The award winning Agilent U1253B is a feature-packed multimeter/data logger. Able to troubleshoot complicated electrical and electronic circuits, it is a must for professionals looking for a bench replacement that is both highly accurate and has great resolution.
This 50000-count meter has a sharp, dual OLED display and is loaded with functions. It has all the main measurements, including wide voltage and current ranges, as well as a high range frequency counter and square-wave generator. With Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones, it can log wirelessly and remotely. Check out the rest of this Agilent U1253B review (or Keysight as they are known now) below.
- Wide-view angle, dual organic LED display
- Max 50000-counts resolution
- AC /DC: 50mV to 1000V, 500µA to 10A ranges
- True RMS AC
- AC+DC measurements
- DC voltage accuracy to 0.025%
- 20MHz frequency counter
- Auto / manual ranging
- Advanced data logging
- Peak hold function
- Square-wave generator
- Remote monitoring through Bluetooth
- Safety rated to CATIV (600V), CATIII (1000V)
- CE / CSA certified
- Numerous extra functions
- Closed case calibration
- Size: 8″ (204mm) x 3.7″ (94mm) × 2.3″ (59mm)
- Weight: 18.8oz (532g) – including battery
- U1253B Multimeter
- Rechargeable Ni-MH battery (8.4V)
- Battery power pack, adapter
- 4mm probe leads
- Alligator clips
- Calibration certificate
- Quick start guide
- Software (or download from Keysight)
Complete Review of the Agilent U1253B
The U1253B is not to be confused with the U1252B, which doesn’t have the fancy OLED display. Both have excellent 4.5-digit, high resolution screens, however, and are very versatile for fault-finding.
You can measure both AC and DC current and voltage – 500µA-10A, 50mV-1000V – respectively, along with resistance to 500MΩ, capacitance to 100mF and frequency to a whopping 20MHz. In addition, conductance range is up to 500nS, and there’s a wide and accurate temperature range with either Type-K or Type-J thermocouples.
The diode checker on the Agilent U1253B puts out 3V, so you can also check white LEDs. The audible continuity tester is adjustable, too, although it could be more responsive. You can test in auto or manual ranging modes, with the manual ranging option being quicker.
This is a True RMS multimeter for AC voltage as well as for AC current, so you get accurate readings for square and triangle waves, as well as for standard sine waves. There is also a built-in square-wave generator.
Also onboard are duty cycle and pulse width ranges, min/max/average dynamic record readings, auto data hold, peak hold, relative mode, decibel power ratio measurements (dBm), and more. With all this functionality, this meter is power-hungry (especially the powerful display) and thus features a rechargeable Ni-MH battery. Charging is in-house through an included, small power supply unit.
DC voltage – 7 ranges (50mV / 1000V): ~±(0.025%+5)
Resolution: from 0.001mV @ 50mV range
DC current – 6 ranges (500μA / 10A): ±(0.05% / 0.3% +5)
Resolution: from 0.01μA @ 500μA range
AC voltage – 7 ranges (50mV / 1000V): ~±(1%+40)
Resolution: from 0.001mV @ 50mV range
AC current – 6 ranges (500μA / 10A): ±(0.8%+20) @ 45Hz-2kHz
Resolution: from 0.01μA @ 500μA range
Resistance – 7 ranges (500Ω / 500MΩ): ±(0.05%+10 / 8%+10)
Resolution: from 0.01Ω @ 500Ω range
Conductance – 500nS ±(1%+10)
Capacitance – 8 ranges (10nF / 100mF): ±(1%+8 / 3%+10)
Resolution: 0.001nF @ 10nF range
Frequency – 5 ranges (99.999Hz / 999.99kHz): ±(0.02%+3)
Resolution: 0.001Hz @ 99.999Hz range
Duty cycle DC – (0.01% to 99.99%): (0.3%/kHz +0.3%)
Duty cycle AC – (5% to 95%): (0.3%/kHz +0.3%)
Pulse width – 2 ranges (500ms / 2000ms): ±(0.2%+3)
Temperature Type-K – -328°F / -200°C to 2502°F / 1372°C: ±1%
Temperature Type-J – -346°F / -210°C to 2502°F / 1372°C: ±1%
Diode – 3V (1.04mA): ±(0.05%+5cts)
Input impedance – typically 10MΩ on most ranges
NOTE: ‘+’ = plus number of least significant digits, or counts
You can log all sorts of data with the Keysight U1253B and send it to a computer, or wirelessly to a smartphone. Measure voltage or current draw on an appliance, for example, or the temperature of an oven, including intermittent signals through dynamic recording.
