How to Choose the Right SWR or Power Meter

14Aug17

Combination SWR Meters (sometimes called SWR Bridges) and RF Power meters (also called watt meters) are useful accessories in the ham shack. They provide information about transmitted and reflected power, and Standing Wave Ratio (SWR). Prices can range from about $80 for utility meters to over $500 for commercial grade meters.

Selection Criteria:

Maximum power you will likely be using: Meter reading accuracy is best when the power reading is over half scale. Some meters are for low power only (20 watts) others high power (2,000 watts) and some meters have switch selectable ranges (20 / 200 / 2,000 watts)

Frequencies you will be measuring: Be sure to select a meter designed for the frequency ranges you will be measuring. Some meters are designed for HF and VHF frequencies, others for VHF and UHF frequencies

Ease of viewing: Meters with larger faces are easier to view. Some meters have lighted meter surface for improved viewing in low light environments (typically requiring a 12V DC power source for the lamp)

Single or Cross-Needle Display: Most users find the cross needle variety more convenient. One needle measures forward power, the other needle measures reverse power, and a graph on the face of the meter beneath the point where the two needles cross reads the SWR.

A single needle meter has a switch to select forward or reverse power display.

Accuracy Requirements: Inexpensive SWR / Watt meters are accurate enough for general amateur use, typically better than +- 10%. Where a greater degree of accuracy is needed, a commercial grade directional wattmeter is needed at a significantly higher cost.

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