty applications, such as whether a meter comes with thermocouple probe connection, whether it’s pocketable, and whether it’s rated for wet, dusty, or explosive environments, but these things aren’t high priorities for my typical measurement needs.
Fluke 87V Features
The 87V has a very long list of features and specifications, which you can find on Fluke’s website.
- DC Voltage up to 1000V, ±(0.05% + 1) accuracy, 10 µV resolution
- AC Voltage up to 1000V, ±(0.7% + 2) True RMS accuracy, 0.1 mV resolution
- DC Current up to 10A or 20A for 30-seconds max, ±(0.2% + 2) accuracy, 0.01 µA resolution
- AC Current up to 10A or 20A for 30-seconds max, ±(1.0% + 2) accuracy, 0.1 µA resolution
- Resistance up to 50 MΩ, ±(0.2% + 1) accuracy, 0.1 Ω resolution
- Capacitance up to 9,999 µF, ±(1% + 2) accuracy, 0.01 nF resolution
- Frequency up to 200 kHz, ±(0.005% + 1) accuracy, 0.01 Hz resolution
- Duty Cycle up to 99.9%, ±(0.2% per khz + 0.1%) accuracy, 0.1% resolution
- Temperature: the range depends on probe, but the meter itself has a maximum range of -200.0°C – 1090°C (328.0°F – 1994.0°F)
- Conductance up to 60.00 nS, ±(1.0% + 10) accuracy, 0.01 nS resolution
- Diode Check: 3V range, 1 mV resolution, ±(2 % + 1) accuracy
- Display: 6000 count (19,999 counts in high resolution mode)
- Battery life (9V alkaline): ~400 hours without backlight
- Automatic ranging, with manual override
- Hold, min/max, peak, relative modes
- Lifetime Warranty
- Built in the USA
*These are the best accuracy and resolution specs for the 87V throughout its measurement range. More detailed accuracy specifications can be found in the user manual (PDF, pgs 45-50).
One thing to point out is that, while the 87V does have built-in thermometer functionality, it can only measure temperature through an attached thermocouple that has built-in banana plugs, or is compatible with a thermocouple-to-banana jack adapter.
Build Quality and Protection
What’s dark grey, yellow, and built like a small plastic tank? The Fluke 87V. It’s designed to survive 1-meter drops, which is about 3.3 feet, but feels solid enough that it might shrug off harder shocks. Fluke makes other meters (e.g. 27 II and 28 II) that can survive drops of up to 3 meters (~10 feet).
Fluke’s meters are known to have very long lifespans in industrial and field use environments. And if something should go wrong, their service department will treat you well.
The 87V multimeter can operate in a very wide range of temperatures, from -20°C to +55°C (-4°F to 131°F). If you must use the meter in sub-zero conditions, you’ll be thankful for the 87V’s glove-friendly dial and buttons.
The 87V is not waterproof or dustproof – or at least it’s not IP-rated – it’s not intrinsically safe for hazardous environments, and it’s certainly not small enough to be pocketable.
Additionally, the meter conforms to international standards and can withstand 8,000 V transient impulses. This helps to reduce the risks associated with power surges and spikes.
Reliability, Accuracy, and Precision
I tested the 87V alongside my Agilent 34461A DMM, and the measurements were all in close agreement. Specifically, I used the meters to measure DC voltage, AC and DC current, frequency, and resistance.
At the end of the day, I feel like the 87V produces precise, trustworthy and repeatable measurements, which is the most one could ask for.
Ease of Use
As you can imagine, Fluke has spent a lot of time getting their multimeters’ displays and controls *just right* over the years. The 87V is ready to go out of the box, and it’s extremely easy to learn the controls. It could not be any easier.
I did have to refer to the quick reference guide (PDF) once, and that’s because I didn’t at first realize the built-in thermometer required a thermocouple. Without a thermocouple attached, the meter display just says open.
The controls are easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to adjust. A rotary switch and grouping of buttons could not be any easier to use.
The base model 87V comes with Fluke’s TL75 test probes (PVC) and alligator clips.