It can measure for over 27 hours continuous and can average out a reading on erratic inputs. Logged data is shown on the primary display and elapsed time on the secondary display. Data is saved even when the meter is turned off.
For data logging connectivity to a PC, you’ll need to purchase a separate cable – to USB port. For Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones, you’ll need to purchase a separate adapter, which is attached to the infrared port on the rear of the multimeter. The associated app can be downloaded from Keysight.
To lock a value. An auto-touch hold feature also lets you record the peak of a changing value and will emit a tone when it does so. Note that the bar graph does not freeze.
The peak hold function measures peak voltage to determine the crest factor on voltage and current, to 1ms. Good for analyzing peaks in power factor correction capacitors or distribution transformers, for example.
This is relative mode, which compares (subtracts) a stored value from the current (now) measurement and will automatically display the difference. The Null function is also used to zero the display when in resistance mode to cancel out the natural resistance within the probe leads.
SQUARE WAVE OUTPUT
Check and calibrate oscilloscopes, tachos, frequency converters, flow meter displays and so on. Also generate a pulse width modulation output.
This is used to get a more stable reading when the value being measured is changing fast, such that the quick refresh rate gives an erratic reading. Can be set form normal to slow or fast and is good for all range functions, apart from frequency counter and capacitance.
Measures temperature while on most ranges, with value read on single display mode as well as in dual display configuration. Compatible with Type-K and Type-J thermocouples and has a generous range.
The U1253B can be calibrated closed-case, with no internal adjustments needed. It is recommended to get it calibrated annually
There are many other configurable settings on the Agilent, such as changing Thermocouple type, the tone of the continuity buzzer, backlight brightness, power-on melody, log time, auto power-off, and so on.
Good for everyday tasks and with a high category rating, the U1250 series of Keysight meters are built to industrial standard and certified to CE and CSA. While perhaps not as rugged as the Fluke 87 series, they have robust enclosures with incorporated rubber guards. The tilting bail is a nice touch as it has 60- and 30-degree tilt angles.
The (screw-less) battery compartment is easily accessible on the rear and although it has no solid terminals to the board, it is rechargeable so won’t need to be changed so often. The U1253B is not groundbreaking inside and although the circuit board is well designed and protected, it is a pain to get at the fuses.
Display and Labels
The Agilent U1253B is apparently the world’s fist OLED (organic LED) dual display multimeter. It is a 4.5-digit, 50000-count display with a dual mode that can also display, say, temperature at the same time as a range is being measured/displayed. The screen is bright and very clear in normal ambient light and has a 2000:1 contrast ratio and a viewing angle of 160°.
Both the primary and secondary displays are 50000-count and have a screen update (refresh) rate of seven times per second. This increases to a whopping 14 times per second when measuring resistance.
While it reads well, the OLED display is perhaps somewhat restricted to indoors work as it is a struggle to read the display in sunlight. With that, this screen also requires a lot of power – perhaps akin to a having a permanent backlight on a normal meter – and thus wears down the battery fast.
U1252B LCD SCREEN
There is an LCD version available of this multimeter for those who prefer a better battery life and are not too fused at missing out on OLED. The U1252B (as opposed to the 3B) also comes with a really good backlight.
ANALOG BAR GRAPH
The U1253B has a responsive bar graph beneath the dual display, emulating the action of an analog meter. The refresh rate is even quicker than that of the main display so is ideal for monitoring fast-changing values.
The screen also displays a wealth of icons, such as range read, logged data, dynamic recording mode, relative values, charging/discharging capacitor, battery indicator and so on.
Despite its many features, the U1253B looks more uncluttered than most test meters. It has a handful of buttons and a busy dial selector, but it is intuitive, with buttons, dial and input jacks all nicely arranged and labeled.
Function and Performance
The Keysight U1253B is essentially like any other multimeter, with a central dial for selecting the various input ranges, including AC/DC voltage and current, resistance and frequency. A Shift button changes between functions on a given range, such as capacitance to temperature.
Despite the big power consumption, this is a fast meter when in manual range mode. While auto ranging is a bit slower, the accuracy and precision are excellent.
Power: it consumes a maximum of 420mVA, which is quite high and is mainly due to its OLED screen. The battery is an 8.4V rechargeable Ni-MH type, which can also be set to 7.2V. The charging point is built in (plug into the common / mA jacks) and it comes with a charger.
Auto power-off: you can set a timer between 1 and 99 minutes, though it will not power down while actively data logging.
Continuity beeper: can be set to a single beep or a tone, as well as set to short or open modes.
