Best Digital Manifold Gauges: 5 Market Leaders Reviewed
When buying a new digital manifold, you will want to ensure that the system you buy is fast, accurate, and features the necessary profiles in order to get the job done.
As with all trades, a technician’s work is made easier if they have the correct tools. However, there are a number of manifolds on the market, with varying price-points and functionality.
Knowing which model to spend your money on can be a difficult choice.
- Best Digital Manifolds
- Top 5 Picks
- Digital Manifold Reviews
- 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: Testo 0563 1550 Digital Manifold Kit Review
- 2. BEST PREMIUM: Fieldpiece SM480V SMAN Digital Manifold Review
- 3. BELEY Refrigeration Digital Manifold HVAC System Review
- 4. BEST BUDGET: MASTERCOOL Blue 99872-A R134a Digital Manifold Review
- 5. Yellow Jacket P51-860 – Titan Digital Manifold Review
- What to look for when buying an HVAC Digital Manifold Gauge
- Analog vs Digital HVAC Gauges
Factors such as laptop and smartphone connectivity, (for faster reporting and workflow), range of testing features as well as overall build quality should all be considered when looking for a new system.
In this review round-up, you will find a selection of top-rated digital manifolds, backed up with verified customer reviews in tandem with intensive product research and analysis.
These are the results…
Top 5 Picks
Digital Manifold Reviews
1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: Testo 0563 1550 Digital Manifold Kit Review
Our top choice digital manifold is this excellent kit from Testo.
Balancing value for money, with great features and accessories, this digital manifold will suit professionals looking for a convenient tool, to get the job done.
With 60 refrigerant profiles built-in, this unit gives the operator superior reporting control.
And let’s not forget the Bluetooth compatibility. This feature is appearing more and more on today’s market-leading digital manifolds.
It’s easy to see why. The downloadable smartphone app means that the unit can be fully integrated to provide monitoring, reporting, and even invoices via email. The data coming directly from the machine itself.
(That’s a move on from even the most hi-tech units of just a couple of years ago that provided USB support – the entire reporting workflow can now be done wirelessly).
The app can also be used to download new refrigerant profiles from the internet should you need. These can be transferred via Bluetooth to the manifold.
So, we’ve established the technical features on the unit a fantastic, (did I mention that it has the added functionality of leak testing too?), but what about build quality? Does the Testo 0563 hold up there too?
I am happy to say a resounding yes. The robust housing of the manifold features a metal frame around the display, that helps to minimize potential damage after any impact.
Let’s face it, we all know how much these tools can get knocked about either onsite or in the back of the van.
The service case is really well built too.
Other accessories include two temperature clamp probes (0563 has two channel NTC temperature inputs), that are likewise built with durability in mind.
The Testo 0563 gets our top pick for 2021 because it balances great features with an excellent price-point.
This digital manifold kit really does represent good value for money. It’s durable design also means you’ll be using this out in the field for many years to come. A unit that doesn’t disappoint.
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2. BEST PREMIUM: Fieldpiece SM480V SMAN Digital Manifold Review
While our top pick Testo has great features, if you want the real top range functionality you will need to spend more money.
For that, our recommended unit has to be this premium option from Fieldpiece.
The SM480V is packed with enough features to make even the most discerning refrigerant technician happy.
As the manufacturers state themselves:
“Years of feedback from A/C and refrigeration specialists is combined with Fieldpiece’s laser focus on continuous improvement to bring you the toughest, most advanced digital refrigerant manifold on the market.”
A bold boast, however, there is evidently a lot of truth in this self-evaluation.
Essentially, the unit is built to make the technician’s job easier.
The wireless range of 350 feet is up there as some of the best currently available from any digital manifold, (even models more expensive than this one).
Then there’s the fact this is a 4 valve port micron gauge.
Data Logging is where the unit comes into its own. The SM480V can store up to 9 jobs internally with all data being readily accessible from the manifold.
This information can then be downloaded to your laptop via the USB port. Although, the unit can sustain logs up to 7 days (168 continuous work hours in fact).
Fieldpiece has also included tightness test check as a function; a very useful feature for after repairs and installations.
You can also view pressure differential over time from within the unit; an inbuilt timer will track the duration of each test too.
To avoid potential false positives during testing the unit will compensate for the temperature with an SL temp function.
