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Geiger Counters / Radiation Detectors

This site was created to rate, review, and compare various Geiger counters and radiation detectors being sold on the Internet. While most Geiger counters appear similar, the fact is there are important differences in features, performance, and functionality! The focus is on devices falling within the consumer/commercial mid-range, from $100-$600. We present here a range of six devices to illustrate the breadth of product offering at this price range and to show which ones we believe are best.

At one time I was also looking for a Geiger counter to warn about potential radiation hazards, whether from radon laced granite countertops, contaminated scrap metal, nuclear plant discharge, depleted uranium waste, or even something as simple as in-flight atmospheric background radiation. I was shocked to learn how much low-level radiation we're exposed to every day. Even at home there are unexpected sources I hadn't ever considered. So while the possibility of a dirty bomb exploding nearby seems remote, I can easily see the benefits of owning a personal detector to tell me if I'm being exposed to harmful levels, even if relatively low.

I want to offer special thanks to the makers and/or distributors of the Geiger counters furnished demo units and technical details. One company also furnished a test source (Co-60) to benchmark devices against a fixed standard. However, please note none of the counter specifications were verified by independently certified radiological laboratories - the assumption being that since all have been on the market for some time, any discrepancy between actual and published performance would have long since been discovered.

No. Device Ratings Stars Site Link
1 Inspector Alert Geiger counter radiation detector

Our #1 Pick is the S.E. International
Radiation Alert Inspector® Detector

The Radiation Alert Inspector, built by S.E International, is a versatile Geiger counter designed both for the casual user as well as industrial users and emergency responders. The Inspector has been around a while and has stood the test of time. This is a handheld that really belongs in everyone's survival kit, especially if you live near a nuclear power plant.

S.E.I. has kept bells and whistles to a minimum and concentrated instead on application specific functionalities. Calibration controls are at the bottom along with a data port for external recording of raw counts. There's an optional data capture software package available at additional cost.

As the name implies, the Inspector Alert is equipped with an audio alert function, as well as standard Geiger counter ticker. Both units of radioactivity, µSv/h and mRems/hr, are displayed on a large easy-to-read digital display.

The unit weighs roughly 12 ounces and comes powered by a single 9-volt alkaline battery, good for about half a year of useful life - much more if you don't use the device every day.

The case is very durable and clearly designed for both indoor and outdoor use. For the serious industrial user, there's a variation to the basic model which includes a ruggedized hardcase and cloth carry pouch. This is a nice option since the device, like most portable counters, isn't shock resistant, and you may need the extra protection.

If you're willing to pay a little bit more, the Inspector Alert, priced at around $540, is a great value, a very sturdy detector, and will provide many years of dependable service. Of all the Geiger counters we tested, it clearly offered the BEST overall combination of design, features, and cost.
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2 Terra-P Portable Radiation Detector

Our #2 Pick is the
Terra-P Radiation Detector

The Terra-P by Ecotest is a Ukrainian built counter that gets good marks for a clean, modern look and simple operating controls. It's a relative newcomer with quite a few showing up recently on Amazon. At first, we expected a primitive design given the location of factory. However we were pleasantly surprised at the modern workmanship and attention to detail.

Operation is fairly straighforward. There are two control pads located above the display, one to change the radiation detection mode, the other to adjust the threshhold setting.

There's a pulse count ticker plus a two-tone audio alarm that warns of levels above a user programmed threshold. The digital display is backlit, which partly explains the relatively short (<3 month) operating life of its two AAA batteries, assuming daily use.

Of course we had a question about product reliability maintenance and warranty. The company stands 100% behind the product and offers a very generous warranty. Other than changing batteries occasionally, there is hardly any maintenance required. Just keep the unit clean and dry. Factory calibration is available for a small charge.

So if you need a Geiger only for occasional use are on a tight budget, or purely a hobbyist, the Terra-P, may be perfect for you. It's economically priced in line with other devices on the market - you can't go wrong with this model. It's a great value for money!!
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3 Terra MKS-05 Portable Radiation Detector

Our #3 Pick is the Polimaster
PM-1208 Wrist Gamma Indicator

Here's an advancement in Geiger counter that brings to mind Dick Tracy's Wrist Radio - a combination digital timepiece and a fully functional Geiger counter, all of it crammed into into a standard sized wristwatch. What's next, a combination iPod and toaster?

Feature-wise there are limits to what you can do in a wristwatch format. There's the time display in traditional dial analog format - it is a watch after all. For displaying radiation dosage, in addition to a digital display, the Polimaster PM-1208 has an LCD analog display, which provides a visual indication of the current dose rate and cumulative dose. Both can be run in dosimeter mode or in survey meter mode.

