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31 August 2010

Initial Review – Fluke 233 Remote Display Multimeter

Farnell item: Click here
Manufacturer’s page: Click here
User Manual: Click here

Price as reviewed: £269

If the Fluke 233 were a car, it would be a Land Rover - Convertible!

Engineers, as a breed, do not tend to jump from brand to brand. Nor are they susceptible to flashy marketing. There is only one way you will gain their devotion; Quality.

I must hold my hands up here. I have used a Fluke 77 for nearly 20 years. Other than changing batteries now and then, and a couple of fuses (my fault), it has simply been “the meter”. Built to do a job, and it simply gets on with it. So you can imagine then that I was as happy as a pig in mud when Alistair emailed me to say I had won a chance to trial the new Fluke 233. It would be interesting to see how Fluke have progressed over the years. I mean, just how do you improve on perfection?

Let us have a quick look at what you get:

Fluke 233 Remote Display True RMS Multimeter
Fluke Type ‘K’ Thermocouple
1 pair standard Fluke probes.
1 pair croc-clip adaptors
Quick-start sheet
Printed User Manual
CD containing User Manual
Warranty registration card

The meter is supplied already fitted with batteries. Five Duracell AA cells with a use-by date of 2016, so no cheap nasty stuff here! To comply with various shipping regulations, small plastic insulator tags are fitted in the battery compartments. In order to use the meter they must be removed, which is a minute’s work. The display module is slightly tricky, as the compartment lid has a strong magnet built in (to allow it to be mounted on convenient metalwork) which tries to pull the batteries out of their slots.

The supplied probes are standard Fluke Cat III 1kV, Cat IV 600V 10A ones with nice grippy surfaces, finger guards and excellent pointy tips. I am really tempted by the TL910 probes though. Maybe one for the Christmas present list there, along with a canvas case. Seriously Fluke, to ask the buyer of a £269 meter to shell out another £45 for a canvas case is ridiculous.

So far, I have only had the headless monster in my hands for a couple of hours, but it only took a few seconds to realise that Fluke still have their mojo. They say that, with job interviews, you will have won or lost the job within the first minute, and a good deal of that judgement was the initial eye contact and handshake.

Eye Contact.

Fluke have a distinctive style, which many manufacturers try to imitate. A solid grey plastic body with a high density rubber case. Clear lettering. Big, chunky, clear LCD digits. I sense that Fluke's case design people played with Tonka toys as a kid, and probably drive a Land Rover, or possibly a Volvo estate if they are feeling outrageous.

The Handshake.

Solid. I really can’t think of a better word. Giving the case a good twist did make it squeak slightly, but that was the display unit moving almost imperceptibly. Having seen videos of the 233 in action, I did wonder how well the head would fit, but I need not have worried. You squeeze two sturdy clips to remove it, and it slides back together with a secure clunk. You wouldn’t want to drop it on your toes if you were wearing sandals, but then it isn’t going to dent your floorboards either. Like I say – solid.

In fellow Element-14 member Dave Jones’ EEVBlog, he has a few criticisms of the build. Firstly, the 233 doesn’t have a removable protective case. Well, if the meter were shrouded like that, it would be a pain in the posterior removing it every time you wanted use the remote display. Secondly, the desk stand (aka the tilting bail). Yep, it isn’t great. It does feel slightly brittle. I usually use mine flat on the bench anyway. It does slide around slightly on my shiny admin desk, but stays put on my lab bench worktop. Fortunately, evolution provided me with a middle finger and opposable thumb which naturally steadies the meter anyway.

The range select dial is nicely recessed to avoid being accidentally caught, and operates with a really satisfying CLICK. Fluke must have a special click sound research lab. Or maybe they just know what they are doing.


Unique Selling Point

The ‘big thing’ about the Fluke 233 is obviously the ability is has to run with the meter in one place, and the display in an entirely different room. The claimed range is 10M. In my experience these claims seem rather exaggerated. I will put that to the test! The LCD is large and clear. The backlight, whilst not blindingly bright, is white and perfectly up to the job. The backlight timeout can be defeated by holding the backlight button down when you turn it on. Its range is 6000 counts, which is rather modest in comparison to the 87 and 287, which have ranges of 20,000 and 50,000 counts respectively. If you press the polycarbonate display window quite hard, it does distort the upper part of the display where it contacts the chassis, but other than that the LCD is stood off from the window by a good 2mm or so.

So far, so good. I will play around with it over the weekend and then put it into proper use next week. I most certainly will not be dropping it off bridges or going canyoning in the Yorkshire Dales with it. Watch this space!

I will leave you with some stats from the User Manual:

DC voltage      Range   0.1 mV to 1000 V  Accuracy    0.25 % + 2
AC voltage      Range   0.1 mV to 1000 V  Accuracy    1.0 % + 3
DC current      Range   1 mA to 10 A      Accuracy    1.0 % + 3
AC current      Range   1 mA to 10 A      Accuracy    1.5 % + 3
Resistance      Range   0.1 Ω to 40 MΩ
Capacitance     Range: 1 nF to 9999 μF    Resolution: 1nF
Frequency       Range: 5 Hz to 50 kHz     Resolution: 0.01Hz
Counts          6000

Power           AA batteries: Three for main body; two for display
Battery life    400 hours

Mike Cowgill
Design Engineer,

Dave Jones' EEVBlog on the Fluke 233 can be found here:

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