Agilent 34461A Digital Multimeter - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Agilent 34461A Digital Multimeter

Author: tassieengineer

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Needing to find a power cord (not hard). Having to change to voltage selector and fuse (not hard once I found out how to do it).

Detailed Review:

Apologies for the lame review. Time constraints and a computer issue caused me to need to rewrite this. I've also used a separate scoring system.

 

In the Box:

Agilent 34461A unit.

 

Power cable - UK BS 1363 (Type G) plug. (Three large rectangular pins)

Power cable - NEMA 5-15 (15 A/125 V earthed) (Type B) plug (Two rectangular, one round pin).

Product reference CD (the manual is on this)

Agilent IO Libraries suite. (drivers etc)

Test leads

1 Red and 1 Black standard probe (1000V 15A CatII) - Agilent refers to these as "Test Leads"

1 Red and 1 Black "pincer" connector (300V 3A CatII) - Agilent refers to these as "SMT Grabber Attachments"

1 Black "hook" connector (300V 3A CatII) - Agilent refers to this as a "Mini Grabber Attachment"

1 Red and 1 Black "thin stabby" connector (300V 3A CatII) - Agilent refers to these as "Fine Tip Probe Attachments"

Certificate of Calibration. The calibration test report looked pretty good on my unit. The largest error was with the 10V 300KHz on 10V range reading, and even that was only 0.072% out (1year spec was +/- 4.5%)

USB Cable

 

 

I would have liked to see an Australian power cable included, but the test unit shipped from Newark Element14 rather than the Australian Element14 so I can’t really fault them on that too much.

The unit was also configured for 120V out of the box (which caused some initial setup issues). I’ve been told that there was a warning about this (in the form of a sticker) which I must have missed, however I still think, as per the blog post, a small quick-start sheet would be useful rather than having to dig through the product reference CD.

 

 

9*/10 This would be better if there was an Australian plug included and if the instructions about changing the voltage setting were easier to access

 

 

Unit:

For the most part it’s a pretty standard looking desktop multimeter. Where the 34461A differs from many others (including the 34401A) is the nice large screen. When on it’s clear an easy to read. There is a downside however. Despite being clear, the nature of the screen makes it nice and reflective. Reflections of the surroundings are visible in the darker areas of the screen.

The back of the unit has a secondary set of input plugs for the test leads, as well as plugs for LAN, USB and GPIB (I've been told that GPIB is an optional extra).

Air vents of the side allow air to be drawn in which vents to the back of the unit via a fan.

The 34461A also has an adjustable stand.

It’s sturdy and appears to be well build.

One thing that is really cool is that the test leads have a little plastic protector over their sheathed pin thing. This will again be raised in the ease of use section.

 

 

I can’t really fault the physical unit itself. One thing I’m a little disappointed with is that it cannot measure capacitance especially given the price. I know there’s more to it than price, when when I can log onto element14 and get multimeters for a few hundred dollars that do capacitance (even if they are not as accurate with other things) it just seems strange to me.

 

 

9.5/10 

Half a mark off for the lack of capacitance (and inductance would be good too).

 

 

Software installation:

This was simple to do, but due to the number of ancillary software installs, it took a while on my machine.

Hardware installation:

Apart from the voltage setting oopsie (which as I’ve found out is possibly my fault). This was as simple as sit it on the desk and connect the cables.

 

 

18*/20

Depending on the situation with the voltage settings (see first blog post comments) this could easily be a 20.

 

 

Ease of Use:

The button size and placement is great (for my fingers at least). They all seem to be fairly responsive too which is good.

The different connector plugs are easy to access and for the most part easy to connect to. The supplied test leads are a tight fit due to the plastic protector over the central pin mentioned earlier, and this may provide some minor difficulty when plugging them in or unplugging them. This however has the benefit of making the test leads (when plugged in) secure and difficult to accidentally unplug.

The leads themselves are easy grip and manipulate, and are actually a decent length.

 

9.5/10

It’s harsh to take off 5% because the leads are tight, but the multimeter slides across my desk when plugging in the test leads if I don’t secure it with my other hand, and this may be a concern to others.

 

 

 

 

Overall:

The Good - Screen, buttons, size, connectivity.

The Bad  - Lack of capacitance/inductance, minor difficulties inserting/extracting test leads, changing input voltage setting**

**see blog post one and comments

 

 

46/50 (has the potential to be higher depending on individual circumstances)

 

 

Suggested improvements:

Not game changers, but more like, “It’d be nice if…”

Capacitance/Inductance measurements

Separate quick-start sheet about setting input voltage (how to...).

Anonymous