One of the biggest hurdles to bringing thermal imaging to the masses is the high cost associated with it. Several products have moved into the sub-$1000 category, but even they’re a bit rich for some Pros to justify the leap from straight up IR thermometers to thermal imaging. But the Milwaukee 102 x 77 Spot Infrared Imager is trying to change that perception with a lower price point without losing too much resolution.
Milwaukee is really using the KISS principle here. You’ll notice the basic feature set and simple function right away. In fact, this is one of the few tools you can pick up and use effectively without reading the manual first.
When I say simple, I mean 1-button simple. There’s no on/off switch or touch screen settings to mess with. All you have to do is hold down the trigger to power the unit up and see a real-time thermal image. The image is up in less than 2 seconds. When you release the trigger, it holds the image for 15 seconds before shutting down.
And that’s all there is to it. Almost.
There is one setting you can mess with. You can toggle between Celcius and Fahrenheit temperatures by flipping the switch in the battery compartment.
The downside of the simplicity is that the resolution, while better than others in this class, is still low compared to higher-end imagers or FLIR’s MSX technology that overlays a visual and thermal image. The upside – and it’s a big upside – is that the Milwaukee 102 x 77 Spot Infrared Imager is only $299. To put that in perspective, my FLIR C2 is $499 as is Milwaukee’s M12 Imager with the same 102 x 77 resolution. FLIR’s TG165 gets a little closer at $349, but the resolution drops to 80 x 60.
But just because the Milwaukee 102 x 77 Spot Infrared Imager is inexpensive, that doesn’t mean it’s cheaply made. The housing features plenty of rubber overmolding. You’ll find it along the handle like you see on Milwaukee’s cordless tools. But there’s also a nice, thick layer surrounding the screen and imager lens to protect the most vulnerable parts.
Unlike the M12’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery, this model uses a 9V battery. To access it, you’ll need a screwdriver to unlock the compartment. While it’s not always convenient, I like the fact that it locks instead of just sliding off. I have enough things running around with electrical tape holding the battery door in place already.
The major benefit of an imaging thermometer is the ability to get your temperature reading while having a good visual picture to tell you more about what’s going on. It’s easier to dial in the problem breaker for electricians, check hot spots on routine maintenance for MRO crews, and much more. Where these smaller imagers often fall short is in the ability to see the smaller details of what’s in the image.
102 x 77 still won’t give you a super sharp image to look at, but it does give you more detail than the few other options in this class. You can see a specific fuse in a breaker box or even read a Milwaukee light hidden from plain view. So for most electricians, HVAC techs, MRO crews, and even inspectors, you’ll be able to see well enough that it’s worth making the move to thermal.
The Bottom Line
For the price, you’re not going to find a much better option out there. You can certainly spend several hundred or several thousand dollars more to see greater detail. You’ll just need to decide what you need to do the job more efficiently. The Milwaukee 102 x 77 Spot Infrared Imager isn’t trying to replace higher end models. It’s trying to bring the visual benefits of thermal imaging down to a price point where more Pros can take advantage of them. And in that sense, it does the job very well.
Milwaukee 102 x 77 Spot Infrared Imager Key Features
- Instant Start-Up takes less than 2 seconds to get an image
- Dual Sense pixels adjust individually to reduce blurring
- 56:1 distance-to-spot ratio
- Ironbow color palette
- Toggle between Celsius and Fahrenheit with a battery compartment switch
Milwaukee 102 x 77 Spot Infrared Imager Specifications
- Model: Milwaukee 2257-20
- Power Source: 9V battery
- Resolution: 102 x 77
- Temperature Range: 14 – 626 F
- Color Palette: Ironbow
- Distance-to-Spot Ratio: 56:1
- Price: $265.00
- Warranty: 5 years