What is The Difference Between a Scale and a Balance?

Scales and balances are both weighing machines, however the difference between a scale and a balance is that a weighing scale measures weight relevant to the force of gravity, while a weighing balance is used to compare the mass of two different objects.

This blog post will explore the differences between weighing scales and balances including what they mean, how they are used and which weighing machine is best for your needs.


What is a weighing scale?

Historically a weighing scale was a device that displayed weight by measuring a deflection, such as a spring scale. In modern weighing machines, scales generally use springs or strain gauge load cells. It is commonly accepted that a scale is less sophisticated in application and precision than a balance and is typically used within food, health, industrial and commercial industries for weighing ingredients, monitoring personal health in gyms or at home, and for checkweighing or stocktaking procedures for businesses. Types of scale include: Mechanical scales, digital scales, counting scales and crane scales.


What is a balance?

A balance determines mass by balancing an unknown mass against a known mass, as with a two-pan assay balance. In modern weighing machines, balances are usually of the design that uses a force restoration mechanism to create a force to balance the force due to the unknown mass. Balances are generally more sophisticated than scales and are used by professionals for advanced scientific weighing in science laboratories, universities, medical facilities and research and development related environments. Types of balance include: Microbalances, analytical balance and precision balances.

How precise can a scale or balance be?

Whilst all approved scales and balances are accurate, the level of precision they offer can differ greatly. We have compiled a short list below of several of the most common scale and balance types ordered by their level of precision to a decimal place:

  • Standard precision balance - 0.1g - 0.01g (2-3 decimal places)
  • Analytical balance - 0.001g (4 decimal places)
  • Semi-micro balance - 0.0001g (5 decimal places)
  • Microbalance - 0.00001g (6 decimal places)

What is the right weighing machine for me?

Firstly, there are many types of balance and scales on the market and this depends largely on which industry you work in or how you want to use the product. For example, compact balances such as the Adam CB and Dune range, feature robust housing that is ideal for  use in school science experiments and weighing parts in industrial warehouses where the scale is likely to undergo rigourous daily use. Whereas lab-based industries will require advanced laboratory balances with a higher degree of precision, such as the Nimbus or Eclipse

Some things to consider:

  1. Readability - As a rule, balances offer a higher readability than scales and are used for weighing in tiny increments.
  2. Cost - Balances are usually much higher in cost than scales due to their enhanced features and levels of precision.
  3. Intention - Do you intend to use the weighing equipment in a professional capacity or simply for personal use?
 Nimbus® Precision Balances  Dune® Portable Compact Balances Eclipse® Analytical Balances
 Nimbus Precision Balances  Dune Portable Compact Balance  Eclipse Analytical Balances


If you would like more information about scales and balances, or would like us to recommend a scale or balance based on your needs then please contact us.