The Fluke 110 series is Fluke's cheapest "Fluke Branded" line. It's a Fluke so you know you're getting an instrument worth its salt. The 117 is the most feature packed and highest priced in the series. It's a smaller form factor than some of the other Fluke meters. It features all the traditional fields that you'll find on most modern DMMs. Volts AC (True RMS) & DC both to 600V. A full mV range. Resistance, continuity, diode check, capacitence, and frequency. It features Amps AC & DC to 10A however it lacks a mV and uV range since this is an electrician's meter, not an electronics meter. Two more modes it offers are volt alert and LoZ.
What I really like about 117... This is a 6000 count display with 4 updates per second, plus a 33 segment bar graph with 32 updates per second. The bar graph I find extremely responsive and reliable. This is a True-RMS meter as you would expect from Fluke (and any meter in this price range.) That's not such a big deal if you're taking measurements from a clean / pure sine wave source, but if it's distorted or not a sine wave at all, your measurement can be off quite a bit on non-RMS meter. I like this meter's CATIII rating. It has a maximum working voltage of 600V in both AC and DC ranges but let's be honest, when have you ever even seen voltages beyond 500 let alone worked on them. It also has a peak surge rating of 6kV. The CAT ratings are a bit ambiguous but I'll attempt to summarize CATIII. Basically, you can work on panel boards / switch gear and anything down stream of them (i.e. - feeders, outlets, hard wired equipment, and anything plugged into them.) CATIV is the only rating higher and it only adds service drops to the list. So basically CATIII is the MINIMUM rating you want on your meter and you can't probe the main drop from the power company and their meter, but generally once you're on the switched side of your main breaker, you're in CATIII territory. DO NOT exceed the CAT rating of ANY meter because doing so, in a Murphey's Law scenario can cause the meter to catch fire or even explode! The voltage that accompanies the CAT rating isn't all that complicated. It's simply the maximum "working voltage " or "max line voltage" of the meter, maximum surge and destructive voltage can be a little harder to find if not posted in the literature. I love the sturdiness of this meter, it a Fluke, so it's the brick crap house of DMMs. I'm serious, these can really take a beating, one of the tests that fluke touts is their drop tests. It feels good in the hand, and there are some terrific tear down videos on the web if you're interested in the guts of the device. I love the battery access compartment! It's very innovative...no thin wires to worry about yanking out of the PCB. The mode dial is great, it even has an off center design that can be rolled from the side with your thumb. It's big and easy to grip with gloves on. I love the over current protection. Most people fail to realize just how much force 10A can carry, this meter uses a high quality ceramic HRC fuse and all of the standard additional suppression devices to give the user maximum protection. The case is designed with a deep lip as well to protect against debris being blown out the sides in the event of truly catastrophic failure. I love the LoZ Volts range. This is a low impedance voltage test that operates on something close to a 3,ooo Ohm resistance. Very often if you have parallel runs of wiring, if one line is de-energized and other is not. The "dead" line can show a voltage reading on a traditional DMM. Very simply this happens due to induction, but the voltage is at an almost non-existent current level that cannot push through a high resistance resister. I've personally seen 70V on 120V circuits. Flipping to the low impedance mode allows this ghost voltage to dissipate and read what's really on the line (which should be less than half a volt.) One note however, if you use this meter on electronics DO NOT use this mode. The resistance on a PCB in electronics can often be much higher than 3,000 Ohms...you could short out that segment of your board. This is why traditional meters use mega ohm class resistors to test voltage, and most of the time that's fine. So always start out in "normal" volts AC or DC then if ghost voltages are suspect, then switch to the LoZ range.
