I want to buy a handheld scale and there's an abundance of choice out there. How do I decide which one to buy?

The goal of this article is to inform you about what are the different aspects you should consider when choosing a handheld scale.

What are handheld scales?

Handheld scales are types of scales where the user has to hold them up while the object being weighed is attached to the scale. 

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Why might you need a handheld scale?

Handheld scales have many practical usages including:

  • Weighing your luggage to make sure you won't pay extra baggage fees
  • Weighing shipments before you ship them to calculate the shipment price
  • Weighing purchases at the market to verify the correctness of the scales of the sellers
  • Weighing fish when going fishing
  • Measuring surface friction

What features do handheld scales have?


The most important feature of a handheld weight scale is measurement accuracy. Accuracy describes how far away is what the scale shows from the true weight.

Manufacturers often post what deviation from the actual value might be expected (usually denoted as "d"). Handheld scales are often accurate to up to 10 g (0.35 oz).

Unfortunately, it's hard to estimate the true accuracy of the scales before you buy them so you have to trust what the manufacturers post. You could also look on the web for reviews of any particular weight scale and see what people are saying about its accuracy.


Capacity describes what's the maximum payload the scale can handle.

It's usually up to 50 kg (110 lb), which should be enough for home use, and, after all, remember that what you want to weight you will need to lift up in the air.

Be warned that most handheld scales are made of plastic and some have been known to break under the weight. If you'll be weighing heavy stuff often consider a more sturdy handheld scale (e.g. this one is ) or buying a floor scale.

If you need an extra high capacity handheld scale, consider a one that can be attached to the ceiling (e.g. Dema digital hanging scale).

Digital vs Analog1

Analog scales are the ones that are purely mechanical whereas digital scales have electronics in them.

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Analog scales

Analog scales are usually using springs to weigh.

The pros of analog scales are that they don't require a battery.

Cons of analog scales are that they might be more susceptible to wear and tear of the spring. Also, it might be hard to read the exact measurement off of the scale (e.g. when the arrow points in between two delimiters). A third con is that these scales have no extra features (see the Tare function below)

Digital scales

Digital scales rely on strain gauges that are attached to load cells (which bend under weight). When these gauges are stretched, a signal is sent which is then digitized, producing a readable number on your scale. A short video explaining how weight scales work here.

The pros of digital scales are that they tend to be more accurate, it's easier to read decimals values and also have extra features (see below).

The con of the digital scales is that they require a battery to work.

Shape and size

The size can make it more comfortable to pack and/or carry around the scale with you.

The shape can make it more comfortable to lift the scale (and make it easy on your hand and back).

Note also that the shape can make it easier or harder to see the weight measurement while you've lifted the payload. For example, it wouldn't be very convenient to see the measurement if your hand covers the display.

Smiledrive Portable Handheld Electronic Digital Lcd Weighing Scale ...   Northwest Digital Luggage Grip Scale 82-29142 - The Home Depot 

Units of measurement

The units of measurements refer both to the metrication system (i.e. metric or imperial) supported as well as to the supported units of the measurement (e.g. grams and kilograms).

Ideally, weight scales would be able to measure both in grams (ounces) and kilograms (pounds).

If you're buying the scale locally chances are that it already supports your local units. If you order it online, make sure your local units are supported.

Once again, pay attention to whether the scale supports grams (ounces) if you care about that.

Tare/Zero function

The Tare function allows you to measure the net weight of something excluding, for example, its packaging. The way it usually works is that you attach first whatever you need to exclude (e.g. a bag) on the scale, press "Tare" (sometimes called "Zero"), which zeros the scale, and then attach the full load. In other words its a convenience function to subtract a certain load from the end result. It's especially helpful if you need to package something in order to be able to attach it onto the scale.

Data/Weight lock

This feature allows you to freeze the current measurement so you can inspect it after putting down the payload.

Battery life

Battery life measures how long can a scale last with one set of batteries. The longer it lasts, the less maintenance it requires and the more reliable your scale can be.

As mentioned, analog battery scales don't need a battery.

Some handheld digital scales work with lithium batteries which are supposedly lasting longer. 

Some of them have a battery indicator which is a handy feature helping to avoid unexpected surprises of the scale dying on you just when you need it.

Some digital handheld scales don't require external batteries but are recharged only with solar energy or manual shaking (example Fig And Pickle Travel Luggage Scale).


Pay attention to what kind of attachments the scale comes with. Some come only with belts (the one specialized for measuring luggage), some come with hooks.


There are a few other features that are sometimes built into scale but have very limited or specific usage such as:


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Created by Wikiproblems Org on 2020/05/16 18:26