I bought a Gamma Scout.

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3 years 6 months ago - 6 months 4 weeks ago #4221 by Simomax
As the title suggests, I bought a Gamma Scout. I was, let's say, underwhelmed with it so decided to give my thoughts on it. I'll not cover everything here so if you are interested then it would be advantageous for you to read up on the Gamma Scout Alert on their website prior to reading my thoughts.

I had been wanting a Gamma Scout for a couple of years to add to my collection. I'd seen them on the web, in Youtube videos. In places like Fukushima and Chernobyl/Pripyat etc. and from what I had seen I assumed, I think it's fair to say, I'd assumed it better than it actually is. I bought mine 2nd hand from Ebay. It is the alert model and I paid £140 (178$ usd), which I think is a very fair price compared to the retail price, but as a unit, for my collection or to use in the field, I think the right price. I would have been a little let down if I had paid >£150 for a 2nd hand one. I would have most certainly been a little upset if I had paid full whack for it (~£400 new). The counter looks to have had some use. The 'ALERT' sticker shows signs of wear and the screen is slightly scratched. The case is not however. There is only light scuffing on the bottom. The internal battery looks good reading 3.61v which suggests it is not that old (I think 3.7 volts when they leave the factory. The counter stops functioning at 2.7 volts). It came boxed with instructions, certificate, USB lead (unused still sealed in plastic bag) and CD. As far as I know it came complete.

The counter is made in Germany. It feels like a fair quality Chinese product, but not German. It doesn't have that 'edge' that German products usually have. The case is light and feels slightly flimsy. It feels like a fairly brittle plastic from touch. I'm not willing to find out though! ;) It flexes slightly when I grip the top and bottom and twist slightly. the plastic creaks slightly. It squishes in a the sides when I squeeze it with my thumb and finger. It is not something I would want to drop. Everything about it feels plasticy. The a/b/y selector lever feels flimsy and there is no real positive indent when switching between a, b & y. The screen does have a fairly thick (my view without taking it apart) window, probably acrylic as it scratches deep easily as there are some scratches and scuffs on screen as I received it, but little on the body itself. Only very minor scuffing on the bottom. This suggests the case body plastic is harder than the screen plastic. Not ideal in my opinion. I think the screen should be harder, maybe polycarbonite. The buttons are simply a plastic sticker over the actual buttons. Much like on a super thin remote control. I guess this would help splash damage but I don't think the screen is sealed so I don't think that was re reason behind such a keypad. I think less money to produce.

Grabbing it out of the box and holding it, looking at the buttons at first reaction is nothing more than confusion. The buttons have symbols on them that really don't iterate their function. If you don't know how to use a Gamma Scout prior, then you will need to read the manual. A few times (I'll come to that later). Playing about with it and randomly pushing buttons reveals nothing but more confusion. The button symbols and display are simply not intuitive in the slightest. Far from it. I'm not one for reading instructions as I usually pick things up quite easily but without instructions this counter is impossible to operate to it's fullest. After a couple of attempts as working it all out I realised that the 'radioactive' symbol button made things return to the regular usv/hr readout, and that was all. Looking at the buttons it looks like the unit has a massive functionality with lots of modes and things to explore. It doesn't. It has what I would consider to be basic functionality for a modern Geiger counter. These are:
Realtime dose rate (radiation reading in usv/hr)
Realtime dose rate is counts per second. It does not have counts per minute which I feels is something that every counter should have at its core
Accumulated dose
Records readings for later download

And that is pretty much it. You can tweak the parameters for the logging and dose rate such as the logging interval or the length of time for the dose rate, or just let it accumulate. You can set the time and date etc. View the battery voltage and turn the 'clicker' on or off. Download readings to PC. And that is pretty much it as far as functionality goes.

The a/b/y selection is fairly good. It does seem to differentiate between a, b & y quite well. I have tested with a number of different sources and does seem to do it's job pretty well. The alpha shield is a thin aluminium sheet and the a & b shield is a sheet of aluminium about 3mm think. The tube does as expected. I actually thought the body of the LND712 was shielded with a wrap of lead. It isn't. I had seen somewhere on the web the tube was wrapped but this may have been someone's modification. I'm not sure as I haven't been able to find it now. I already have a LND712 and have played about with it a bit on other counters and one I am building (and have been for ages now!) so I have a fair idea how the LND712 reacts and the Gamma Scout simply reflects that of my findings already. The LND712 is a good tube. Not massively sensitive, but a great all-rounder for small hand held counters. The advantage over the SBM-20 is it's ability to detect alpha radiation. The SBM-20 is very marginally more sensitive to beta and gamma but lacks alpha. But the LND712 is about £70 new as opposed to around £10 for an SBM-20. It is a big jump in price for the ability to detect alpha.

The instructions are very difficult to understand and took me several attempts are reading the manual. It is not that it is a bad translation as the translation appears to be very good but simply the way it is worded. It is difficult are requires that you go through each part whilst performing the function on the counter in order to understand and remember it. I have already forgotten what half of the buttons do already and how to go about performing specific functions. To be quite honest it is one of the most hard work, nonintuitive bits of kit I have ever owned. The different modes are indicated by little symbols on the screen that are hard to differentiate and yeah, not great to use really. Quite disappointing. The software is very basic pretty much allowing you to set the time and date from PC and download the results and clear the memory. Nothing more for the alert version. You can't even display realtime data on the PC (you need the ONLINE version for that). So is very minimal in it's functionality.

