We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Not long ago, a non-contact infrared thermometer was something of a specialist tool. Today, these devices are common.
Medical practitioners, HVAC engineers, and garage mechanics all use them; so do a host of others.
But which is the right infrared thermometer? You'll find all kinds of options out there, and it can be tough to sort the wheat from the chaff.
We're dedicated to writing the most honest and unbiased reviews out there. We never accept free products from manufacturers. Instead, we buy products off of store shelves, test them in our labs, consult experts, and examine feedback from product owners.
Our ultimate goal: to become your go-to source for trustworthy product recommendations whenever you’re faced with a buying decision.
At the top of this page, you'll find descriptions of our five favorite infrared thermometers on the market. These highly rated products all qualify for our top-contender list.
Note: The above product recommendations were updated July 2017. The products below were our original choices and have yet to be updated.
In this section of our ratings, we look at device-specific elements that impact each thermometer's performance: distance-to-spot-ratio (D/S), response times, and emissivity, to name a few.
The general temperature range of the objects you want to measure obviously impacts your choice of thermometer, but range isn't everything. You also need an acceptable degree of accuracy.
Denise has a background in healthcare and physical therapy. She also has the unique experience of raising three boys. Through the years, she has coached her sons and many of their friends through their share of childhood health problems and accidents. When not helping others recover from their injuries, you may find Denise working in her garden or reading.
Perhaps you need an instrument that's robust enough to withstand the bumps and knocks of an industrial environment. Perhaps you need a regulation-compliant device that can take multiple measurements. In this part of our review, we look at the unique benefits offered by each model.
There are cheap infrared thermometers that, for certain tasks, might be perfectly adequate. There are also those that are considerably more expensive. In this section, we look at the cost and the overall value of each device.
Most infrared thermometers have temperature readings in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. While you may not feel it’s useful for you, it can come in handy for some tasks.
The Etekcity Lasergrip 774 conveniently provides measurements in both Fahrenheit (F) and Celsius (C) units. Considering what a cheap infrared thermometer this is, that's something of a surprise. Actual ranges are from -50°C to 380°C and from -58°F to 716°F. Accuracy is quoted as ± 2% (or 2°C/2°F). It's not particularly precise, and a few owners say the Etekcity Lasergrip isn't as accurate as the manufacturer claims it to be. However, if you're looking for an infrared thermometer for home use, it's probably adequate.
BAFX Products offers several great infrared thermometer models; we've included their top performer in these ratings because of its extended range. Like the Etekcity, it offers readings in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, but the range is much bigger: you can measure from -58°F to 2,102°F and from -50°C to 1,150°C. The thermometer's accuracy is claimed to be better, too, at ±1.5%. Some owners who have experienced inconsistent readings question the thermometer's precision, but at least one person had a faulty unit replaced and experienced no further problems.
Infrared thermometers are best for dealing with objects too hot to touch or too far to reach. But they can only measure surface temperature.
Temperature readings on the Raytek MT6 infrared thermometer are switchable between Fahrenheit and Celsius. Its range of cover ( -20°F to 932°F and -30°C to 500°C) is similar to that of the Kintrex. Accuracy depends on the part of the range being recorded; this is actually true of all infrared thermometers on our shortlist! In the case of the Raytek, accuracy is about 1.5°C / 3°F. It's interesting to note that very little owner feedback mentions inaccuracies, and even those who do criticize the Raytek's accuracy say it's within a few percentage points.
As with our other finalists, the Fluke 62 MAX Plus infrared thermometer provides both Fahrenheit and Celsius readings. Its range, though not as large as that of the BAFX, is sizable at -22°F to 1,202°F and -30°C to 650°C. A class-leading accuracy of just ±1% is one of its most significant features. Potential buyers should note that this accuracy figure is quoted for temperatures above freezing. Accuracy drops off below that (hovering at ±2% down to -10°C and ±3% when lower), but this is quite normal. The fact that the manufacturer provides this data reflects the precision of the instrument. Indeed, negative comments about the Fluke's accuracy are almost non-existent.
