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Lab Manager Life Science Product Survey

8 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a Microplate Reader

Learn the most common components used and more from our latest microplate reader survey results

by Shane Downie

Microplate readers are commonly used in biological research for assay development, measurement of biomolecule concentration, cell biology, biomarker research, and DNA quantification. In addition, microplate readers find use in disease study, IVF, proteomics, PCR setup, and stem cell research. With multiple read modes available and numerous accessories, choosing a microplate reader that meets your current and future needs can prove a daunting task.

Top 8 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a Microplate Reader

  1. How many read modes are offered? Multiple read modes offer greater flexibility and value than single read modes.
  2. What kind of detection technology is used? Monochromator-based detection offers flexibility, convenience, and spectral scanning; while filter-based detection is characterized by precise sensitivity and may often switch rapidly between distinct wavelengths for kinetic assays. Hybrid detection systems combine both technologies for the utmost in flexibility and sensitivity.
  3. Is it upgradeable? If so, can the upgrade be installed on-site? On-site installations reduce overall downtime, and often the technician is available to answer questions or conduct training.
  4. Is the reader automatable? Automating the process with a compatible microplate stacker increases throughput with walk-away operation.
  5. Ask about the software—is it integrated and user-friendly? Does it allow for pre-programmed and custom protocols? What kind of analysis is offered? How is data exported?
  6. Is on-site training available? Is there a fee? On-site training provides an opportunity for all staff to learn about the reader, reducing the number of subsequent trainings needed.
  7. What options are available? Options such as gas control, barcode scanning, shaking, and injecting increase assay flexibility for those that need these features.
  8. What assay validation data is available for the reader? Assay validation data specific for the reader provides proof that the reader performs as indicated.

Types of microplate reader used by survey respondents:

Luminescence reader38%
Microplate spectrophotometer35%
Multi-mode reader35%
Fluorescence polarization22%
Time-resolved fluorescence (TRF)16%
Time-resolved fluorescence energy transfer (TR-FRET)11%

Microplate reader components used by survey respondents:

Microplate washers30%
Barcode scanner23%
Microplate robotics14%
Microplate handlers14%
Microplate sealers13%
High-speed robot9%
Bulk dispensing8%
Additional stacker cassettes8%
Labeling and sealing5%
Microplate stackers5%
De-lidding stacker cassettes3%

Nearly 30% of respondents are engaged in purchasing a new microplate reader. The reasons for these purchases are as follows:

Replacement of an aging system
Addition to existing systems, increase capacity
Setting up a new lab
First time purchase

Top 10 features/factors respondents look for when purchasing a microplate reader:

Product performance for intended application81%
Low maintenance/operating costs65%
Software for data collection/analysis60%
Service and support59%
Flexibility (available detection modes)56%

For more information on microplate readers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

See results from previous surveys: