Oscilloscope VS Multimeter: Which One is More Advanced?

If you’re an electrician or a technician, having the right electrical meter for your job is a no-brainer. This is because they will help you to execute your job flawlessly and accurately. Having the correct information while working on electrical appliances or even live wires is crucial. You don’t want to mess around as you can hamper your instrument and put yourself in danger.

Best Oscilloscope MeterHANMATEK 100Mhz

Best MultimeterFluke 117

Some of the automotive electrical tools you can use to handle your electrical tasks are oscilloscope and multimeter. Typically, people prefer having one tool instead of multiple tools. This is understandable as they can be heavy to carry around. But which tool should you select between an oscilloscope and a multimeter?

Summary of Contents

Features Comparison: Oscilloscope VS Multimeter

Both of these tools perform various functions, but the multimeter can measure multiple parameters than the oscilloscope. On the other hand, the oscilloscope can only measure voltage but with lots of details. A multimeter can measure AC voltage, current, resistance, and continuity. If the multimeter is more advanced, it can even measure temperature, capacitance, diodes, and much more.

With this comparison post, choosing your best electrical device shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve featured some of the similarities and differences of the oscilloscope and digital multimeter so that you can have a brief time picking the right electrical tool.  

What are the similarities between an oscilloscope and a multimeter?  

  • The main similarity between an oscilloscope and a multimeter is that both electronic tools give technicians and other users vital information about a circuit or a power source. This can be an outlet, a battery, a switch, a motherboard, or even live wires.
  • Another similarity between an oscilloscope and a multimeter is that both electrical devices have analog and digital models on offer. Analog meters are cheaper than digital models. If you want to conduct many tests, the digital oscilloscope and digital multimeter units are the best.

Differences between an oscilloscope and a multimeter 

Oscilloscope  Multimeter 
An oscilloscope gives you a depth of information, such as visually depicting waveforms to reveal signal strength, wave shape, or instantaneous value of a signal.  A multimeter only displays numbers and nothing more. 
An oscilloscope can measure the voltage at the same time. A multimeter can only measure one parameter at a time. 
An oscilloscope measures the voltage alone.  A multimeter measures voltage, resistance, frequency, current, and much more.  
An oscilloscope is not as precise as a multimeter.  A multimeter provides more accurate outcomes than an oscilloscope. 
It’s very heavy and bigger than a multimeter.  Most multimeters are more compact than oscilloscopes. Besides, they are also lighter. 
It’s relatively expensive.  A multimeter normally is cheaper than an oscilloscope. 


About an oscilloscope

An oscilloscope is an electrical device that can visually depict waveforms to show signal strength, wave shape, or the signal’s instantaneous value. Furthermore, this instrument can indicate a transient or a harmonic signal that can compromise the operation.

Related article: What Are The Feature Differences Between Clamp Meter and Multimeter?

Most oscilloscope tools are best suited for troubleshooting systems that might contain complex signals that send at speeds much faster than a multimeter can capture. Besides, these electrical devices have much faster measurement engines and much broader measurement bandwidths than multimeters.

Moreover, oscilloscopes can visually display complex signals, but they usually don’t have the resolution and accuracy that advanced digital multimeters offer. Most oscilloscopes typically have a resolution equivalent to a 3.5 to 4 digit digital multimeter. This is nowhere close to what a DMM provides.

It’s important to note that there are different types of oscilloscopes on the market. Even though most of them are big and bulky, they also have a few portable units. Additionally, some oscilloscopes models are powered by a battery, while others come with built-in multimeters.

Without a doubt, the oscilloscope is the best tool for individuals who want details of the measurement. This is because it will show the value of a wave at the moment, and it also indicates the shape, voltage, and frequency of the wave. With such information, transient information that possesses a potential threat to the system will be discovered and isolated.  Another thing that this device shown is the possible distortion and noise in the signal.

About a multimeter

A digital multimeter is a device for making accurate measurements of discrete signals, allowing readings of up to eight digits of resolution for a signal’s voltage, frequency, or currency. Besides, a digital multimeter comes in various types, such as high accuracy, line-powered, and bench-type models meant for field use. These types of multimeters are utilized in laboratories, usually for research and development or for production systems.

A highly advanced digital multimeter such as Fluke 325 AC-DC TRMS or Fluke 289 multimeter can cost as much as a portable oscilloscope. However, a standard oscilloscope will cost three times or even more than a multimeter. Some advanced oscilloscopes cost even ten times than their multimeter counterpart.

Related article: Multimeter VS Voltmeter: Which Is Better For you?

The good news is that multimeters provide accuracy and outstanding resolution. For instance, a handheld digital multimeter typically offers 3.5 to 4.5 digits of resolution and excellent accuracy. On top of that, they are portable and lightweight, usually used for front-line measuring and general-purpose measurements. They also feature advanced functions, like relative frequency, fast minimum/maximum, duty cycle/pulse width, conductance, and logging, for special-purpose testing.

Final thoughts

Both the oscilloscope and multimeter are two vital tools for people who deal with electrical devices. However, the multimeter is ideal for individuals who want precise values of different electrical parameters, such as HFE, voltage, resistance, and current. On the contrary, the oscilloscope is best suited for individuals who wish to get depths of information at their fingertips. This gadget will analyze an electrical signal and plot how the voltage varies over time.

Generally, it would help if you had both of these devices. You will need a Fluke 87V multimeter for precise and vast measurements, while the oscilloscope will give you depths of information. With this data, you can make the right decision based on your needs and budget. But if you have the money and deal with electrical circuits a lot, having both of these tools is worthwhile.


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