Review: Fieldpiece SMAN4 digital gauges.
This is my first installment in my digital gauge review series. I've had the SMAN4's for about a week now. I've put them thru the daily activities of a residential/light commercial service technician. I know a week isn't a whole lot of time but it gave me a good idea of the tool operation and use.
I received the tool and pulled it out of the box. It came with manifold setup, two K type pipe thermocouples, and a protective cover/case.
When removing them from the box, the first thing I noticed was the weight. They are a good bit heavier than the other digital gauge sets but I attribute that to the four valve manifold. The manifold itself seems pretty sturdy with nice rubber encased knobs. The display is large with a clear screen and readable numbers. The backlit is blue and lights up the screen well.
I used these gauges for several service repairs and system start-ups. The pipe thermocouples included are the big blue ones that everyone has seen. I'm still not convinced on the durability of the plastic. It still seems rather thin and brittle. I did noticed that the pipe thermocouples reacted very fast to temperature changes. Also, jaws of the thermocouple are small and look like they will only fit up to an 1 and 1/8 diameter pipe. I do like the ears that you can hang the pipe clamps on.
One small feature that I really liked was the fact that they put common refrigerants next to each other in the digital menu. This prevent wasted time scrolling thru 30 refrigerants just to switch from 410 to 22.
I performed an expansion valve replacement a few days ago and I pulled a vacuum through the manifold. I don't usually go through the manifold but I did that day for test purposes. I also attached my CPS micron gauges to my pump tree so I could compared the two. After 45 mins of vacuum, I found the micron gauge in the SMAN's was reading around 600 while the CPS was reading below 300. I'm aware that the CPS was closer to the pump and that will throw off the readings but I would like to see the two a little closer than 300 microns. The CPS gets used regularly and I'm confident in its accuracy.
They do have an alarm and timer feature that is great. You can input a high and low micron alarm. Also, you can time your micron readings to make sure they stay below a certain value for a select time as noted by all manufacturers.
The SMAN4's have wireless capability. With added accessories, you can get indoor wet bulb and outdoor dry bulb wirelessly. They transmit the temp to the SMAN's and calculate target superheat. You may also input these values in manually, you just have to unplug the thermocouples, input values, then reconnect thermocouples. I really didn't find a lot of use out of this feature. 90% of the systems I work on have TXV's and thus superheat is fixed.
Overall, the SMAN4's are a great tool. They are built pretty sturdy and seem as if they can take the abuse of daily service. I created a list of good and bad features below.
1. Large display
2. Fast acting thermocouples
3. Refrigerant toggle
4. Backlit display
5. Micron alarm
1. Thermocouple construction
2. Micron gauge
The good outweighs the bad. You won't be disappointed in these gauges at all. They're a solid instrument but didn't have something that just blew me away. Keep in mind, what fieldpiece may be lacking in "wow" factor they certainly make up for up it in customer service. Fieldpiece has given me exceptional customer service and its great to know if I have a problem, a solution is only an email away.
If you looking for gauges, I hope this review will help you.
I will post reviews on other digital gauges in the next few weeks.
Brent A. Ridley
[Sorry for the pictures being sideways and upside down. I'm not sure show to rotate them.]