Popular with Chinese and budget buyers is the model 69096 Cen-Tech 7. This basic manual ranging meter has standard test ranges and is good for usage around the home or yard for lower energy testing. Although a bit inaccurate and build quality taking a lot to be desired, it performs quite well for one of the cheapest usable testers on the market.
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Note: If you want to test mains voltage directly or are involved in industry in any way, please pass on this.
- Will measure AC, DC volts
- Measures DC amps
- Measures resistance
- Performs continuity, diode & transistor tests
- Measures capacitance, frequency & duty cycle
- Battery tester
- Low battery indicator
- Auto zeroing
- Over-range indicator
- 9V battery
- Basic instructions on packaging
Online manual for Cen-Tech here
In-depth Review of the Cen-Tech Meter
It allows you to test the main things most people would want in a typical situation – voltage (AC and DC), resistance and continuity. There is also a dedicated battery tester for 1.5V and 9V batteries. Although it touts up to 1000V DC, you would not want to try it. This is especially so with high, three phase AC energies at 480V. Just don’t go there!
The resistance range is okay, at 200Ω to 2000KΩ scales, but you won’t be able to test into mega-ohm levels. You have DC amperage scales, albeit with an unfused 10A range (avoid this) and frequency scales. There is also a transistor check function, though these are a bit gimmicky and tend to be included on cheaper units to make them look more technical.
Accuracy / low battery issue: Be aware that – as with other cheaper meters – the Centech can lose its accuracy as its battery declines in power output. This might be especially pronounced when testing batteries. There is a rudimentary low battery indicator that appears on screen, so heed this and replace as soon as it shows.
Although a beginner meter, it is manual ranging only so the user needs to set the individual range before testing. The scales are clearly marked on the dial, but complete novices may want to go for an auto ranging pocket meter like the UT120C by UNI-T. Although more expensive, this is a better all-rounder.
Manual: Regards the user manual, it doesn’t come with one. There are rudimentary usage instructions on the package, but for better directions you can find the Centech manual on manualslib. It gives an overview of what each criterion does and where to plug in the leads for a given function.
|AC voltage||200V / 750V||±(1.2%+10) @ 45-450Hz|
|DC voltage||200mV / 1000V||±(1.0%+1) @ 200mV-200V|
|DC amps||200µA / 10A||±(1.2%+2) @ 200µA-200mA|
|Resistance||200Ω / 2000KΩ||±(0.8%+2) @ 200Ω-200KΩ|
|Frequency||45Hz / 450Hz|
These are figures in a lab setting that may or may not be achievable in the field. With most jobs this meter is aimed at, you’d rarely need anything better than around 5% accuracy.
The bottom line: Some people rave about these 7-function CenTechs and have trouble-free usage, while others draw the short straw and receive a clunker. If you only need to test batteries, continuity and lower DC voltages, this would be fine where an expensive Fluke would be overkill. If you’re a professional or need to make accurate measurements, this is not the meter for you.
Let’s face it, for a few bucks, you can’t expect too much! Although Centech markets a toughened case, lots of functions and decent CAT rating, etc, these claims should be taken with a pinch of salt. If you get a good one, it may last for years in your toolkit whereas a bad one might not work off the bat.
Leads: The probes are short, low quality and feature custom banana plugs that typically only fit this unit. Insulation is thin and stiff and certainly not capable of carrying high energy.
The internal architecture also leaves a lot to be desired, with rough design and solder work on the boards and an unsure connection with the lead sockets and LCD display. The power button is also a bit cheap. Battery and fuse access is via two screws.
The display is a basic 1/2” LCD with a refresh rate of around 2.5 times per second. The screen resolution is 3 1/2 digit, or 2000 count. You will get a resolution of 19.99V before it loses one digit at 020.0V, for example.
The Cen-Tech 7 Function is fuse protected, albeit on the low amperage side, by a quick-blow 500mA glass fuse. NB: The high, 10A circuit is not protected. When plugged into this input, higher energy DC amperage circuits should only be tested for a few seconds at a time, if at all.
Of category rating, it is CAT-II according to the manufacturer, which would put it at 4kV protection at 600V-to-ground-test energy. Be aware you should not test mains voltage directly on CAT-II rated devices. Circuit board input protection is lacking.
Pros and Cons
- Really cheap
- Has most functions
- Unreliable with low battery
- Suspect build quality
- Dodgy banana plug connections
- No auto-off
- Low CAT rating
The review of the Cen-Tech 7-Function pocket multimeter has a cheap device for testing everyday items in the home, car, bike or boat. Though it has a good rating on Amazon, it can be a roll of the dice whether you get a good one. Great value for money for what it does, but not built to handle serious electrics.
Alternatively: Have a look at Etekcity’s MSR-P600 or Uni-Ts UT120C , both of which are auto ranging though slightly more expensive.