Features I have no issues with... The continuity check is great! It's a latched system which means you get a positive tone every time a circuit is completed. The response time is excellent as well. The "Volt Alert" is a non-contact voltage detector that functions the same as those pen style testers that have been on the market for years. It's nice test walls for live electrical lines prior to drilling or nailing into them. Also it's handy if you need to trace the path of a run of wire behind a wall. The Amperage range is decent. It's reads .001A to 6.000A in .001A increments and 6.01A to 10.00A in .01A increments in both AC and DC amps ranges. There is no mA nor uA range on this meter as it is geared primarily to electricians. However in my opinion the amperage range is quite useful for a general purpose meter and perfectly geared for electricians. The resistance tester has a good range; going from .01 ohms to 40.00 mega-ohms. The capacitance tester is decent enough. Accuracy isn't too bad for it and its measurement range goes down to 1 nF. Honestly this again is more than enough for a general electrician. Any lower and you really should be looking for something more specialized like and LCR meter. The manual that comes with the 117 is great. It's written typical 9 languages but it's still simple and easy to understand while at the same time give the user all the information and data that they could possibly need about this meter. And of course you should read this start to finish before using your meter for the first time! This meter has good numeric resolution the screen being a 6000 count meter. In brief terms this will display three digits after the MOST significant digit up to that digit being a 6, after that the meter drops to two digits. In other words, it will display 5.999V but once the reading crossed the 6V threshold it will display 6.01V on the screen. This is true at any range. So it drops a digit every factor of 10 up to 600.0 (i.e - 6.000, 60.00, 600.0) That said the accuracy doesn't reflect the screen's numeric resolution. Still though that's pretty standard in handheld meters. This meter has a basic DC volts accuracy of +/- 0.5% +2. "What the heck does that mean?!" Basically, you look at the reading on the display (we'll imagine a reading of 1.000V) and add AND subtract half of a percent to get a range (in our example 0.995V & 1.005V) then you add and subtract 2 counts. A count is the least significant digit displayed on screen. So again with our example, the farthest out our meter should be is 0.993V and 1.007V. Now honestly for precision testing that could be quite a bit, which is why high accuracy bench top meters costs hundreds and even thousands of dollars, however for general purpose, this actually is pretty good. That said, this accuracy falls on a bell curve. In most cases you aren't going to be that far out and in fact will be spot on. There are videos on youtube that show meters being tested against precision voltage references and with every one I've seen on fluke hardware, their always right at the voltage or one count low. As for the rest of the accuracy, AC volts is +/- 1.0% + 3 cts, ohms to 6 mega ohms is 0.9% + 1ct (6-40 mega ohms is 5% + 2), and amperage is 1.5% + 3 (AC) and 1.0% + 3 on DC.
Areas that have room for improvement... The diode check is average (limited to 2V) but past that it works. It's not going to win awards and it's limited but it does work. The frequency measurement could stand to be a little better. It's limited to 50kHz which is low in my opinion. That said, honestly when have you ever NEEDED to measure frequency? And further more when was it ever above 100Hz? The test leads that come with this meter are Fluke TL75's. They are of decent quality but I still have pet peeve. These sell right here on Amazon for roughly $20... The TL71's which are much nicer in both feel and usage are roughly $25... Seriously, tack on the $5 to the MSRP and give us the better leads. That said, they do work and work well. These are CATIII rated as well (which is an issue you need to be aware of with cheaper meters...the meter may have a higher CAT rating than the leads that it comes with.) I might be being a little overly critical here but I did a backlight comparison with my 87-V. I have to say the 117's backlight isn't nearly as bright. It's bright enough, but in a side by side compairison it just felt like it was lacking.
So this section is dedicated to things I don't like about this meter... First is the hold feature. Fluke traditionally offers an "auto hold" feature. I have to say, I'm disappointed they didn't include that feature on this model. With a push button hold, you have to find a way to push a hold button with both of your hands tied up holding probes. Now let's say for instance I used an alligator clip to attach one probe to a bus bar and used the other to probe around. This would leave my other hand free to hold the meter and push the button. But if I could hold the meter, I could just get it in front of my face and LOOK at the digits on the display...completely eliminating the need for a hold feature. The second complaint is with the Fluke company's lack of accessories. This is a common problem with all of their meters and products. No case! I want something to store my meter in! And I don't want to spend 10 or 20 dollars on it either. Just mark the price up another 2 bucks and give us a pouch for our meters here Fluke! A set of alligator clips would've been nice, but alas nope... Sold separately. I have several meters and have them laying around, but I'm speaking from the value standpoint. Honestly though, I have a few Fluke products and a disappointing lack of accessories is actually a common problem. If you find a Fluke Kit for the meter you're interested in at a reasonable price...GET IT! You'll spend more buying cases and lead accessories piece by piece then getting the kit up front. That said, being Fluke's economy line...I don't know of any kits offered for this meter. Go figure...
So assuming you've made it this far I hear your question. This all sounds great but this meter is ~140-$170 and I can get most or all of this in a meter in ~$100-$120 range right? Why should I spend 50 more of my hard earned dollars to get this? Well it can be summed up in three words, "build quality" & "safety". Most manufactures build their equipment to a price that was set the day they started planning to build that instrument (even prior to designing it.) Sure Fluke has a "market" and therefore a "price" in mind, but they build their units to a "standard" first! The final price reflects what it took to get there. Back up in the first section I spoke of safety ratings, this meter is a genuine CATIII meter that is ready for commercial and medium industrial use. To ensure that, Fluke sends every one of their products to every one of the major safety & standards testing groups for testing. That costs money...frankly a LOT of money. That is why Fluke is the industry standard in nearly all commercial and industrial environments and why nearly all electricians have at least one in their tool box. At the end of the day, they know that these units have been tested rigorously and "proven" so that when they need quality and survivability, as well as maximum personal safety these meters will perform. Personally, having seen failures while connected to switch gear with my own eyes, I would use anything BUT a Fluke on CATIII installations. Just about the time the high voltage spike coming down the line causes a flash arc is not the time to be wishing you had something built and TESTED to protect against it. Truly, with all that Fluke has done to make their meters as safe and durable as possible you are actually getting a bargain for the price.