One thing it really does have going for it though, that is, if this is a requirement, is battery life. It has a non user replaceable battery soldered to the board that lasts for several years. The 'clicker' uses most battery life so when activated the clicker turns off after ten minutes. I can see how the long battery life could be a benefit for some uses but a real pain to replace eventually having to send it back to Germany along with 45 euro just for a new battery. The company claims that basically a battery holder and terminals is unreliable and therefore a 'permanent' battery is the solution. I can see arguments for and against this. I have a weather station that has been running on two AA batteries for 4 years now without an issue. It is outside and prone to high humidity, and varying temperatures and has never been an issue. However, my weather station isn't getting handled and knocked about.

To close; I am still glad that I bought it for the price I did. I would have been very underwhelmed if I had paid full price for it. Quite pissed in fact. I haven't taken it apart and the seals are still in place. I'm a little loathe to take it apart and it will leave holes in the rear sticker. I have no idea how much, if any, warranty is left on it.

It's a fair counter with a high price in my opinion. The tube is about £70 retail so I can't see the unit costing much more than £150 to produce. Although I don't know the production count and less units cost more to produce. For the money it costs new I think much better counters are to be had.

To put it another way, I think you would be getting much more functionality at a fraction of the price if you bought a kit from BroHogan and a brand new LND712. Fixed it up in a case with a nice rechargeable battery. It would not be hard to replicate all of the functionality in a home made counter and to the same specification and that all lies with the tube mainly. Except for the battery life and I think that is the whole idea around the Gamma Scout is for it to just work and last out in the field. Although knocking and dropping would probably render it useless fairly quickly. I have read multiple reports of people damaging the mica end window on the tube as when in a/b/y mode there is no protection for the tube whatsoever.

Anyway I hope you found that interesting. I hadn't found any criticism about the unit online so I hope this may serve someone, sometime. :)

All the best and wishing you a very happy Christmas and a super duper new year!
Simon

Oh, something I forgot to add. You can't switch the Gamma Scout off. It stays on all the time. I guess this is a good thing if you are using it as a dosimeter but if like me, you just want to use it when you do, then I would certainly prefer the option of turning it off and stopping logging in favour of battery life. But unfortunately you cant :/

 
 
 
 
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3 years 6 months ago #4223 by mw0uzo
Replied by mw0uzo on topic I bought a Gamma Scout.
Awesome! You must have been a good boy this year! Great Christmas present! :lol:

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3 years 6 months ago - 6 months 4 weeks ago #4224 by Simomax
Replied by Simomax on topic I bought a Gamma Scout.
I got bored and curiosity got the better of me. I managed to carefully remove the sticker enough to reveal the screws so here are some pictures of the inside of the counter. The pictures aren't great as I'm not really setup with good lighting etc.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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3 years 6 months ago - 6 months 4 weeks ago #4225 by Simomax
Replied by Simomax on topic I bought a Gamma Scout.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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2 years 11 months ago - 2 years 11 months ago #4508 by Simomax
Replied by Simomax on topic I bought a Gamma Scout.
I thought I would give a quick update after living with my Gamma Scout for a few months.

Despite everything I have written (which my opinion remains true and I stand by) I have really grown to love this counter. It's very handy and just 'there' when I need/want a counter. It is the first counter I pick up now for whatever I want to check. Prior to having the Gamma Scout I would grab my NetIO GC 10 (the one I added to with GPS and SD card (and housed in a nice polycarbonite case)). If I was playing about with sources, and admit it, we all grab our counters and sources occasionally to have a play and see how many clicks they give ;) I would grab my breadboard with my Geiger circuits on and hook up a tube, mainly my LND712, and have a good probe about. But the Gamma Scout is just super handy for doing this kind of thing. I take it out with me occasionally especially to antique stores and warehouses to see if there is anything radioactive and I have found Uranium glass and once an old aircraft clock readout, I think altimeter if I remember correctly, but it had radium of the dial hands. Too expensive for me though at the time.

And so my final thought on the Gamma Scout is despite it's build quality, the cheap feeling plastics and the fact it not going to last forever, and I would really not want to drop it, it is damn handy. It is there and ready to go. No batteries to mess about with. no having to wait until it is switched on and getting up to count. It is just there, ready for me to pick it up and look at the screen. It still bugs me that it doesn't readout CPM and I forget what the buttons do all the time so have to refer to the manual a lot. Besides all that it does what it should. It reads radiation at a moments notice. Great for low level sources but I don't think would be good for 'the big one' as the LND712 can avalanche at lowish levels. (Avalance is the wrong term but I can't remember nor find what I mean. It's when the tube detects more than it is capable of and reads nothing). I wouldn't call it a survey meter, I would call it the first thing I picked up to see what was going on right before putting batteries in some of my other counters.

It has it's uses for sure, but I'm glad I didn't buy a new one. I'm relatively pleased with what I paid for mine, but if I paid full retail price I would have probably been disappointed. A good bit of kit for the hobbyist and prepper but I don't think would hold up to a real close radioactive incident. And by that I mean a country changing event.
Last edit: 2 years 11 months ago by Simomax.
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2 years 11 months ago - 2 years 11 months ago #4509 by mw0uzo
Replied by mw0uzo on topic I bought a Gamma Scout.
Thanks for the review, photos and comments Simomax. A lot of these details would only be found out after buying one. I've always wanted to get one, I would not have expected no CPM readout, that definitely gets a 'whaaa???!' from me, though probably the raw CPM is available via the serial interface.(?)
The battery is interesting, i assume a 10 year life or something like that? The counters that use non-rechargeable lithium cells would certainly go on top of the list of reliablilty, say after leaving it in a drawer for 3 years. The homebrew one I have with LiPo cell still works, but I am expecting one day to switch it on and find the cell utterly dead.
Last edit: 2 years 11 months ago by mw0uzo.

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