This comparative review is for:
- Gardner Bender GFI-3501 Outlet and GFCI Tester
- Klein Tools RT200 GFCI Receptacle (Outlet) Tester
- Extech Instruments ET 10 GFCI Receptacle Tester
- Triplett 9610 "Plug-Bug 2" GFCI Receptacle Tester
All 4 can be used to look for common faulty wiring in common U.S. household outlets and GFCI outlets, as well as test if GFCI functionality is operable, aka it will trip and cut things off when called on to do so.
All except the Gardner Bender have the mini-LED for GFCI testing to confirm the test button made contact, though that alone shouldn't be a deal breaker I would think.
All 4 appear to work.
Let's find a way to help choose one over the other.
(1) BUILD QUALITY, FIT & FINISH:
The plug PRONGS for all of them don't wiggle, their ground prongs are fully formed, not the cheap looking u-style some have, and they all push into sockets easily.
The CASES of all except the Gardner Bender are almost exactly alike except the Klein case appears better manufactured, next best manufactured was the Extech, and finally the Triplett. The pieces fit together best and more flush with the Klein than the other two, there are less gaps between the plastic pieces and fewer surface imperfections.
The Gardner Bender CASE is different than the others and its build quality is excellent, at least on par with the Klein, it looks the least cheap of the four.
The Gardner Bender instructions announce that the unit is double insulated, "the tester is protected throughout by double insulation or reinforced insulation". I don't know how this compares to the other three.
I give Gardner Bender and Klein Tools the edge here.
The Klein's instructions are excellent, probably the best. However, after reading the others instructions Klein's instructions could further benefit from much more detail on cautions/warnings/limits and useful commentary.
- EASY-TO-READ details broken out by 2 USAGE SCENARIOS and done STEP-BY-STEP flow chart style.
- MINI DATA SHEET spec info you normally don't expect, and some would argue need, from such a cheap tool. I liked it's inclusion.
- Printed on quality multiple page folded white cardboard pamphlet, certainly the nicest, most durable presentation, folks might actually keep it. Its contents and its look belies a more PROFESSIONAL IMPRESSION of the product.
- One negative is I think is the THINNESS OF THE CAUTIONS/WARNINGS as is obvious when you read the Triplett instructions (See below).
- CAUTIONS/WARNINGS ARE THE MOST DETAILED, most useful.
- The actual INSTRUCTIONS ARE THE WEAKEST and hardest to read of the three, almost no granularity or flow to the step by step.
- The instructions and warnings were fitted into one side of a very thin sheet of paper the size of an index card. SCREAMS CHEAP. But again, the Cautions/Warnings are the best.
- The instructions are better than the Triplett's, though less detailed and usable than Klein's.
- The Cautions/Warnings/Limits are perhaps tied with Klein's, though significantly less detailed and usable than Triplett's.
- One-half of a cardboard backing the size of an index card is what you get for instructions and/or warnings.
Gardner Bender instructions:
- I like the separating of regular outlet and GFCI outlet testing instructions and the step by step nature of them for the layman.
- I like that there are some environmental engineering specs noted, makes it seem more like a real tool.
- I like the list of what products like this don't do, the suggestions to use a qualified electrician to fix issues, the reminder to shut the power off to the outlet if you are going to work on it, and other safety advice.
- The instructions are on glossy black&white and show some care. Not quite the attention to detail for instructions that Klein showed, but certainly adequate and quality enough not to detract from the product impression.
If this is important to you, I give Klein, and in second place Gardner Bender, the edge here.
(3) ON-METER LEGEND LEGIBILITY:
The text describing the meaning of the LEDs is easiest to read on the Gardner Bender, Klein, and Extech. The colored circles that match to the text are easiest to read on the Extech, next is the Triplett, then the Klein, then the Gardner Bender. On none of them is the text or colored circles too difficult to make out, though the text on the Triplett is pretty bad.
I give Exatech the edge here.
(4) TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO READ INSTRUCTIONS:
The Gardner Bender says in very easy to see white text on black, and Triplett says in big bold black text on white on the products to read instructions before using. On the Klein and the Extech the same warning is near invisible molded into the case in the same color as the case.
I give Gardner Bender and Triplett the edge here.
Overall I choose the Gardner Bender or Klein due to the quality of the instructions and a sense that someone cared more about their manufacture. If I had to choose between them I'd choose the Gardner Bender as it looks the least cheap and its instructions are adequate, and that is more interesting to me than its cons. It is also the one my electrician used for a quick check before he used something more serious to do the analysis.
They all appear to work and none of us are going to test a random sampling of 100 of them nor probably break them open to examine them, so we'll probably never be able to estimate their true comparative durability.
If any of the manufacturers wish to comment here on having addressed any issues raised here I will adjust the review accordingly.
TRIPLETT'S PUBLISHED "CAUTIONS/WARNINGS":
To help users of all these kinds of outlet testers I've included here Triplett's good list of cautions/warnings as they may prove informative to the casual user of most of these type of outlet testers.
- To help avoid erroneous readings, all appliances and equipment must be unplugged/disconnected from the circuit being tested.
- Do not press the TEST button on (this meter) for more than 6 seconds. Now this is interesting as pressing it for 7 seconds is one of the steps on the Klein Tools test instructions. Note: Does it go into why you shouldn't press it for 7 seconds? Why of course not :).
- This tester does not indicate the quality of a ground connection.
- This tester may not indicate the presence of a hot wire. That is, it is possible for a hot wire to be present when none of the indicators light.
- This tester will not accurately indicate a combination of wiring problems.
- This tester will not test GFCI's installed on 2 wire (non-grounded) electrical circuits.
- This tester does not perform a comprehensive test. It only checks for probable common improper wiring conditions.
- 120 VAC is dangerous and may cause user injury of death. Use all appropriate cautions. Note: Does it then go into appropriate cautions? Why of course not :).
- Use only on 110 to 125 VAC receptacles.
- GFCI receptacle or GFCI branch circuit protector must be installed in accordance with the manufactures specifications.
- All corrective action must be made by qualified electrician. Note: Amen.
SOME ADDITIONAL EXTECH'S PUBLISHED
"CAUTIONS/WARNINGS" THAT MAY APPLY
TO YOUR MANUFACTURER'S UNIT (reworded):
I'll add these additional ones from the Extech instructions.
- If the circuit doesn't trip after hitting the GFCI button, either the GFCI is operable but the wiring is incorrect, or the wiring is correct and the GFCI is inoperable.
- Tester will not indicate 2 hot wires in a circuit.
- Tester will not indicate reversal of ground or neutral conductors.
ADDITIONAL GARDNER BENDER PUBLISHED
"CAUTIONS/WARNINGS" THAT MAY APPLY
TO YOUR MANUFACTURER'S UNIT (reworded):
I'll add this additional one from the Gardner Bender instructions.
- The more the other appliances or equipment on the circuit are unplugged the less chance there is for an erroneous reading.