Fluke 87V Multimeter Review

Simply the Best

by Lorenz Prem on April 6 2014 1:18 am
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I use a multimeter to probe the tools I am reviewing every week here on Hingmy to gain a better understanding of how they work. The Fluke 87V meter I am using happens to be the most trusted millimeter on the market today. It and its predecessors have been in use in many industries for decades. If you value performance over cost there is no way around the Fluke 87V. Let's take a look at what makes this multimeter a favorite around the world.

The Fluke 87V Multimeter

The 87V is an industrial multimeter from Fluke, a leader in the multimeter market. It is the latest in the long running 87 series, one of the most renowned lines of multimeters ever built. The kit comes with the meter, a yellow protective sleeve, two probes, two alligator clip probe extensions, and a thermal probe.

The build quality of the meter is very good. The large mode dial moves between options with a satisfying click. The input sockets are protected by deep plastic grommets to prevent accidental shocks. The leads lock into place firmly leaving no doubt if they are seated correctly or not. Each rubber button responds quickly and gives solid tactile feedback when it has passed its activation point.

The large LCD screen organizes information well. Everything you need to know about a measurement is always within view. A somewhat uneven backlight illuminates the screen in low light, albeit at the cost of multiplying the battery consumption of the meter.

The Fluke 87V is the de facto standard in the industry. It offers uncompromising performance, durability, and reliability.

If left On for an extended period of time, the meter enters sleep mode to conserve battery power. While in sleep mode the meter certainly draws less current, but you can't leave the meter On for weeks and expect it to function when you need it again. The 87V will only reach its excellent battery life of 400 hours, if you turn it off at the end of the day.

Battery changes are quick thanks to the separate battery compartment. Opening the body to service the meter or to change a blown fuse takes a little more effort. The lack of metal threaded inserts for the screws that hold the case together is one of just a few design compromises Fluke made on this multimeter.

Accuracy

The best trick the Fluke 87V performs is its ability to produce a result without any fuzz. Simply select the metric you want to measure, place the leads, and the meter will produce a reliable result in a fraction of a second. Not only does the meter automatically determine the appropriate range (auto ranging), it also produces a high precision result.

If the default 6,000 count update speed is not fast enough for you, a single button press turns the meter into a 20,000 count device. AC voltages are measured in a true RMS fashion, which is required to achieve the accuracy stated on the spec sheet.

All this translates into a nearly flawless user experience. The meter does all the work and leaves the user free to interpret the result.

I do not have the lab-grade equipment necessary to verify the meter's accuracy. The work has been done by many reviewers around the web already. The 87 series has a reputation of performing according to spec straight out of the box, and of maintaining this level of performance for the life of the meter.

Safety

The difference between a cheap and a professional grade multimeter almost always extends to the safety features. Multimeters can melt or even explode when exposed to current or voltage spikes. Quality multimeters mitigate these threats in a variety of ways.

All inputs of the Fluke 87V are protected with High Rupture Capacity (HCR) fuses, which contain blasts much better than standard fuses. The sockets are isolated from one another and the other parts of the circuit board by an air gap and a couple of blast shields. This reduces the likelihood of current finding its way into places where it can do damage by arcing across a gap.

The Fluke 87V is Cat III and CAT IV rated. This means it will fail deterministically and safely when exposed to voltage spikes of less than 1,000V and 600V respectively. Probing a high voltage circuit with an unrated meter is a dangerous proposition.

Incorrect lead placement is a common cause of blown fuses. The Fluke 87V will beep and flash a warning across the screen prompting the user to correctly place the leads for every measurement mode. In a busy environment where mistakes are easy to make this is an essential feature.

While cheap meters often have the same features as professional grade ones, none have the same build quality. If you work with high voltage circuits, only a rated meter like the Fluke 87V will keep you safe.

Durability and Reliability

The different models in the 87 series have built a legendary reputation with regards to reliability. Fluke builds these meters with prime-spec parts. There are many reports of earlier models in the 87 series going strong after a couple of decades of regular use.

The sockets and the dial, the only mechanical parts of the meter, are built to a high standard too. Only heavy-duty users, who use their meter for several hours every day, will see these components break. In most cases you will upgrade to a new meter for the features it offers, and not because your old Fluke 87V is no longer working.

