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RoadTest the Keysight U1282A Digital Multimeter - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 10
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 10
Demo Software was of good quality: 10
Product was easy to use: 10
Support materials were available: 8
The price to performance ratio was good: 10
TotalScore: 58 / 60
  • RoadTest: RoadTest the Keysight U1282A Digital Multimeter
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Independent Products
  • Was everything in the box required?: Yes - The latest special includes the remote probe, which is almost essential with the features in this meter.
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: Fluke, Agilent, Tenma and other meters
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: Logging Software for PC had some issues as discussed in Part 2.

  • Detailed Review:

    This review will be a multi-part, simply because there are many features to cover.

     

    Part 2 is here U1282A Road Test Part 2 (PC Software)

     

     

     

    The scoring really doesn't relate well to this type of test, so I've elected to ignore it except for the issues I found around the Logging Software.

     

     

    RUGGEDNESS

    I think Dave Jones has shown just how rugged this meter is ... in fact he went above and beyond to break it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kajevAH8fqg (thanks to Kas Lewis for the link)

     

    It was very interesting to see that the xtal (which was a thru hole) had no extra protection, and the precision resistor fell out the metalwork.

    I wonder what would have happened if both these got the same silicon goop as the inductor. Maybe they would have remained intact ??

     

    The specs say it will survive a 3m fall, and you'd have to ask under what circumstances you'd be using this meter, to have that happen.

    Just what was the reason they picked 3m instead of 2.5m?.

     

    Hopefully if you drop yours, there is nothing protruding upwards that will damage the LCD.

    You can watch the video to see the results of the drop test, I'm not going to emulate it.

     

    I own a Fluke 75 and we elected to buy the soft case to house it.

    I tend to coil the leads up and place them over the LCD to provide extra protection, and it's reasurring to know that when you throw it in your toolbox, the display is not going to be in contact with something.

    This trick has served me well for the last 18 years so hopefully it will continue.

     

    Sadly the accessories only include a hard case, which is great, but a bit big to throw into your toolbox.

    Keysight do offer a soft case Product LinkProduct Link but it fits the U1250 - U1270 series meters.

     

      while the U1280 series is  

    I suspect we have one of these cases at work, so I might need to see if it will squeeze in.

     

    I did spot a soft case for the U1200 series clamp meters, and the dimensions are 290 x 120 x 85mm.

    Perhaps when Keysight update the U1174A soft case they could make it fit the larger meters and just carry the one product.

     

     

     

     

    WATERPROOF

    During my application I made this comment

     

    As part of "outside life" I look after the electronics at a small skifield.

    It works rather well for both parties, but this also means working in less than ideal conditions.

    Mounting considerations and revision

    In particular this image gives an idea of what you can expect.

    blown_snow.JPG

    As soon as you disturb it, the powder and snow goes everywhere and this includes tools and other items.

    It also melts easily, so if the snow doesn't get in, the water does.

     

    I'm not intending to prove the IP67 rating, I've seen the efforts the company went to and I can't see my tests would be any different.

    While it would be ideal to show it in use in the above situation, the reality is NZ doesn't have any snow in the right places .... just yet.

     

    As I mentioned above, sometimes you cannot avoid getting tools wet, and I've had to be extra vigilant with my other meters to avoid testing their waterproofness (or lack of).

    I noted that during Dave Jones torture test he decided to abuse it in his favourite waterfall, and while he never did explain the strange reading, he did show there was no water penetration.

     

    It is surprising just how moisture can ingress into equipment.

    We had some outdoor aerials that had a fibreglass cover, that was machined to fit over three greased O rings.

    After a period in service, they would droop due to moisture build-up  ... despite the protection.

    The theory was that during the day when it was hot, it would expell the air inside, and when the temperature dropped overnight it would have a negative pressure and it would suck cold moist air inside.

    After a long enough period the result was trapped moisture ... ie water.

     

    In the end a drain was drilled at the lowest point and a rubber hose attached to allow the water to escape, and keep the spiders out.

     

    These meters are not designed to live outside, so I'm fairly sure they won't suck the moisture in, but it is surprising how pressure changes can influence things.

     

     

    ACCURACY

    It is important that instruments are accurate.

    Many years ago one of our techs was measuring a DC power supply that had ripple, and his meter was giving him all sorts of strange figures.

    Due to budget and availability his choices were limited, but he ended up buying a Fluke and never looked back.