Warning alarms can be set to indicate when a specified dose rate or cumulative dose is exceeded. Alarm settings are always displayed on the analog scales.

There are few negatives with the PM-1208. For one, it's expensive at $800. Also, the watch is larger than most, and I personally don't understand the idea of wearing a Geiger counter on your wrist unless you intend to be a 24 hour walking radiation alarm.

But even so, it is just sooooo cool! If they ever come back into production, I will definitely ask Santa to bring me one for Christmas!
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4 Radiation Alert Inspector Geiger Counter

Our #4 Pick is the Gamma-Scout®
Alert Radiation Detector

Coming in at 4th Place is the Gamma-Scout Alert Radiation Detector. Weighing a trim 6 ounces, it's surprisingly light and compact, giving the impression of being a bit fragile. However, what it lacks in case strength it makes up for in rich functionality. While other Geiger counters offer basic radiation detection and maybe some audio enhancements, the Gamma-Scout® Geiger counter comes loaded with numerous standard features.

A large display and 10-button control panel displays measured radiation 3-ways: as dosage rate, as counts per second, and as cumulative counts. The readout is both analog and digital, switchable between µSv/h and mRems/hr and includes a nifty analog scale that shows maximum allowable human exposure per dosage level.

The unit measures all 4 types of radiation, alpha, beta, gamma, and x-rays. And, with sensitivity from very low range (atmospheric) to high (1000 uSv/hr) you're covered for all likely exposure scenarious up to an including a visit to the Chernobyl reactor, which by the way, is fatal.

In addition to all that, it has a built-in clock/calendar plus data memory with logging function. You can punch in time, date, and sample interval, and then download the readings via USB 2.0 for analysis and display on your PC. And, of course there 's an audible ticker function, plus a set-and-forget alert feature to warn when radiation exceeds a user-specified limit.

With a price at under $450 it's affordable, and comes bundled with download software, black leather case, and USB cable. This is clearly a hobbyists detector and should not be considered for industrial, commercial or emergency use.
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5 Radex 1706 Portable Geiger Counter

Our #5 Pick is the
Radex 1706 by Quarta

With one star in fifth place is the Russian Radex 1706 built by Quarta. Following the old adage, "you get what you pay for", the company, Quarta-Rad, has designed an inexpensive counter for the ultra-low end consumer market.

Features and functionality are minimal, as is the price, a reasonable $160 list. The reliability question is addressed up front with a standard 3-year warranty. How to redeem that warranty with a Moscow based company is, of course, another question entirely.

The design is simple and functional. A 42mm backlit LCD panel displays updated readings at 10 second sampling intervals. Measured dosage is in both µSv/h and µRem/h with ticker and threshhold alarm functions included.

The RD 1503 is controlled by three buttons, for switching the unit on and off, a backlight toggle, and a main button for screen menu navigation. As for size, it’s small, at just 4"x 2.5" x 1" and weighing just over 3 ounces. It's powered by a pair of AAA cells, which deliver a little over only 3 weeks of continuous operation.

So if you're really on a tight budget the Radex could just be the ticket.
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6 Sper Scientific Geiger Counter

Our #6 Pick is the Digital
Radiation Meter by Sper Scientific

Rounding out our list of handhelds is the Digital Radiation Meter - Geiger Counter by Sper Scientific. This meter is an update of one which has been on the market for many years.

Like all the other counters we reviewed, this device uses a Geiger-Mueller tube as its core sensor. The Sper unit detects 0 to100 mR/hour (milli-Roentgen) and 0 to 1000 µSv/h (microsieverts) on a barely readable dual scale.

To its credit, it has an audible clicking feature, which increases with background radiation. Sounds begins at 20mR/hr, proportionally following radiation level. Powered by a single 9-Volt battery, the user can expect a useful life of about 100 hours at normal background levels.

A conventional old school product with simple design and minimal features. And at $280, agressively priced. Learn More...

Final Comments
In evaluating any technical product there are always trade-offs between price and performance, features and applications. It's the same when we evaluate Geiger counters. The key question to ask youself is what radiation detector problem do you want to solve? At the upper end of our range are devices which both the consumer/hobbyist and commercial/professional can use. If reliability and versatility are important then better a unit like the Gamma-Scout. On the other hand, if you anticipate only infrequent or casual use, then perhaps the Terra MKS might suit your needs better.

The fact remains that the risks of radioactive materials pollution, from whatever source, are not going away anytime soon. Each of us needs to take the same kinds of precautions we take when dealing with risks from fire, smoke, and other health hazards. Hopefully, the information we've presented here will help you make an informed choice on how to protect yourself from an often ignored but none too real health danger.

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