A rubber sleeve held in the iconic Fluke yellow protects the meter form impact damage. Falls from a table are not a problem. The front face of the meter is somewhat exposed making falls from greater heights a bit of a gamble. Even without the sleeve the meter's durability is formidable. If you handle your meter with even a little care, it'll perform well for decades.

The stand on the back of the sleeve could be better, but it works well enough. It supports the meter, but is not sturdy enough to make turning the dial with one hand comfortable.

Commercial users around the world will often use nothing but Fluke 87V multimeters. The combination of durability and reliability this meter offers often makes it the cheapest meter to run in a large scale operation. The 87V will outlive most meters, speed up the work with its ease of use, and create very little trouble due to its very accurate and seldomly faulty readings.

Features

The Fluke 87V has a few extra modes in addition to the standard voltage, current, and resistance modes. Min/Max, relative, and auto hold mode can be used in conjunction with in any of the basic modes. Activating and using any of these features is always a single button press away. The ease with which one can figure out how to use even advanced features without reading the manual is a big reason why this meter gets used all around the world.

The capacitance, diode, and micro Amp modes push the meter into the electronics category. Without these modes a meter has no place on an electronics workbench. If you are looking to get into electronics, the Fluke 87V is one of the best options on the market.

Fluke meters are renowned for having the best continuity buzzers in the industry. The Fluke 87V is no exception. Even short pluses trigger the continuity buzzer. The temperature sensor and frequency modes are great additions, but they are more situational than the other modes.

As a package the Fluke 87V is a full featured multimeter. All modes are among the best implemented of their kind in the industry. In the hands of an electricians or an electronics engineer, the Fluke 87V has the capability to take accurate measurements without slowing the operator down needlessly.

Usage

The Fluke 87V is overkill for residential electrical work. There are many meters on the market, some made by Fluke itself, that produce similar results at a much lower price.

When doing commercial work, which can involve higher voltages, the safety features of the Fluke 87V come into their own. This meter is a good all-around trouble shooting tool for a commercial electrician, but it won't be the only multimeter in their toolbox.

The Fluke 87V truly shines when working with electronics. It is a favorite in labs and design firms all around the world. The meter has all the features required to make it an indispensable tool on any electronics workbench. Many engineers will use only their trusted Fluke 87.

Electronics repair shops and assembly plants commonly use the 87V for process control. In an environment where a faulty meter can cause rework costs to pile up quickly, the reliability and ease of use of the Fluke 87V more than make up for the meter's high initial cost.

If you are looking for a single multimeter that can do it all, the Fluke 87V is a great choice. It'll serve you well for decades.

Summary

The Fluke 87 series has been the de facto industry standard for many decades now. If you want a reliable and easy to use multimeter, there are no ways around this meter. Engineered to help the user avoid measuring mistakes, there are few multimeter that produce measurements as fast and as accurately as the Fluke 87V. The price tag is little high, but Fluke offers great value in return. The Fluke 87V could be the last multimeter you buy in a long time.

The Good

  • the Model 87 series has an extremely good reputation amongst professionals
  • auto ranging
  • 20,000/6,000 count multimeter
  • +/- 0.05% DC, +/- 0.7% AC accuracy
  • 10 microV / 0.01 microA DC, 0.1 mV / 0.1 microA AC resolution
  • True RMS meter
  • has the features, accuracy, and ranges required for electronics work
  • intuitive controls make it useful without having to read the manual
  • automatically indicates wrong lead placement
  • industry leading durability
  • CAT III 1000V and CAT IV 600V rated
  • uses High Rupture Capacity (HRC) fuses
  • shielded inputs
  • deep, shielded sockets for leads
  • separate battery compartment
  • extreme battery life (~400 hours without the backlight)
  • fast, latched continuity buzzer
  • capacitance and temperature modes
  • relative measurement feature
  • removable jacket

The Bad

  • specs are aging: the competition is faster
  • draws considerable current in sleep mode
  • jacket does not protect the front of the meter
  • bright, but uneven backlight
  • case is held together with self tapping screws
About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."
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