5 Things to Consider Before Buying a New Microplate Reader
Microplate readers have been around for over thirty years and continue to serve as a cornerstone component of clinical diagnostic, academic research and industrial laboratories alike. With cost in mind, you want to make sure you make the right choice when being presented with the various options in the market. Make sure the plate reader you get is the plate reader you need by considering these five things before making a purchase:
Whether absorbance, fluorescence (incl. FRET), luminescence (incl. BRET), time-resolved fluorescence (HTRF®), fluorescence polarization, AlphaScreen® or nephelometry, make sure that your reader supports your assay needs. For example, if you only work with colorimetric assays, a single-mode absorbance reader should do the trick. If your assays require reagent injectors or environmental control, you will need a more versatile setup like the CLARIOstar with Atmospheric Control Unit (ACU).
Identify current and future application needs. You may not use the full scope of your new microplate reader right off the bat but it can save you space and money to keep your options open.
In general, sensitivity increases with price. No matter if you are looking at a single-mode or a multi-mode plate reader, the high-end instruments generally offer greater sensitivity. This may not be of importance for you, if you are mainly performing routing experiments. However, many HTS or core labs place particular value on high sensitivity.
With these units ranging anywhere from $4,000 for a simple filter-based reader to $150,000+ for a fast high throughput screening reader with add-ons, they can be a substantial investment for your lab. Sure, we all try to save money wherever possible but you often get what you pay for. For example, filter-based readers are cheaper than monochromator-based readers but you need to purchase different filters for different wavelengths. Be sure to factor in those costs as well.
Get exactly the coverage you need. Similar to a car purchase, a microplate reader can be a significant investment. Spending some extra money on coverage and support can certainly provide some peace of mind. But how much is too much? In case your plate reader needs tech support, do you need a loaner + onsite service right away or can you afford to wait while sending it in for repairs?
As with everything in life, there can be a big difference between what is available and what you need. While throughput may be essential for pharmaceutical research, cost could could be the deciding factor for a budget restricted university lab. Prioritize the five points according to your needs and find the right microplate reader for your assays!