The Kintrex IRT0421 infrared thermometer offers readings in Fahrenheit and Celsius; ranges go from -76°F to 932°F and -60°C to 500°C. The accuracy of this model is rated at ±2%. However, as with both the Etekcity and BAFX contenders, several owners have called this figure into question. Quite a few argue that the Kintrex's accuracy is more like ±5 or 10 degrees. It should be noted, however, that emissivity (which we'll look at in the next section) affects all infrared thermometers and can go a long way toward explaining why some people think it's accurate and others don't.
While most infrared thermometers have lasers, it is only to help you direct them. The laser has nothing to do with measuring heat.
Before we delve into measuring specs for each infrared thermometer, we'd like to provide a few notes about these devices in general. First, the answer to a common consumer question: how does an infrared thermometer work? Without going into too much detail, it's by bouncing an infrared beam off an object and measuring the heat differential. A big advantage offered by these instruments is that you never have to touch what you're measuring. A potential disadvantage: infrared thermometers only measure the temperature at the surface. If you've got a fat, juicy steak on the grill, an infrared thermometer would tell you the temperature on the outside of your meat, but it wouldn't tell you how rare it is in the middle.
Although most of these devices have lasers, they have nothing to do with measurement. The reason they're there is to help you with targeting. You can't actually see the infrared beam, but you can see the laser beam that follows its path. The lasers allow you to aim the thermometer directly at whatever you're measuring.
Two things can dramatically affect measurement accuracy. The first is what's called the distance-to-spot (D/S) ratio. For example, a D/S of 12:1 means that at 12 inches away, the device can measure an area one inch across. If you move further away, the area measured gets bigger (and, generally, less accurate). Going closer than the figure quoted doesn't improve things, so D/S ratio could be looked at as the optimum distance from which to measure. Sometimes, of course, you want to measure a larger area. In these cases, you would move further back than the stated D/S ratio range.
The second factor that affects accuracy is a thermometer's "emissivity." All solid and liquid objects reflect light at different levels. Because infrared thermometers shine a beam of light onto an object (even if it's invisible to us), the reading varies depending on how much of the beam is absorbed or reflected. With very shiny objects (such as bright metals), readings can be way off. The best infrared thermometers can be set to compensate for this, but not all do. If you're going to be measuring engine blocks or HVAC output, this might not be important. But if you're going to be measuring highly reflective surfaces, such compensation would be vital.
The distance-to-spot ratio, or the D/S, is the optimal measuring point for the thermometer. For example, if the D/S ratio is 12:1, 12 inches is the best distance to be measuring from.
The Etekcity Lasergrip's D/S ratio is a fairly common 12:1, but its response time – the time it takes to register a temperature and/or change – is under half of a second, which is quite impressive for such a low-cost unit. Emissivity is fixed at 0.95. (Minimum is 0; maximum is 1.) The Etekcity's emissivity makes operating the thermometer easier, and it's a good level for organic materials (like food). However, it means that things with highly reflective surfaces can give misleading results.
The BAFX has a D/S ratio of 20:1. This means you can stand further from your target with the BAFX than any other thermometer in this review. There's a definite pitch toward mechanical and industrial applications in the manufacturer's marketing; this is underlined by the thermometer's variable emissivity (between .01 and 1) which, according to the manufacturer, is ideal for taking readings from molten metals! However, there's nothing to stop you from using this thermometer around the home – and many owners do.
With a D/S ratio of just 10:1, you have to get the Raytek MT6 quite close to the item you're measuring for best results. That wouldn't be a problem most of the time (for most people), but it is a consideration for those who regularly check objects with a lot of radiant heat. With a reaction time of under half a second, at least you wouldn't have to stand close for very long! Emissivity is preset at the standard 0.95.
Like many of its competitors, the Fluke 62 MAX Plus has a D/S ratio of 12:1. But, like the BAFX, it offers the benefit of variable emissivity. (It can be set to between 0.1 and 1.) Unfortunately, the Fluke does not provide a chart to help owners set the correct level. (The BAFX does.) A person could certainly find that information elsewhere, but the fact that a chart is not included with the device has frustrated some consumers. The Fluke's response time, at under half a second, is delightfully fast.
