CRITICAL FLAW ALERT!
This meter exhibits a critical flaw—namely its inability to read below 8% moisture content. This flaw renders the meter essentially unusable for a number of common applications, including for flooring installations and furniture making. We deducted one star from our overall rating to reflect this critical flaw.
The Extech MO290 is an ergonomically designed, dual mode meter that is capable of pin and pinless moisture measurement. The pinless sensor can be used not only for wood, but other building materials too. The meter offers a large, easy-to-read digital readout.
The meter and its optional hammer probe accessory were tested for this review. The meter’s push probe cable accessory is evaluated in a separate review.
The meter lacks several useful features, such as a data HOLD function, calibration check, and an adjustment for wood species or wood temperature.
This meter has other significant limitations. Most notably, our testing revealed that it is not capable of measuring MC at or below 8%, so it won’t be very useful for applications where measuring materials with low MC is a must. Floor installers, furniture makers, and others who need to measure wood at low MC should look elsewhere.
- Dual mode meter: both pin-style and pinless
- Ergonomic design with comfortable, rubberized sides on meter casing
- Ability to obtain temperature and relative humidity readings
- Unable to take readings below 8% MC
- No data HOLD function
- No ability to adjust for wood species or wood temperature
Extech MO290 With Push Probe Cable
We also tested the meter with its push probe cable accessory.Don’t buy it until you know the results.
Objective Evaluation – Overall Score 3.4 out of 5.0
Accuracy – 4.0 out of 5.0
This meter’s hammer probe accessory provided reasonably accurate readings above about 8% MC when compared to ASTM D4442 oven dry standards. Below 8% MC, this meter’s hammer probe accessory was mostly unable to obtain moisture measurements.
Learn about our accuracy test procedures
Surface Moisture – 1.0 out of 5.0
Surface moisture caused this meter’s hammer probe to post readings over 10% higher than the baseline. These surface moisture results indicate that operating this meter in high humidity environments where condensation may form on the surface could lead to questionable readings.
Learn about our surface moisture test procedures
Meter Temperature – 2.3 out of 5.0
Meter temperature had a significant effect on this meter’s MC readings when using the hammer probe.
A low meter temperature of 34.8° F in the presence of low MC decreased the reading by about 0.2%, and in the presence of high MC decreased the reading by about 1.7% compared to the room temperature reading.
A high meter temperature of 110° F in the presence of low MC increased the reading by about 0.3% MC, and in the presence of high MC decreased the reading by about 1.8% compared to the room temperature reading.
Learn about our meter temperature test procedures
Wood Temperature – 4.3 out of 5.0
Wood temperature affected this meter’s readings, especially in the presence of high MC.
A low wood temperature of 33.6° F in the presence of low MC showed a small decrease in the reading when compared to the room temperature reading. In the presence of high MC, the reading decreased about 2%.
A high wood temperature of 110° F in the presence of low MC showed a small increase in the reading when compared to the room temperature reading. In the presence of high MC, the reading increased by about 4%.
Learn about our wood temperature test procedures
Reading Repeatability – 3.0 out of 5.0
The readings of this meter’s hammer probe were not entirely repeatable, showing some tendency to vary.
Learn about our repeatability testing procedures
Drift – 5.0 out of 5.0
Readings for this meter’s hammer probe showed little tendency to drift, with readings that were slightly lower after 3 seconds.
Cable Interference – 5.0 out of 5.0
This meter’s hammer probe accessory exhibited very little cable interference, with readings that were only slightly lower.
Learn about our cable interference and drift testing procedures
Subjective Evaluation – Overall Score 3.5 out of 5.0
Ease of Use – 1.9 out of 5.0
This meter has more push buttons to operate than most other wood moisture meters and is not very intuitive to use. It lacks a HOLD function for readings and the manual does not include a table for compensating for wood temperature.
Quality – 3.7 out of 5.0
The meter’s casing is of excellent quality and is unlikely to break with normal usage. No carrying case is provided. Cable connection is functional, and pins for the hammer probe accessory did not appear to be subject to bending and breaking during our testing.
Comfort – 4.0 out of 5.0
This meter is comfortable to hold with rubberized siding and an ergonomic design. It is a bit large to fit in a shirt pocket for transporting LCD display is large and easy to read.
Versatility – 3.0 out of 5.0
The meter offers both pin and pinless modes. Readings in pinless mode are relative only. The meter does not have a way to adjust for species of wood.
Range – 5.0 out of 5.0
The manual indicates that this meter is capable of taking readings across the full range of moisture content levels, at least in theory. In practice, however, our tests indicated that the meter and its hammer probe accessory are generally unable obtain moisture readings below about 8% MC.
Features – 2.8 out of 5.0
Readings precise to the nearest 0.1%. User is unable to verify calibration, but meters can be sent to manufacturer for verification and/or re-calibration. Includes low battery indicator and alarm function. No HOLD function for use in tight spaces where the display cannot be easily viewed.
Customer Service – 4.5 out of 5.0
Extech offers a standard one-year warranty, and a service center for repairs. Calibration services are also available but expensive. Response to telephone inquiries is fast, friendly, and professional.
Our review is based on Moisture Meter Experts independent evaluation of the meter, which was purchased by Moisture Meter Experts or provided free of charge by the manufacturer. By purchasing this meter through the links above, Moisture Meter Experts may be compensated either by your purchase directly from Moisture Meter Experts or from commissions from an affiliate. View our Review Procedures section to learn more about our proprietary evaluation procedure and expertise in the field of moisture meters.