Smart, convenient and clever: the new ToolSmart tools from General have a lot going for them. The launch lineup includes a digital multimeter (DMM), laser distance measurer, digital angle finder and a video inspection camera. They can all be used as stand alone tools. But they can also send data wirelessly to the free iOS and Android mobile app, opening up a whole new world of awesome that you’re sure to love. General Tools & Instruments provided their new ToolSmart line for me to evaluate in this sponsored review. So c’mon, let’s check these babies out!
The Digital Multimeter
ToolSmart model TS04 (MSRP $49.98) is a compact, auto-ranging multimeter with all the features you’d expect from a good quality DMM. Plus some. I spent over 22 years of my life as a consumer electronics technician. I know the value of a good DMM. But this isn’t just a repair tech’s tool; any electrician or homeowner will find this unit to be a welcome addition to their arsenal.
All the standard functions are present and accounted for: voltage, current, resistance, diode check and continuity buzzer. Over the years, I’ve encountered many batteries and wall warts that appear just fine with a regular voltmeter, only to collapse to near-zero voltage the instant a load is applied. The TS04 load tests 1.5V and 9V batteries for a much more accurate measurement.
NCV = A-OK
As a tech, one of my favorite (and lamest) one-liners was to implore others not to “lick the red wire.” With the non-contact voltage (NCV) detector – one of the DMM’s feature gems – you won’t have to lick any of the wires: red or otherwise.
By placing the top end of the meter within close proximity of household wiring, an electrical outlet or extension cord, the DMM will sense and indicate the presence of line voltage with a flashing red LED and beeping sound. This is a great way to quickly check whether 110VAC (or higher) electrical wiring and outlets are energized. And it simplifies the process of locating a line break.
The DMM also comes with a “K” type bead thermocouple probe to measure surface temperatures in °F or °C. This is useful for seeing how hot motors, circuit breakers and other devices are running and to make sure they aren’t at risk of thermal overload. Or maybe you need to verify that the freezer is sufficiently cold. Probe away; the usable range with the included thermocouple is -4 °F to 500 °F (-20 °C to 260 °C)! With a more heat tolerant probe, the upper limit is much higher.
While each tool is a stand-alone unit that can be used without the app, the ToolSmart app takes them to the next level. A single app is used with all four tools and each benefits from it in unique ways. From the top, I should mention that the Android version of the app (the one I used) was not quite completed at the time of my review. As such, a lot of the features were unavailable for my hands-on testing. I’ll let you know as I get to them.
OK, so what could an app possibly do to improve the functionality of a digital multimeter? Good question; I’m glad you asked! For starters the app displays the meter’s readings – and previous readings – in real time on your smart phone or tablet. You can quickly save your readings in a log and label and sort them into “projects”. The app also provides an Ohms law and average temperature calculator, into which you can manually enter or drag and drop your measured values.
A particularly interesting feature is that your voltage, current and temperature readings can be overlayed onto a photograph of the area of interest. This feature was not yet operable during my tests. But if it works half as well as the tutorial information and screen shots suggest, it’s going to be a pretty sweet. In moments, you can annotate a photo of the project – showing what you found and the exact meter readings – and text or email it to the customer. Or just use it for your own reference or a service report. Little touches like that can make your business stand out from the crowd.
The Video Inspection Camera
The ToolSmart TS03 Video Inspection Camera (MSRP $129.98) is not intended for endoscopy. But, it will definitely allow you to peer inside of some tight cracks and other spaces that would otherwise be a real pain in the butt to access. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a borescopic inspection camera.
This unit has a 3 foot long, 8mm diameter goose neck that houses a waterproof camera lens and 4 white variable brightness LEDs, allowing you to get inside of walls, duct work and other tight spaces. It features a 2.7” full color LCD screen and requires only a small entry hole. Why bust open a wall to see what’s inside when you could just drill a small, easy to patch hole? Three handy attachments are included as well: A 45° mirror, a magnet and a hook tool.
With The App
As with the other tools in the ToolSmart line, the app adds a whole other layer of functionality. Unlike the other three tools – which employ Bluetooth technology – this one connects by creating its own WiFi hotspot. The great thing about using the inspection camera with the app is the ability to capture and save photos and video. It also provides a live view, adding a second screen that you can position as needed or to allow someone else a convenient way to see what’s going on. The snapshot function works great. The video record function is another aspect of the app that wasn’t quite finished at the time.
Angling For Perfection
The next tool up for consideration is the TS02 Digital Angle Finder (MSRP $49.98). Fundamentally, this is a really precise inside/outside angle finder; a protractor with a digital readout.
A Crown Jewel
The portion of the app dedicated to this tool was non-operational during my evaluation period. So I’ll tell you what the app does, according to the General. As a stand-alone tool, it’s essentially perfect and accurate to 0.3°. But the real power is unleashed by the app, to which the tool sends real time angle measurements that can save, label and organize, just like with the DMM. You can even overlay them onto a photo of the area to eliminate costly mix-ups.
If you ever install crown moulding, the TS02 Digital Angle Finder will greatly simplify your life. Just make your corner measurements and the app tells you exactly how to set up your saw for perfect corners every time. No more complicated charts to misread and expensive crown moulding going to waste.
Laser Distance Measurer
Lastly (but definitely not least), the TS01 Laser Distance Measurer (MSRP $69.98) is an impressively accurate and easy to use tool. Measure the length of a room or distance to a target object up to 100ft with the press of a button in your choice of four measurement units: inches, feet with fractional inches, feet with decimal fractions and meters.
Triangulation And More
Triangulation is the secret to indirectly measuring heights and lengths when you don’t have a suitable reference target to reflect the laser beam or simply can’t get close enough to make direct measurements. For instance, say we want to measure the height of a tree or building or the length of an inaccessible wall. All it takes is a few button presses and the laser distance measurer does the math for you.
Not only can the tool effortlessly perform Pythagorean calculations, it will also calculate perimeters, areas and volumes. With the app (the laser distance measurer aspects of the app were not operational during my evaluation period), the calculations can be saved and used to determine how much paint (even accounting for multiple coats, doors and windows), flooring, drywall and other materials are needed for the job at hand. This extremely handy feature eliminates the guesswork and errors in pricing and purchasing for a job. You can also overlay measurements over photos, just like with the other tools.
All four tools are winners in my book. Each performed flawlessly during my tests. Granted, I was unable to fully experience the app. However, I honestly find each tool to be worth the asking price, even without the app. Throw the app and wireless connectivity into the mix and these excellent tools become even more extraordinary.
If the completed app works as well as the tools (and the app features I could test) – which I have every reason to think it will – ToolSmart is a sure bet that will delight any contractor or DIY’er. All in all, you really can’t go wrong.