The 87V that I have been testing is part of Fluke’s 87V/E2 industrial electrician combo kit, which comes with TL224 silicone test leads, TP238 test probes, AC220 long-reach alligator clips, an 80BK-A thermocouple (-40°C – 260°C / -40°F – 500°F), a magnetic meter hanger, and a soft carrying case.
The probes included as part of the kit are superb. As mentioned in our silicone vs. PVC test leads post, I very strongly prefer silicone test leads over PVC. It makes sense why Fluke would bundle the 87V with basic PVC test probes, but I’m happy they upped the quality of test leads included with the combo kit.
Summary & Recommendation
Fluke offers a range of meters, starting in the sub-$150 range and working upwards from there. So why opt for the 87V, which is priced at ~$350 for the base model and ~$430 for the special combo kits?
More features/measurement modes, greater accuracy, lifetime warranty.
Let’s say you have a 20.00V signal that you want to measure. The 87V has an accuracy of ±(0.05% + 1), which is interpreted as ± 0.05% of the signal plus or minus 1 digit/count to the least significant digit. The first part of the error means that the measurement would be between 19.99V and 20.01V. Taking the second error component into account, this means the allowable measurement range would be between 19.98V and 20.02V.
A good – but less expensive – meter might have an accuracy of ±(0.5% + 2), which would mean a measurement range of 19.88V to 20.12V (±0.1V and 2 digits/counts).
Just like some users need different features than others, there are those that need greater accuracy.
The Fluke 87V is the best handheld digital multimeter I have ever used. It’s quick, accurate, easy to use, and there’s nothing I might need to measure that it cannot handle. It might even be the best handheld DMM currently on the market, as I can’t imagine there being a meter that does anything better.
I definitely recommend the 87V to anyone that could use its everything-including-the-kitchen-sink measurement modes. It’s suitable for electrical testing applications, electronics work, industrial environments, and even R&D use.
Buy Now(87V via Amazon)
Buy Now(87V/E2 Industrial Electrician Kit via Amazon)
Buy Now(87V/IMSK Industrial Kit with i400 Clamp Meter via Amazon)
More Info(via Fluke)
The 87V fits standard shrouded (and regular) banana plug test leads and accessories.
Thank you to Fluke for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.
So it appears from your review, that it will in fact blow up in your face?
Oops, good point, thanks! I made a minor edit to avoid further confusion. No, I trust that the Fluke 87V will NOT blow up in my face should I accidentally overload it.
I considered the 87V, but opted instead for the 289, which is quite a bit more capable for about 50% more: PC connectivity, memory, timestamps, trending.
My almost 11 year old Fluke 177 has served me very well – and probably will outlast me. I bought it to replace an old (1970’s vintage) analog meter (Triplett 630APLK) – which still works – but needed updating. If my Fluke suddenly disappeared – I would not hesitate to buy another.
I’m rockin the 177 as well. I also carry a 31 (clamp) and a 51II thermometer. Sometimes I need all three at once.
I’m confused: I was always taught that precision is about repeatability and the reproducibility of the result under the same conditions (i.e. how closely grouped the measurements are), while accuracy is about how close the measurement is to the true value, (i.e. the trustworthiness of the readings as representing reality.) I seem to recall a lot of examples involving dartboards and graphs of displaced normal distributions. Do I have this backwards?
That is correct – precision is about repeatability and closeness of subsequent measurements, accuracy is about the exactness of a measurement. The dartboard example is stuck in my mind as well.
Ideally, you want something that is both accurate and precise, and the 87V seems to have both qualities.
Sometimes the line between the accuracy and precision can be blurred. With a 2-dimensional measurement scale, such as voltage, accuracy refers to the exactness of the measurement, but you also want repeatability. Due to how measurement circuitry works, you will often see inherent repeatability and precision tied into the accuracy. That is, a constant 100V signal measured to be 98V won’t jump to 102V and then back and forth.
Still, it looks like I did flip the two in the list of desirable meter qualities, and corrected the slip-up to avoid confusion. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
In my furniture-making hobby – I’ve found that precision is probably more important than accuracy. Making casework parts repeatedly that are consistently and precisely the same size and shape (e.g. square) is usually more important than being off by a 1/32 of an inch.
