|An intelligent-yet-simple to use, semiconductor analyzer
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|The PEAK Atlas Component Analyzer|
by: Ed Tanton, N4XY <firstname.lastname@example.org> <http://www.n4xy.net>
I have to start this review with that simple word. When I first saw the information
about the Atlas, I wasn't exactly skeptical, but it certainly did sound like a lot of
tester for the money. Well it is.
I immediately went to the website <http://www.peakelec.co.uk/> and ordered one
with a spare set of probes. (The photos on the website showed 'regular' alligator clips and I wanted 'micro clips'. It turns out the unit comes with 'micro clips'.
I ordered (with just an e-mail containing my Visa information-they don't have 'secure ordering') over a weekend, and received a nice reply on Monday thanking me for my order, and assuring me it would go out immediately. I received a 2nd reply the same day saying it was on its way via airmail.
The unit arrived slightly less than 2 weeks later. There were no US Customs charges.
There is a 16 page "User Guide" that provides any information you might need about the unit, ending with an excellent table containing the Technical Specifications. There was no schematic-but considering how much of the functioning of the unit probably involves whatever PIC/etc. smart chip they used, I wouldn't be very anxious to service it anyway. The battery is a GP23A/MN21 12VDC Alkaline battery.
Size-wise, it is 4 in x 2.5 in x 3/4 in (or, if you prefer Metric: 10.2 x 6.3 x 1.9 cm.)
I have been VERY impressed with the Atlas. I collect test equipment, and have a number of transistor checkers, and a TEK Curve Tracer 7CT1N plug-in with my7623B oscilloscope. The Atlas doesn't obsolete my curve tracer (in fact it helps it: see below), but it does pretty much outdo everything else!!!
I took a sample handful of semiconductors from my basement parts 'warehouse'. The Atlas discerned EVERY one except the unijunction (UJT) transistor. Bipolar transistors, enhancement-mode MOS, JFETs, germanium transistors, diodes, LEDs, you name it... the Atlas defined them all.
Best of all, it told me which lead was which (I try to use the green lead for the emitter; the red lead for the collector; with the blue lead for the base/gate/etc. That allows a consistent physical reference in case I have a 'senior moment' after powering down, and forget which was which!)
It also let me know what voltage it took (Vbe) to turn on the device-under-test (DUT), so that I could find the unknown germanium transistors I have-a valuable piece of info for a person owning a National HRO-500 with ALL germanium transistors!!!
I also tested various LEDs, MOS power transistors, V-MOS transistors, a zener (it only tests whether the FORWARD is intact), several silicon diodes, and a 150 ohm resistor.
Nothing fazed the Atlas EXCEPT a 1N92 germanium diode. For some reason it considered it faulty. My little Radio Shack 22-330 Component tester said it was OK. No other germanium diode did that-so I think the 1N92 was leaky enough to look like a resistor. The 150 ohm resistor I checked gave the same 'faulty' reply. The Atlas doesn't check capacitors or resistors-just semiconductors.
A couple of interesting notes: I also checked / compared some resistor LEDs I have (e.g. just connect 'em up to whatever voltage-15VDC or below-you like, no I-Limit resistor required. The were no problem for the Atlas. It simply listed the voltage drop as 2.98VDC... way too high for a 'regular' red LED-so you can discern such things.
Also, I checked some old Siliconix VMP-4s I have. These were great V-MOS transistors that would amplify whatever you like up to 2M. They make a terrific broadband preamp that is virtually impossible to overload. It turned out that the one used/unknown one I got with the others is also good. Nice to know, since they are long
I checked several 1N914s looking to see if I could possibly match them from the forward drop reading. Either the three I measured were very closely matched, or you can't. It DOES give different readings (a 1N4001 was more than 0.2V more) but somehow I don't think it's going to be useful for that. Considering all the other great
things it DOES do, I can forgive that quite easily.
The time it saves identifying the leads (yes I also have a "Cricket" and its lab-grade big brother-it's faster and easier) is just about worth the price-my TEK 7CT1N insists on having the correct lead in the correct place on the test fixture.
I always consider that THE question for any unit I buy is: "Would I buy it now that I have played with it?"
The answer is "ABSOLUTELY YES!!!"
This unit is a "MUST HAVE" if you're experimenting or building electronic devices.
PRICE CLASS: $~85 delivered via AIR Post
Peak Electronic Design, Limited
Kiln Lane, Harpur Hill Industrial Est.
Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 9JL United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1298 70012
Fax: +44 (0) 1298 70046