     

    I'm not in a position to doubt the accuracy of this product or the calibration certificate provided with the meter.

    It is designed as a handheld meter and not a calibration laboratory device, so I can expect there will be a slight variation.

     

    In many cases, is the meter inaccurate, or is it loading the source and therefore giving an unexpected result?

    I've seen the effect of an oscilloscope on circuits where the operator was puzzled by what he/she saw.

    This wasn't the instruments fault, it was accurately showing the result under this condition.

     

    Any digital instrument will always be +- one digit. If the value is between two figures it will need to round up or down, so the more digits the better the accuracy (in theory).

    How accurate do you want it?

    I've seen people chase themselves adjusting something and after spending a whole day, and end up with the same output as when they started.

     

    So without labratory standards, how can I prove the accuracy?

    I worked at a place that wanted to use my Fluke as a source to check others against and they paid to have it calibrated at some cost.

    The calibration sticker was duly applied and it was great ... right up until the batteries needed to be replaced and the sticker (and therefore the calibration cert) was broken.

    Thankfully the U1282A has a seperate compartment so you can have it re-calibrated and the sticker will remain intact next time you change the batteries.

     

     

     

    FEATURES

    In days gone by you had an AVO 8 or if you wanted to measure current, an AVO 7.

    These measured voltages and resistance, were large and considered an industry standard.

    Many service manuals included reference to an AVO.

     

    Nowdays we are spoilt for choice, and just about whatever we want is available, in various price ranges.

    Some have this feature and others include xyz, but do we need all these fancy features they add?

    Why choose the U1282A over others, and how useful is it?

     

    We know it does logging and these features have been very well covered by Shabaz and Douglas Wong.

    Keysight U1282A Vehicle/Automotive and Industrial Applications

    RoadTest the Keysight U1282A Digital Multimeter - Review

     

     

    Some of the more useful items are :-

     

    Vsense

    On occasion I need to be in proximity to mains electricity. This is infrequent enough to still be wary of it.

    I have a Non Contact Voltage stick Product LinkProduct Link  and also a much better version Product LinkProduct Link.

    The Fluke has a lower sensitivity so adjacent powered wiring doesn't cause it to go off in switchboards.

     

    There are two settings on the U1282A (press Range to swap) so it behaves much like the Tenma voltage stick and warns you of the potential danger.

    Hold it next to your light switch and sure enough it tells you there is power there, so you know it isn't the breaker.

     

    Low Pass Filter

    Many of the AC signals are not sinusoidal but consist of high frequency switching components super imposed onto the original waveform.

    This can play havoc with trying to measure the amplitude.

    The ability to switch a 1KHz Low Pass filter in or out means these can be eliminated from the measurement, and potentially identify the reason you are there, much sooner.

     

    The manual had this warning :-

    To avoid possible electric shock or personal injury, do not use the LPF option to verify the presence of hazardous AC voltages.

    AC voltage values greater than what are indicated may be present when the LPF is enabled.

    – First, make an AC voltage measurement without LPF to detect the possible presence of hazardous voltages.

    Then, enable the LPF if required for measurement stability and response speed.

    In some situations there may be a voltage spike that is a lot higher than the filtered or RMS value.

    If you use the LPF and assume that 10v AC won't cause injury, then you touch it and find it has a 100v AC spike .....

    Images For > Electricity Safety Clipart

     

     

     

     

     

     

    image from    Electrical Safety Clip Art - Cliparts.co

     

     

     

     

     

    HOLD

    This is a great feature on any meter.

    We modified our Flukes to include this (simply shift a zero ohm resistor)

    The idea is that it will capture the highest voltage reading and saves you having to look at the display while your head is buried underneath some obstruction.

     

    Frequency

    The feature is more than just Frequency and includes Pulse Width and Duty Cycle while also displaying the voltage.

    The manual has this very useful point

    Measuring the frequency of a signal helps detect the presence of harmonic currents in neutral conductors and determines whether these neutral currents are the result of

    unbalanced phases or non-linear loads.

    High frequency harmonics cause all sorts of unwanted issues and can cause earth currents to flow from distribution points.

     

    For pulse width you can choose the positive going or negative going pulse

      

     

    For Duty Cycle, you can also choose the trigger.

     

    So together these three are far more useful than simply measuring frequency and anyone working with Variable Frequency Drives should find these features very useful.

     

    NULL

    The ability to set a null or reference point means that changes can be more easily detected.

