PCR is a technique which is widely used in almost every lab that engages in molecular biology. Thermal cyclers play a crucial role in successful PCR. Small variations in temperature cycling can lead to false positive or false negative results.
We use the S-96 Satellite Gradient Thermal Cycler from Quanta Biotech. This cycler is easy to use and the provided external PC makes life much easier. We purchased this unit last year and have not faced any major problems with it. The main features that led to our decision to purchase this instrument include:
- Small (26cm x 28cm x20cm)
- Modular system; easily upgrade to up to 15 systems through a single PC
- Eight different types of interchangeable blocks
- Fast ramp rates (up to 5°C/sec)
- 30°C gradient
- Four independent thermal engines
- Software driven protocol generation
Among these features, the one I personally like is the wizard for protocol generation. The generation of a new protocol just takes a few clicks: we add the forward and reverse primer sequence, make selections based on the organism (prokaryote/eukaryote) used and the type of Taq polymerase (normal/hot start). I also like the fact that the S-96 is operated via an external PC through a USB network, which allows for easy operation via the touch screen. In fact, the PC driven software allows us to define and store as many protocols as we would like. If our lab should need more thermal cyclers in the future, we can connect up to 15 additional cyclers without purchasing an additional computer. This would be done by simply connecting USB keys to the USB ports at the back of the instrument.
The only problem we have faced is the loss of connectivity between unit and the PC. This occurs mainly because of inherent issues involved with USB drives. When this happens, we need to install USB drivers which can take a little while.
We use this cycler for routine PCR applications, including protocol optimization for multiplex PCR and for diagnosis applications (like HLA and other genetic disorders). We generally use 0.2 ml tubes with a 20-25 ul reaction volume.
I find S-96 is a great cycler and recommend it for all PCR-related jobs.
S-96 Satellite Gradient Thermal Cycler from Quanta Biotech
Handy, inexpensive thermal cycler, provides a linear gradient of up to 30°C.
Connectivity issues with the external PC.
The Bottom Line
Efficient gradient thermal cycler, delivers reproducible results, several interchangeable blocks as an option.