The build quality is exactly what you would expect from a premium model of this type. The rugged over-molded casing with a reinforced hook and hermetically sealed sight glass means you could drop this out of a 3 story window and still go about your day, completing the job list.
(Don’t try that at home though. 🙂 )
Having said that, a minority of users have had issues with the underside of the unit (close to where the valves are) cracking after long term use.
For those familiar with Fieldpiece digital manifolds, it is worth noting that the SM480V is the direct replacement for the SMAN400 series (SMAN440 and SMAN460).
A major update is the fact you will not need to use the JL2 transmitter for wireless connections, as this new model has full wireless connectivity built-in.
If you are looking for an advanced digital manifold, packed with features and built to take a knock (and then some); this is the unit to buy.
Although this is a premium machine designed to make a technician’s life easier, it is still priced competitively. Our top choice premium machine for good reason.
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3. BELEY Refrigeration Digital Manifold HVAC System Review
The Beley refrigeration digital manifold is a good option and another worthy entry to our top 5.
An inbuilt database gives you access to 89 kinds of refrigerant pressure-evaporation temperature profiles.
The unit is also designed to calculate the subcooling superheat of the system you are testing. It will also provide you with data on the percentage of vacuum measurement as well as pressure leak information. You can also track leak time speeds should that be present.
What’s more, all of this data is accurate. The built-in 32-bit digital processor is designed to provide the highest precision when calculating appropriate measurements. This is a unit you can rely on.
The versatility continues with the Beley when you consider that the unit can measure double pressure at the same time.
It will also provide you with automatic multi-unit pressure conversion. In short, your job is made easier when using a tool such as this.
The readability of data is good too. The large-size liquid crystal display has built-in backlight support; very useful when working in low light conditions.
One minor complaint is that the unit does not feel as robust as some of the other manifolds in our top 5.
True, this is closer in price point to the Mastercool unit reviewed below (our top budget pick); however, the manufacturer of the Beley does seem cheaper.
However, to give you that extra peace of mind after purchasing your new digital manifold, Beley provides a generous 24month after-sales warranty.
There’s a lot to like with the Beley digital manifold. Easy to use, well built and with a lot of useful features this is a unit that will get the job done.
However, it doesn’t quite excel as our Editor’s Choice from Testo does. And being of a lower price point than the offering from Fieldpiece it cannot compete in terms of premium features.
Connectivity is the biggest let-down here. Overall a good machine nonetheless.
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4. BEST BUDGET: MASTERCOOL Blue 99872-A R134a Digital Manifold Review
It’s all very well paying top dollar for an all frills machine that gives you a full range of features; however, what if you are after a more budget-friendly digital manifold that provides the essential functions and that is all.
Well for that scenario we recommend the excellent Mastercool R134a.
The user-friendly design is great for technicians looking to efficiently track refrigerant and oil readings on today’s automobiles, (in fact over 55 car manufacturers are catered for with this machine).
Besides essential data logging, this R134a digital manifold will also perform a systems leak check after refrigerant evacuation repair work or installation has been concluded.
As with the other units to make our top 5, the Mastercool is fitted with a clear LCD screen for easy readability. This is also designed in a way that knocks and scrapes will not damage it.
The ABS manifold case is also built with longevity in mind, touches such as the rubber boot underside to the case are good to see too.
This is a professional user’s kit, which means you can expect some accessories in the package.
In this case, a set of 3, 72” R134a hoses are included. There’s also a set of manual couplers to get you up and running as you have purchased the item.
If you’re looking for a budget digital manifold that will provide you with essential readings with no frills attached, this is the unit to buy.
Strong, accurate, and easy to use the Mastercool Blue will get the job done. What more could you need?
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5. Yellow Jacket P51-860 – Titan Digital Manifold Review
The final digital manifold to make our top 5 is this offering from Yellow Jacket. The P51-860 is a mid-priced system that could be seen as a competitor to our top choice from Testo.
The first, most obvious comparison would be that surrounding the Bluetooth connectivity.
Here, essential data can be transmitted to your smartphone for fast and convenient reporting. This is done via the free ManTooth app.
If you prefer to use a laptop, data logging can also be transferred using good old USB ports.
The unit can measure high and low side pressures and temperatures. It will also perform system superheat and subcooling calculations.
