Digital tape measures take an old school tool and bring it into the 21st century, substituting a laser for the traditional tape, and increasing range and accuracy at the same time. Because of this, they can make your job easier and faster, making them a great overall investment.
Shopping online is supposed to make the buying process faster and easier, but it often has the opposite effect. Manufactures write product descriptions that are designed to sell their merchandise no matter the cost, and that leads to misleading situations where you hear all the things that are good about a tool, but never any of the bad.
Our reviews are designed to give you a complete picture of each digital tape measure so that you know what you’re getting before you buy. We’ve also created a buyer’s guide, which will walk you through everything you need to know about digital tape measures so that you can buy like a pro.
|DEWALT DW03050 165-Feet|
|Leica DISTO E7100i 200ft||9 oz||4.7/5|
|Bosch GLM 35 Laser Distance Measure|
(Best for the Money)
|General Tools LTM1 2-in-1||12 oz||4.3/5|
|eTape16 ET16.75-db-RP||10 oz||4.0/5|
The DEWALT DW03050 165-Feet digital tape measure is a workhorse and a half. It can measure out to 165 feet from the unit and can triangulate measurements based on positions you don’t have direct access to. It can also do automatic area and volume calculations, which will be invaluable in some fields, and can also store the last five calculations for easy reference. The display is also backlit, which gives you the ability to work in dim or bright conditions and still see the screen. You can also set it to give measurements in feet and inches, inches-only, or in meters. Switching between the measurements can be invaluable as you switch between activities.
What keeps this model from perfection is its underwhelming instructions. This device comes with an instruction manual on a CD, but both Mac and PC users report having trouble getting it to run. You can potentially find the manual on DEWALT’s website, but it would be better if the CD was updated to work with more computers. However, this model still works very well. If you’re looking for a good all-around digital tape measure, then you won’t be disappointed with this model’s performance.
The Leica DISTO E7100i 200ft is another great digital tape measure. It provides up to 200 feet of measuring distance, giving it the longest range of any digital tape measure on our list. While you can’t hope to get that distance outdoors, that would be extremely useful for measuring the interior of large buildings. This model is also Bluetooth-enabled. This allows you to directly import your measurements onto a phone or tablet of your choice for further analysis. This model can also do automatic area and volume calculations, saving you some time on the backend.
It also comes with a min-max mode. Just scan an area, and it will determine the closest or furthest point along that line, which can be very useful with irregular walls. What keeps this model out of first is the fact that it’s irregularly-shaped and won’t sit flush against a wall. That’s inconvenient enough to cost it a spot on our list, despite the rest of its great features. However, if you can make use of the expanded range or Bluetooth compatibility, then the slightly higher price will be justified in your case, and this is the model which you’ll want to get.
The Bosch GLM 35 Laser Distance Measure is the model which you want to get if you don’t need the most distance on the market and want to save some money along the way. This model can measure distances up to 120 feet away, which is very respectable, though not as good as the top two models on our list. It also comes with simple operation that only requires you to press a single button. Like the previous two models, it includes the ability to calculate the area and volume of a room.
Also included is a backlit display which makes this device readable in both bright and dark conditions, though it isn’t as strong as the display on our top model. What ultimately keeps this inexpensive, but effective, model out of the top two is the fact that it requires more steadiness than the other two models to give a good reading. Even small movements can lead to big inaccuracies, so you need to be very steady to get good data. However, when you use it correctly, you get good readings, and for the price, it would be hard to find a better deal on a digital tape measure.
The General Tools LTM1 2-in-1 gives you some of the functionality of a measuring tape, as well as giving you a laser for digital tape measurements. It’s really simple to use. Press the only button once to turn it on and press it a second time to take a measurement. It’s that simple. It also can measure out to about 50 feet. That makes it good for indoor use. However, it’s not bright enough to work consistently outside, which isn’t uncommon in the mid and low tiers of digital tape measures.
Far worse is the narrow real tape included in this model. It’s not a full inch wide and means all the markings are squashed down into a tight space, and it’s also easier to hold and manipulate a wider tape, so there’s some value lost versus a regular tape measure. It also features a laser that is mounted relatively high on the casing, which makes it harder to get a clean read relative to other models. This isn’t a terrible tool, but it ultimately doesn’t work as well as a regular or digital tape measure would work on their own, which is what drops this model to fourth place.
The eTape16 ET16.75-db-RP is a novel take on an old tool. It’s a digital manual tape measure, so pulling the tape out from the unit activates a digital readout that shows you how far the tape measure has been extended. That seems a little redundant, but it’s useful for people with bad vision, or people who need a quick readout and don’t want to have to look at the tape. It also comes with a measurement memory, so you can save a few measurements for future reference. This device can also automatically calculate a midpoint, which is useful for hanging pictures and other operations that require a centered measurement.
However, this model falls to the bottom of the list because unlike the others, it doesn’t use a laser. That means it doesn’t as much range as the other models. It can only measure up to 16 feet, as that’s the length of the included tape measure. You also have to move slowly, or it starts to lose accuracy. If you move too quickly, you can gain or lose up to an inch, which is far too much error. If you need an accurate device, you’ll need to get something different.
Our reviews hopefully have already given you some insight into the features that can make or break a digital tape measure. There are a few general features you should pay attention to in order to get the best deal for your money when you shop for one of these great tools.
The first is the relationship between range and accuracy. Most digital tape measures have an accuracy of plus or minus 1/8-inch for distances under 50 feet. Many increases to a 1/4-inch between 50 and 100 feet and rises once more to about half an inch between 100 and 150 feet. If you’re going to be doing distances over 150 feet, you’ll need a spotting plate at the destination you measure to if you want to get any kind of accurate measurement.
You also have to consider what kind of extra features you’ll get use out of. Bluetooth sounds nice but will only come in handy if there’s a useful app for a platform that you have ready access to on the road. However, functions that can store measurements for future recollection almost always come in handy. Whether you just need to hold onto them for a little bit longer so you can write them down, or need to keep them stored for longer, like situations where you forgot your pen, that function is almost always worth the money.
The DEWALT DW03050 165-Feet digital tape measure is our favorite model due to its long range, backlit display, and excellent memory storage. The Leica DISTO E7100i 200ft comes with a very long range, Bluetooth connectivity, and an awesome min-max mode, though it’s inability to lay flush on a wall costs it first place. The Bosch GLM 35 Laser Distance Measure includes a backlit display and simple operation, and since you can get it at a great price, it’s the best overall value for the money on our list. The General Tools LTM1 2-in-1 comes with a laser and a traditional measuring tape, but its narrow tape and poor laser placement drop it to fourth place. In last is the eTape16 ET16.75-db-RP, which uses a traditional tape with a digital readout, but its limited range and relative inaccuracy drop it to last place on our list.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have given you the information you need to find the digital tape measure which is right for you at a price you’ll love.