- OFF / Charge Mode
- AC V
- DC V / AC+DC V
- DC mV, AC mV / AC+DC mV
- Resistance / Conductance / Continuity
- Diode Test / Frequency Counter
- Capacitance / Temperature
- DC μA, AC μA / AC+DC μA
- DC mA, DC A, AC mA, AC A / AC+DC mA, AC+DC A
- Square Wave Out / Duty Cycle / Pulse Width Out
SELECT / SETUP: change between dial selector ranges / setup mode
HOLD / Max, Min: various hold modes / dynamic record mode & max/min/avg
View / *: screen brightness / Log review mode
NULL / Peak: relative mode / peak hold mode
RANGE: manual ranges / auto ranging
DUAL: dual combination displays / exit dual display and Hold, Null, etc
Hz / Log: Frequency Test mode / manual-auto data logging modes
A (10A max – red)
μA mA/CHG/OUT (micro-amps milliamps/bat charge/square wave out – red)
COM (common – black)
Ω/ V/mV/Cap/Temp etc (main terminal – red)
Incorrect range warning: there is an audible and visual warning when the input leads are plugged into the wrong jack terminals when an incorrect function is selected.
The Agilent U1253B is built using tough plastics. It doesn’t have a rubber boot or holster like most test meters, but comes with ergonomic rubber protection in bang areas. Electrically, the U1253B is rated to category III at 1000V (to building installations) and to category IV at 600V (source work, like electricity meters). It can operate over a wide ambient temperature range, from –4°F to 131°F. The PCB has input protection components as well as a slot for input isolation.
The fuses in this meter are heavy duty, ceramic, high rupture capacity type, able to withstand 30kV spikes. The main current fuse is a 38mm 11A HRC. The milliamp range is protected by a 35mm 440mA HRC fuse. Both fuses are rated 1000V to ground and are fast blow.
Users can check the status of the fuses from the meter interface. Simply set to resistance and place the probe on the A and the mA jack inputs on at a time. A resistance reading means the fuse is okay, while OL (over limit) means it has blown.
Who is it Best Suited To?
This is a professional multimeter with numerous functions that put it on par with more advanced, bench-type meters. It is best for electricians and electronics technicians working outside of heavy industry, and preferably not in the field where a power supply might not be readily available. While not really for beginners, the standard measurement ranges apply to the U1253B as they do to most other multimeters and it is easy to use.
Pros and Cons of the Agilent U1253B
- Very accurate
- Superb functionality
- Wireless data logging
- High safety ratings
- Excellent, dual display
- Touch hold feature
- Fast capacitance range for a multimeter
- Rechargeable battery
- Nice probes and leads – sharp tips
- Alligator clips
NOT SO GOOD
- Low battery life – around 8 hours
- Auto ranging speed disappointing
- Sluggish continuity range
- No temperature probes
- Have to buy PC cable / Bluetooth adapter for connectivity
- Pretty expensive
Differences with Other Agilent/Keysight Models
U1253B vs U1253A Difference
Other than being more modern and a different color, there is little change in key capabilities of the B version over the A version. The B is more a renewal of the U1250 series. The specs are roughly the same, with a slight difference in the AC voltage range and input impedance. The A is more useful for measuring higher frequency AC voltages and has higher input impedance <1V, as opposed to a standard 10MΩ for the U1253B.
B: orange / black
A: blue / grey
U1253B vs U1252B Difference
The main difference in the U1253B over the U1252B is the screen. The 2B has a traditional LCD display, albeit with the same 50000 counts. Accuracy and functionality is also the same. With the LCD display, there is less battery draw, however. A full charge lasts roughly 36 hours compared with a nominal 8 hours for the 3B. Better battery life again is achieved on the U1251B.
The U1252B has a backlight, which is very good and lights up orange. The 2B is also cheaper than the 3B as a result. In short, the U1252B is perhaps better in the field than the U1253B, which would be better for the bench.
Typical Battery Life
U1253B: 8 hours
U1252B: 36 hours
U1251B: 72 hours
On this Agilent U1253B review, we discovered that it is ideal for those who require very accurate and reliable readings for electrics and electronics work. However, it is not quite as rugged as a comparable Fluke for industry (such as the 87V). More suited to bench work, its OLED display struggles in sunlight and the battery life is a bit lacking, needing periodic recharges.
Data logging: In order for the U1253B to communicate with a PC or smartphone for data logging storage and analysis, there are optional parts to buy:
USB cable: U1173A
Bluetooth adapter: U1117A
The Keysight Mobile Logger app is free.
Temperature: K-Type and J-Type thermocouple probes for measuring temperature are also not included with the meter.