A paper from 2008 mentions that quantitative PCR is 25 years old (VanGuilder et al., 2008) but routine use of this technology has only taken off during the past 12 years. The first commercial Real-Time PCR instrument, the ABI Prism 7700, was introduced to researchers in 1996 by Applied Biosystems (Gibson et al., 1996; Heid et al., 1996). Since then over 40 additional Real-Time PCR instruments have been developed by more than a dozen vendors.
Because there are so many Real-Time PCR instrument available utilizing a wide range of technologies, scientists face a daunting selection task. The space includes everything from entry level (single color detection, a small number of samples, low cost) to more complex (over 5 channel colors and multiplex detection, thousands of samples processed in each run, and expensive system price). In this chapter we highlight some key features that differentiate Real-Time PCR instruments, with the goal of simplifying the criteria needed to select the instrument that best fit a specific scientist’s research needs.