Add that to the fact Titan has enabled the manifold to track vapor and liquid saturation temperatures, and you have yourself a machine appropriate for professionals requiring more than just standard operational data.
The P51-860 is a 4-valve manifold unit. It also features an inbuilt processor designed to take accurate measurements for both refrigeration and a/c systems.
All essential data gained can be displayed via the LCD display; however as mentioned above, the Bluetooth connectivity and USB port make transferring this data a breeze.
Overall the P51-860 is a very capable machine packed with a ton or measuring functions.
While some will be overkill for the average user, there is still a lot here designed to make the technician’s life easier.
If these features speak to you, and you have a decent budget for buying your next digital manifold, you should definitely look into purchasing this offering from Titan.
What to look for when buying an HVAC Digital Manifold Gauge
When buying a new HVAC digital manifold gauge, there are a number of factors you should consider. Here’s a selection of them now…
How durable is the manifold gauge?
A professional will need a robust HVAC manifold gauge that can handle the inevitable knocks and bumps that occur while on the job. Most gauges do take this into account, however, with durable designs made from hard-wearing materials.
If you leave your tools in the truck or garage overnight, the unit should be corrosive resistant too.
Build quality of the various components, should also be of concern. Connector fittings and hoses should be built to last, and easily replaceable when the time comes.
How user-friendly is it?
Whether you want to use the gauge for purposes in the home, or as a professional out in the field, user-friendliness is an important issue.
For a beginner, you may be after a simple manifold gauge that will perform a rudimentary function. A unit that is quick to learn and easy to use will be preferred.
A daily workhorse will understandably need more features, however, a gauge of this type still needs to be intuitive and user-friendly, so that the professional can work efficiently and without hassle.
Factors towards this include a unit that is easy to connect and has quick coupling capabilities. The gauge should be clear and easy to read so that measurements can be taken in all conditions.
What extra features does it have?
A sighting glass is recommended for easier viewing and reading. The aforementioned quick coupling connectors should also be present.
Bluetooth and USB data transfer is a feature that a lot of modern digital manifold gauges now have. Something that has proved very popular with technicians.
You should also look for a device that can perform various different calculations, (superheat and subcooling readings for instance). The ability to take both vapor and liquid saturation temperatures is helpful too.
Inbuilt profiles (and the feature to create your own) is a feature in advanced units. This functionality is only important for working professionals, however, you will enjoy faster, more accurate results when utilizing such data.
Level of compatibility
Another essential feature is for the gauge to have the capability to fit a wide range of AC units. This is in terms of connectivity and the readings it can take.
It is also possible to purchase manifold gauges that have an extra port. This is so that an HVAC vacuum pump can be fitted for easier fault detection and servicing of the AC system.
A good way to ensure superior compatibility is to take note of the device specifications, and also look out for units that come in a set, with all additional fittings, and hoses, supplied.
What is your budget?
If you are a beginner that only needs a digital manifold gauge for home use, it makes no sense to break the bank buying such a device. Simple to use entry-level gauges will suffice.
A professional meanwhile should expect to pay more to purchase a gauge that will be up to the job at hand. You should look to include many of the features above so that you have a device that will provide accurate and speedy readings as you go from job to job.
Analog vs Digital HVAC Gauges
Although digital manifold gauges have been around for a long time now, there are still many technicians that swear by the older, analog models and refrain from upgrading.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both so that you can make up your own mind on what to go for.
Analog HVAC Gauges
Analog gauges take simple readings, displaying the information via an indicator needle. Once you know how to read one, they are easy to use. The needle will display the level of pressure or vacuum that’s inside the AC unit.
However, the problem lies in calibration. If the analog you are using isn’t regularly maintained the readings can be wrong.
Furthermore, even after learning how to use one, the operator needs to be able to perform pressure conversions. This is another factor that can lead to errors.
Digital HVAC Manifold Gauges
As we have covered in the review section above, digital gauges have many extra features that help make the life of an HVAC technician much easier. The automatic conversion of readings being one such capability.
The problem lies in that established technicians that learned their trade with analog devices are reluctant to change when they see no reason to. Most of them would rather rely on their experience with analog gauges than learn how to use a digital one.
Overall, it comes down to personal preference on using an analog or digital gauge. For professionals, there is a very good case for taking the plunge and opting for a digital model because of all the additional features. The fact you have reached this page hints towards your interest all the same.