The D/S ratio on the Kintrex IRT0421 is a fairly standard 12:1. With a response time of around one second, it's not the fastest device on the market, but for most owners in most situations, it's perfectly adequate. Emissivity is fixed at 0.95; like the Etekcity, this figure makes it simple to use but does limit its efficacy in areas in which there is a lot of reflection. (Misleading results could occur if you were trying to measure the temperature of meat cooking on foil, for example.)
Read the manual when you receive your infrared thermometer. Many have specific ways to calibrate them in order to get the most accurate results.
It might be a cheap infrared thermometer, but the Etekcity Lasergrip is designed very well. It's lightweight and comfortable to hold, and with a main body of ABS, it's also fairly tough. As with all of these devices, of course, the front infrared lens must be handled with care! The Etekcity carries a CE marking – a European construction standard – and complies with the requirements of the FCC, FDA, and RoHS. It's powered by a single nine-volt battery (supplied), and you get a backlight for the display, a data hold function, a "low battery" warning, and automatic shutoff after about ten seconds of inactivity.
The manufacturer does not specify what the BAFX Products infrared thermometer is made of, but we believe it is made of ABS. Like the Etekcity, it's powered by a nine-volt battery (included). It offers a backlight, a hold option, and automatic shutoff (after seven seconds). At close to two pounds, it is notably heavier than the other thermometers in our review. The BAFX offers extra flexibility with its various functions for temperature readings, including a "difference" function.
Some infrared thermometers have two lasers in order to frame the space that you are measuring.
Raytek doesn't tell us what their MT6 infrared thermometer is made of, but it's fairly safe to assume that, like all of the instruments in these ratings, it's made from ABS and/or plastic composites. While its physical style is very different than that of the Kintrex – it's quite a bit heavier, and the battery is a nine-volt unit – the Raytek is actually very similar to the Kintrex in terms of the functions it provides. You get a backlit display, current and maximum temperatures, temperature hold, and a low battery warning. The Raytek also comes with a protective boot and a storage pouch. Owners appreciate the fact that there's quite a lot of plastic around the screen edge, giving better protection than some.
When it comes to construction quality, they don't come any more rugged than the Fluke 62 MAX Plus. Although the manufacturer doesn't specify what it's actually made of, it complies with the IP54 dust and water-resistance test and survives a three-meter (9.8 feet) drop test. With the help of one AA battery, the Fluke 62 MAX offers a comprehensive set of measurements, including current, maximum, minimum, difference, and average temperatures. Owners can set alarms for high and low points. There's a seven-second temperature hold and a backlight, too. For better targeting accuracy, you get two laser beams (instead of one). On other devices, precision depends upon how far from the object you are. With the Fluke, you always know your target area is between the two points of light.
The lightweight body of the Kintrex IRT0421, which most owners find to be pleasantly contoured, is made of durable ABS. Power comes by way of two AAA batteries; according to Kintrex, these batteries render a much longer life than "less capable units." The thermometer's functions include an "actual" and "maximum" temperature display, a low battery indicator, and automatic shutoff. No time is given for the latter, but we estimate it to be around seven or eight seconds. A useful nylon case, complete with belt loop, is also included.
Do not use your infrared thermometer to check the inner temperature while cooking meat. It will only measure the surface, and could mislead you.
If you're looking for a cheap infrared thermometer, we doubt you'll find better than the $17 Etekcity Lasergrip. It's light, the display is clear, and the manufacturer's confidence is backed by a two-year warranty. Its measurement range isn't as great as some, and accuracy is questionable in certain circumstances (due as much to fixed emissivity as anything), but it's a very popular device that's rated highly by the majority of owners. If you want an easy-to-use infrared thermometer for your home — and absolute accuracy isn't at the top of your list of requirements — the Etekcity Lasergrip is tough to beat.
To us, the $9 BAFX Products infrared thermometer seems to be aimed at industrial rather than home use. We're not saying that's a bad thing, but its weight, enormous range, and variable emissivity seem targeted more at automotive and engineering diagnostics than cooks and DIY fans. It's capable of doing all of the aforementioned jobs, and it's by no means expensive, but for some home users, it's a slight overkill. Although one or two have complained about temperature inaccuracies, others have point out that understanding how to set the BAFX thermometer properly is vital – that's why it has so many options. Warranty is one year.
Through clever calibration, the thermometer converts that reading into Centigrade or Fahrenheit.
