A Used Thermal Cycler Buying Guide for Beginners

Thermal Cyclers can be divided into three groups based upon their block configuration. Use this guide to give you clarity on comparing thermal cyclers from different manufacturers.


Fixed Block

Fixed Block Thermal Cycler

These are the basic kind of Thermal Cyclers on the market. They have a single block configuration and cannot be changed for another. Usually these are found in 96-well formats, but you can still find some with less common formats, like 32-well, 60-well, or 384-well.

Examples of these models would be:

  • Applied Biosystems Veriti
  • Applied Biosystems Veriti Pro
  • Applied Biosystems SimpliAmp
  • Bio-Rad T100
  • Perkin Elmer GeneAmp 9700
  • All Eppendorf Models

These models will typically cost $2,400 to $3,500, but a newer model may cost more, such as an Eppendorf Nexus G2, or fixed-head models with desirable configurations.


Interchangeable Block Systems

Interchangeable Block Thermal Cycler

These are more advanced thermal cyclers that allow you to interchange different “heads” that have different block configurations on the same Thermal Cyclers. Interchangeable heads means that you only have to buy one thermal cycler to work with different plate configurations.

Some of these models even have dual configurations, such as two 96-Well plates with one head.

Additionally, these systems can often be outfitted with a secondary qPCR module, turning them into a RT-PCR instrument rather than just a Thermal Cycler.

Some examples of these models include:

  • Applied Biosystems ProFlex
  • Bio-rad C1000 (Or C1000 Touch)

Prices on these tend to run higher than fixed-block systems, but not that much higher. Expect to pay somewhere between $3,000 to $4,500, with higher prices being charged for more desirable block configurations, like dual 96-well heads.


Multi-Block Systems

Multi-Block Thermal Cycler

Now a much less common product, these thermal cyclers had multiple blocks, usually interchangeable, for significant versatility and throughput. MJ Research, eventually purchased by Bio-Rad, is the key supplier that we are aware of. They produced a two and four block system.

Now the only prominent vendor we are aware of is Cole Parmer with the PCRMax Alpha Cycler. However, that system does not seem to have interchangeable blocks.

Common models

  • MJ Research Tetrad
  • MJ Research Dyad
  • Bio-Rad Tetrad 2

MJ Research products can be picked up for quite cheap on the second-hand market, but we don’t recommend them due to their age unless price is your absolute only deciding factor.

Bio-rad Tetrad 2’s are on the upper end of the market. Expect to pay $3,500 to $5,000, depending on the quality of the vendor.


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