Multimeter vs Oscilloscope: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Function: A multimeter measures electrical quantities such as voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and continuity. It provides numerical readings and is commonly used for troubleshooting and general electrical measurements. On the other hand, an oscilloscope visualizes and analyzes electronic signals, displaying voltage waveforms on a screen to observe signal characteristics and changes over time.
  2. Display: A multimeter has a digital display that shows numeric values for measured quantities, giving instantaneous readings. An oscilloscope has a graphical display that shows voltage waveforms as graphs, visually representing the signal’s time-varying characteristics.
  3. Application: Multimeters are versatile for electrical work, electronics troubleshooting, circuit testing, and general measurement tasks. Oscilloscopes are essential for analyzing and troubleshooting circuits, testing electronic equipment, designing and debugging digital systems, and studying complex waveforms in electronics, telecommunications, engineering, and research.

What is a Multimeter?

A multimeter is a tool to be used to measure electrical values. Another name for it is the volt-ohm meter or VOM. It measures voltage, current, and resistance. It comes with a digital display and is widely used as a tool to troubleshoot electrical problems. It can be applied in electronics, household electrical systems, and automotive repair.


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Multimeters can measure both DC and AC voltage and DC and AC. It is designed to come with a set of probes. Now these probes can be connected to the circuit being tested. The probes are equipped with various settings to adjust for range and accuracy.

Multimeters are not very complex, and as a result, anyone can use them, including hobbyists and professionals. This tool is an important element of an electrical toolbox. Its model also varies; it can be handheld and benchtop.

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What is an Oscilloscope?

The name o-scope also knows as an oscilloscope. Like a multimeter, it is also a tool that measures electrical signals. However, it calculates and analyzes electrical signals over time. Once it captures the signals,  you will see them in its display as a graph. This graph’s horizontal axis depicts time, and the vertical axis denotes the signal’s amplitude.

Various signals can also be measured. AC and DC voltages, current, frequency, and phase. Apart from this, more complex signals such as pulses, square waves, and sinusoidal waves can be used with it too. One can adjust features to get accurate measurements.

Users can visualize the signal’s characteristics, like frequency, shape, and amplitude. It can be applied to a broad range of applications. It can be electronics design and testing. The size and capacities of this tool are diverse too. Fields such as scientific research and telecommunications use it extensively.

This tool also offers various bandwidths. The bandwidth can vary from a few megahertz to several gigahertz. These are responsible for specifying the signal’s highest frequency to be accurately measured.

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Difference Between Multimeter and Oscilloscope

  1. A multimeter is made to measure voltage, current, and resistance, whereas an oscilloscope is for measuring voltage changing over time.
  2. An oscilloscope is more sensitive compared to a multimeter. It can detect smaller signals.
  3. Both differ in their display as well. Multimeters come with digital displays, while oscilloscopes carry graphical displays.
  4. Both work better with different currents. While multimeters deliver more accurate measurements for DC voltage, current, and resistance, oscilloscopes, at the same time, report AC voltage and frequency more accurately.
  5. Using a multimeter is easy, and one does not need technical knowledge, but in the case of an oscilloscope, the user mandates technical knowledge to operate.
  6. The cost of a multimeter is less compared to an oscilloscope.

Comparison Between Multimeter and Oscilloscope

Parameter of ComparisonMultimeterOscilloscope
UsageIt calculates voltage, current, and resistance.It measures voltage that changes over time.
Frequency of measurementIt can measure frequencies up to 10kHz.It can measure higher frequencies.
DisplayIt has a digital display.It has a graphical display.
PurposeIt is the best fit when it comes to basic electrical troubleshooting and maintenance.It is the best fit when it comes to advanced electronic design, testing, and troubleshooting.
OperationIt is easier to use.It needs the user to retain technical knowledge.
SensitivityIt is less sensitive, and as a result, it can not detect small signals.It is sensitive and, therefore, can detect small signals.
ExpenseIt is less expensive.It is more expensive.
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