Agreed. While I would like my woodworking to be both precise and accurate, I’m happy if my projects are precise. I figure that greater accuracy will come later on as I develop my skills and gain more experience and patience.
While I am not of the carpentry school that says “hammer it to fit and paint it to match” unless you are building something to fit precisely into a space – there is little need for extreme accuracy. After all we are not machining engine parts – and even when you need to “fit” wood parts – it is better to cut a bit over the scribed line and then sneak up on it. That’s often where hand tools (e.g. planes, scrapers, chisels etc.) come into good use. While I now more often use a Domino XL for loose tenon mortise joints – when I cut tenons on the table saw, I always oversize them a bit – then fit them with a shoulder plane. The matching mortises are almost always finished with a chisel.
Fluke meters are indeed the choice of many techs and for good reason. Be aware, if critical temp readings are needed, the accuracy spec of 1%+18 does not include the accuracy of the thermocouple.
As a big time multimeter freak, I feel like I should chime in here. The Fluke 87V is one of the great multimeters but it is NOT the best one out there hands down. It has a history of reliability in the field that can’t be touched but in pretty much every other area there are meters that beat it. For example, one meter that meets or beats it pretty much everywhere is the Brymen BM869. It has a higher CAT rating (CAT IV 1000V versus the 87V which is CAT IV 600V, CAT III 1000V), higher count (500,000 count DCV), higher accuracy, higher precision, etc. Combine that with the fact that it is significantly cheaper (can be found for <$250) and you have a great multimeter on your hands. The one area that it does not beat the 87V is in longevity. It has only been around for about 5 years, but it is heavily based off of the BM859 which has been around since at least 2000. These meters have a great history in electronic test circles.
As for probes, if you are in the USA this shouldn't enter into the equation. It is easy to get good probes for under $20. You can get the Pomona 5519A 1 meter silicone probes for ~$15. These are the same thing as the fluke TL71 (pomona is owned by fluke) but for much cheaper.
BM869 is a very overrated meter. The continuity test on it isn’t latched for one. The battery life compared to 87V is abysmal for instance. It doesn’t have auto hold. It’s also bulkier than the 87V. No lifetime warranty either.
“For example, one meter that meets or beats it pretty much everywhere” is a gross exaggeration. It competes on specs alone. But fails at essentials.
The fluke 289 is simply the best I own them all 87v /287/1587/Bryan
Nothing comes close to the fluke 289
I thought about getting the 88v but decided on the 215 for the price. I figure for the feature differences I can always spend the price difference on a PC based DSO and get even more functionality.
I’ve used a Fluke 87 for 20 years. Besides conventional environments, it’s been heavily used in marine and polar environments. It’s voltage readings are still very accurate (I tested this a few years ago for a metrology project) even though it’s never been recalibrated, and a few years ago I captured a previously undetectable transient current spike which was popping fuses on an instrument. So the 87V would be my natural choice of a successor. It’s just a real pity about the lack of any IR/wireless functionality, or the ability to retrofit something to do this. Or am I wrong here?
Sorry I’m late to this thread but I have a question or 2.
What’s the runner up? In most other best tool guide/threads there’s at least one runner up, or alternate.
While I agree the fluke if oft considered an industry standard device, I’d be curious as to thoughts about potential runner’s up.
Example I have a UEI device that was given to me that I use at home, I use a fluke at work. it’s treated me very well, and has every measurement my Fluke 87 has also, similar accuracy If I recall correctly. It is probably made in China though.
but in the test lab we have some AMPROBE, and Klein devices as well as the fluke bench equipment.
over the last 35 years in using multi meters ,now days with digital meters acuracy is not a problem ,but i need two main things;
1. speed of reading .
2.auto ranging from ohms to voltage .
only one make is good enough
After 29 years of selling Fluke products in the automotive field, you cannot beat the brand for durability and reliability. This meter will not give you ghost voltage, which to an apprentice or the uninformed scares people.
The only problem is getting replacement fuses when you need them quickly is a bear.