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Digital MultimeterAnalog Multimeter

It seems that the whole world has gone digital. Pretty much every electronic gadget that you come across these days is digital, and the analog style is getting harder and harder to find. When it comes to multimeters, however, you can still locate analog options along with all of the modern digital choice. So, which is better - a digital or analog multimeter?

What is a multimeter?

Before we get too far into the discussion of digital vs. analog, it would be helpful to clearly define what a multimeter is, and what it does. A multimeter is a handy tool used by those who work in a number of trade professions. Basically, if you work around anything that uses power - wired electricity, batteries, circuits, etc. -- you will want to have a multimeter in your tool kit. A multimeter can act as a voltmeter, ammeter, and an ohmmeter, which is where the name multimeter comes from in the first place. If you are having an electrical issue within a project, a multimeter could help you solve the problem.

A Shifting Tide

As with any new technology, the first digital multimeters weren't necessarily well received, as they were rather inexpensive and not as advanced as they are today. However, as technology has improved and prices have come down, the digital version of the multimeter is now the vastly more popular product. There is still room in the electrical world for a classic old analog multimeter, but they are becoming harder and harder to find. When it comes down to it, there are just too many advantages, and too few drawbacks, to digital meters to warrant purchasing an analog option in most cases.

Easy to Read!

Of course, the big selling point with a digital multimeter is the fact that they are so easy to read. The output of the meter is simply displayed on the screen for you to read in just a glance. Most quality meters have a big display that it is easy to see, so there is very little risk in getting the measurement wrong due to not being able to read the output. When you are busy at work, you don't want to have to slow down in order to accurately read the small scale on an analog meter, and you can avoid that hassle with the use of a modern digital option.

Additionally, the ease of reading a digital meter means that you can get more accurate measurements. Where an analog meter will simply have a needle that points to a spot on a scale, your digital multimeter should be able to give you a reading out to several decimal points. Not every job will call for data which is that specific, but those that do will benefit greatly from the ability to get such an accurate reading.

Practical Application

When out in the field working on an electrical job of some kind, you aren't always working in a comfortable or spacious environment. You might be cramped in a basement, or squeezing into a storage room, or in any number of other awkward spots. Therefore, you won't always be able to get a great angle to read your analog multimeter - which is critical for getting an accurate reading. If you aren’t looking directly at the meter, the analog display might be interpreted incorrectly, which would lead to an incorrect conclusion on your part. This is known as a parallax error, and it has tripped up more than a few professionals over the years.

Obviously, you can't have this problem with a digital multimeter. As long as you can see the screen, and you have enough light to view the readout, you will be good to go. There is no problem with reading these meters from an odd angle, so you should be able to get the job done even if you are squeezing in to an awkward spot in order to take the measurement.

Two Sides to Every Story

So far, the news has been pretty bad for the old analog multimeter. All of the points so far in this article have pointed to the digital version as the way to go, but there are a couple of items that land in favor of the traditional analog readout. The first advantage, which you might have guessed, would be price. As an old technology, the price of an analog multimeter will typically come in lower than a digital version, so you may want to consider that into your buying process. However, as time as gone by, the difference in price is not what it once was, so you may not feel like the savings are worth it in the end.

The other advantage that can be offered by an analog readout is the ability to view changes in the readout as they are occurring. You will see the needle moving back and forth when there is an inconsistent reading, which can be much harder to observe on a digital model. If the numbers of a digital multimeter are moving too quickly, you may have trouble reading them at all.

Additional Features

Getting back to the advantages of a digital multimeter, you will find that many of them come with other features beyond the traditional realm of a multimeter. The ability to take other measurements, such as temperature for example, can come in handy from time to time, and it can lighten your load if you don't need to carry additional tools for those purposes. While you will want to focus on the work this product can do first and foremost as a traditional multimeter, it is helpful to have access to some other capabilities.

Choosing Between Digital Options

By this point in the article, it should be clear that you will likely want to shop for a digital multimeter. Not only are there plenty of advantages to be enjoyed when you go digital, you will also have a hard time find very many analog options on the market today. They are a dying breed, and it likely won't be long before they are extremely difficult to locate.

With that in mind, you should probably start thinking about how you are going to pick from the digital models that are available. Within the digital market, there are going to be meters which range wildly in price as well as the capabilities that they offer. The meter that you pick is going to have to depend on the functions that you need it to provide, as well as the regularity of usage that the meter will receive. A low-cost option will probably be fine if you are only going to use the meter once or twice for a specific job, but a professional who will rely on the meter everyday should likely invest in a high-end unit.

Technology has changed just about everything in our lives, and that certainly applies in the world of multimeters. Where analog was once the standard, digital units are now the norm and the analog meter may soon be a thing of the past. If you are a trade professional who needs to have a reliable multimeter for your work, you will want to browse the many great digital options on the market before adding a new one to your tool kit.

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