The $70 Raytek MT6 infrared thermometer is undoubtedly built with rugged use in mind. It has a good measurement range and includes all the features you would expect of a quality device. The problem is, the Etekcity comes very close to matching the quality of the Raytek, but for far less money. That being said, people who have actually bought the Raytek MT6 rate it highly; negative comments are few. There are those who criticize its accuracy, but that can be an issue for any infrared thermometer. The warranty lasts for two years, and interestingly, the Raytek company is owned by Fluke — arguably the best name in the business.
You'll pay $117 for the Fluke 62 MAX Plus, which is quite a lot of money when compared to the others on our elite list. Is it worth it? We say yes, as do many independent testers. The Fluke is a top performer in every part of this review except for in out-and-out temperature measurement. (The BAFX just shades it.) If you need to read above 1,200°F, the BAFX is the thermometer you need. Otherwise, the Fluke 62 MAX matches or exceeds it in every department. The thermometer's accuracy is seldom questioned, and its tremendous structural strength is underlined by a three-year warranty.
The Kintrex IRT0421 is stylish, light, and easy to use. The manufacturer makes several claims about superior performance and accuracy of readings, but apart from different batteries, the Kintrex's specifications are quite similar to the (much cheaper) Etekcity. Like that model, its warranty is an encouraging two years, and it does have a slightly larger temperature range than the Etekcity. However, it also gets the same kind of complaints about accuracy as the Etekcity, as well as a few concerns about build quality. The Kintrex comes at $.
It will come as no surprise that the Best of the Best infrared thermometer is the Fluke 62 MAX Plus. Consumers who invest in this device get what they pay for in terms of both quality and performance.
One important deciding factor, when choosing an infrared thermometer, is the temperature range covered. With the Fluke 62, that range is a large one. You can measure anything between -22°F and 1,202°F (or -30°C and 650°C), and you can switch between the two degree scales as you like. The Fluke features the best-on-test accuracy of all our competitors (±1%) over most of its range. Accuracy strays only when the temperature is sub-zero, as all infrared thermometers do.
The Fluke 62's D/S ratio is a fairly standard 12:1, but where most competitors offer fixed emissivity, the Fluke 62 offers variable emissivity between 0.1 and 1. This means that you can calibrate the thermometer to each surface you measure. It takes a bit more work, but the precision you get in return allows for more accurate feedback. A few owners have been disappointed that a chart isn't included with the device, but that information is readily available online.
As for functionality, the Fluke 62's list of specs reads like a wish list of the things you want the most. The backlit display provides actual, high, low, and average temperatures, as well as alarms for high and low points. Accurate targeting is ensured by the use two lasers. And tough? The Fluke 62 MAX Plus Infrared Thermometer is tested to withstand a drop from three meters (9.8 feet), and it's IP54 compliant. Without a doubt, it's the best infrared thermometer out there.
Are you looking for the best infrared thermometer available? Consumers who invest in the Fluke 62 MAX Plus Infrared Thermometer get what they pay for in terms of both quality and performance.
It's a category that provides plenty of competition, but our Best Bang for Your Buck infrared thermometer has to be the Etekcity Lasergrip 774.
Each of the other contenders on our shortlist has its benefits, and the BAFX, with its variable emissivity, is very good for the money. However, the Etekcity will answer the needs of huge number of people, and it costs just $17. Seeing that price, it's tempting to think it's just another cheap infrared thermometer, but it's much better than that.
The Etekcity's temperature range is switchable between Celsius and Fahrenheit and provides measurements from 50°C to +380°C and -58°F to 716°F. An accuracy of ±2% means it isn't the most precise out there, but do you really need more? Many consumers don't. The lack of variable emissivity will be seen as a drawback by some, but the fixed level of 0.95 is effectively an industry standard. Used properly, the Etekcity is on par with the quality of both the Kintrex and Raytek in this review – for a fraction of the cost.
As for features, you've got a back-lit display giving a clear readout of the target temperature, a hold function, an automatic shutoff function, and a low battery warning. The Etekcity is compliant with CE, FCC, FDA, and RoHS standards. A few people have complained about temperature inaccuracies, and several have suggested that the build quality could be better. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of other owners who focus on this thermometer's ease of use and outstanding value.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.