    While the manual suggests it is used for offsetting meter lead resistance, there is no mention of the limits or that it only applies to Ohms.

     

    I've been in situations where you set something intially, adjust some other things and then finally increase by xx.

    Using a null means not having to remember the original reading and then adding xx to it, so it eliminates possible errors.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Size

    We've had a breakdown of the size along with comments.

    I like to compare things against something everyone can relate to, an AA battery.

     

      DSC_0057.JPG DSC_0059.JPG

       No AA batteries were harmed in the making of this comparison ... well except for feelings of inadequacy. (payback comes when 4 gang up to power the beast)

     

    As you can see from the photo it is a tad bigger (well a lot actually).

    If this was a burger you'd photograph it using those special hands ... the ones that make the burger look huge.

    Sadly we live in the reality and it is an ackward size to hold.

     

    I'm not saying this is a bad thing.

    I've been caught out balancing on something holding the meter in one hand and measuring with the other. I slipped and luckily I didn't end up electrocuted, but I do recall banging my arm and the meter dangling by it's lead.

    With this size meter you just wouldn't attempt it. The meter would be supported and the slip wouldn't happen.

    So the size iindirectly becomes a safety feature.

    Back in the old days, you'd never have done it with an AVO ... firstly because they were just too big, and secondly the lead would not have been strong enough!.

     

     

     

    BATTERY

    There are two seperate compartments on the rear. One houses the fuses, and the other the batteries.
    Keysight supply 4 x Maxell AA Alkaline batteries. These aren't the highest rating in this comparison (noting these aren't exactly the same colour) Top 10 Best Performing 1.5V AA Alkaline Batteries - RightBattery.com
    The advertising suggest up to 800 hours.
    There is a little catch in the fine print
    So the key will be how much current the meter draws and how you use it.
    2hrs per day = 400 days or 13 months ... so that's still reasonable compared to some other meters.
    To install the batteries, the first trick is wrestling the orange cover off. The book suggests tackling the top corners first and then working it off.
    DSC_0060.JPG
      This shows the extra moulding to help keep it in place while you drop or throw it around.
    Eventually it comes off and you're able to access the battery compartment screws.
    DSC_0061.JPG
      The two upper black screws attach the battery compartment
    Undo both screws and fold the compartment back with the orange stand attached.
    DSC_0063.JPG
      image showing the rubber seal around the battery compartment
    The rubber seal is rather extensive and serves to help hold the batteries in place. (There is additional moulding on the cover)
    It is flexible enough that you can slip the batteries in without removing it, and the indent shows how the cover has a raised portion that pushes into the seal to prevent any moisture from getting in.
    The brass thread inserts ensure that there are no stripped plastic, and the finer pitch ensures there is a much tighter closing force than a coarse pitch self tapper could provide.

     

     

     

     

    PACKAGING

    To be fair to Keysight, the parts were repacked at element14 HQ, but it appears that the blisterpack the Remote Switch comes in doesn't handle rough treatment.

    For Douglas Wong, his simply broke and some parts ended up in the box, while mine broke on the side and subsequently the plastic cut into the soft rubber of the switch.

    I'm quite certain it will still work, but if this was a purchase, I'd be sending it back for exchange.

     

    DSC_0050.JPGDSC_0048.JPG

      DSC_0053.JPG

    This image shows that it suffered a prolonged beating, so it's no wonder the plastic tried sawing it's way through the rubber.

     

     

    You wouldn't expect to find this hanging on a retail shelf, so the blister packaging isn't absolutely necessary.

    A simple box might survive being packed with a relatively heavy meter and being subjected to the rigors of a courier delivery system.

     

    I did note that the meter also thrashed around and marked up the booklet, so I guess my package got extra special treatment along the way.

    Just as well it survives a 3m fall then.

    In part 2, I will look at the Logging software and some issues I experienced.

     

     

     

    So would I buy one?

    Yes I would.
    I looked at the alternatives and the features and this is certainly a winner.
    It will not suit everyone, but if you are working with mains voltages, you really do need a Cat III meter, so why not spend a little more.
    The price may not suit everyone, but the approach with tools that I've always taken is to buy the most expensive you can afford, even if you think you'll onl use it once.
    This doesn't mean the gold plated special editon at 4 times the price, unless you really want to waste your money.
    If you talk to most older tradesmen, you'll find they have very good quality tools that have served them for their entire career.
    This means that the tools were well built, but they also looked after them.
    so Dave Jones ... stop wrecking meters.
    Mark

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