We Review the Best Tig Welders of 2018

We Review the Best Tig Welders of 2018

tig weldingAs with any task, having the right equipment makes all the difference.  When it comes to small, accurate welds TIG is the way to go.  So let’s take a look at some of the best TIG welders on the market.

Jump to units Below 200A
Jump to units at 200A
Jump to units above 200A

While price is ALWAYS a consideration, it’s important to look at all sides of the equation when investing in an expensive tool.  A budget machine might be great if you’re a hobbyist looking to supplement a MIG machine, but it won’t have the flexibility and power needed for larger applications.

We’ve ranked the following machines based on a variety of factors including features, price, performance, and durability.  Some will have added benefits including portability.  You’ll have to decide on which is best for you based on your specific needs.   With that in mind here are some important features you should consider in any TIG machine.

best tig welder

Important Features of a Tig Welding Machine

Though there is a lot of marketing in terms of what makes a good TIG welding machine here are the most important features, capabilities, and functions you should look for.

Flexible Amperage

A good TIG welding machine is capable of operating at a wide range of amperage’s.  This allows the you to work with a wide variety of materials and metal thicknesses.  Basically the wider the amperage range the more flexibility you’ll have.

Solid Duty Cycle

In the U.S. (and many other countries) duty cycle is a measurement of how long a welding machine can run at a given output in a ten minute span.  So a 200A machine with a 40% duty cycle could run for 4 minutes at 200A before needing to be cooled.

Less expensive models will have lower duty cycles (20% or lower) as they have smaller power supplies.  Higher quality TIGs will have duty cycles upwards of 60%.

Both AC and DC Capabilities

Welding steel requires DC current only.  However, if you plan to weld materials like aluminum or magnesium you will need a machine with both AC and DC capabilities.  Aluminum oxidizes so quickly that the pulsing from AC current is needed “clean off” the oxidation as it occurs.

That said, if you have plans to stick to steel only, save you $$$ and get a DC only machine.

Arc Stability

Arc stability at lower amperage is important for working on thin and delicate materials.  Too much power and you’ll warp the metal.  Too little and your arc becomes unstable.  Stability below 10A should be considered if you’re working with thinner metals.

Heat Controls

A heat control function is another important feature on any TIG welder.  Warping of thinner metals during a weld is typically the result of uncontrolled heat output.  Many units come with a regulator that allows for precise control of this heat.

Balance Control for AC Operation

If you choose to go with an AC capable machine, a balance control adjustment is an excellent feature to have.  This essentially provides you with control over how much time the welder spends in “cleaning” mode (of aluminum oxide for example) vs “penetration” mode where the actual welding is taking place.

Ergonomic and Easy to Use

TIG welding requires a high degree of skill.  A comfortable torch and a unit that is easy to operate allows the operator to focus all their attention on the weld.

Versatility and Durability

Welding machines are a serious investment.  Machines that offer the capability to work on a wide range of metals obviously provide more bang for the buck.

And any tool you buy should offer serious durability.  This includes the quality of the parts, but also comes into play with features such as built-in cooling fans that can help extend the life of the equipment.

Below are our TIG welder reviews in three different categories based on power.

TOP PICKS BELOW 200A

#1.  Miller Maxstar 150 STL Review

The Miller Maxstar 150 is a DC only unit that comes in at a featherweight 13.5 lbs (compared to 50 on the Hobart!).  It’s capable of operating at 110v or 220v with an amperage range of 5A to 150A.  It works on steel ranging from 0.020 in. (0.5 mm) to 3/16 in. (4.8 mm). The duty cycle is 30% at 150A but jumps to 100% at 100A meaning this little beast can go all day long.  Switching from 110 to 220 is as simple as switching out a plug.

Miller has been making quality welding equipment for decades.  If you’re looking for a TIG machine to form the backbone of your operation you can’t go wrong with the Maxstar 150.  In fact, if you need a portable unit, there’s nothing out there better, period.  Check out our full review.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

#2.  Hobart EZ TIG 165i Review

The Everlast PowerTIG 185 is the budget pick of this group.  At 30lbs it is more portable than the Hobart but still fairly heavy.  It is both AC and DC capable.  It utilizes a IGBT inverter which provides for a stable arc down to 5A DC and 20A AC.  It incorporates a post flow time control as well as both AC frequency control and balance control.  It operates only at 220V.

The PowerTIG has a 35% duty cycle at 185A and jumps to 100% at 110A.  Another nice feature is that this unit can also be used as a stick welder.  See our full review.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

TOP PICKS AT 200A

#1.  AHP AlphaTIG 200DX Review

First place in the 200 amp category goes to the AlphaTIG 200DX  This a legitimately powerful machine.  It comes in at 38 lbs.  It’s AC/DC so it can handle steel and aluminum.  It will handle up to 1/4″ aluminum and 3/8″ mild steel.  It also uses a IGBT inverter and features a high frequency start.  The 200DX also offers both 110v and 220v operation so it’s got a good bit of flexibility.

The price tag is surprisingly low given the amount of power you get with this machine.  That said the unit also offers incredibly good performance.  Arc stability is fantastic.  Heck it even offers 60% cycle duty at 200A.  Pretty much blows away everything in it’s price class.  If you’re looking for a budget machine, you can go wrong with the AHP.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com 

#2.  Miller Dynasty 210

Second place goes to the Dynasty 210 from Miller.  There is a significant price jump between this and the AlphaTIG, but Miller has long been considered one of the absolute best manufacturers out there.  This is the type of machine you can build a business around.

It offers amazing flexibility with an amperage range from 1A-210A.  It can handle steel from 0.002 in. (0.05 mm) – 1/4 in. (6.4 mm) and aluminum from 0.012 in. (0.3 mm) – 1/4 in. (6.4 mm).  The duty cycle is 60% at 210A and it can handle single or three phase power.  At 47lbs it’s no lightweight but it offers unparalleled performance and durability.  It is a SERIOUS investment, but should serve you for years to come.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

#3.  Eastwood ProTig 200 Review

Coming in third place is the ProTIG 200 from Eastwood.  More in line with the Alpha on price this unit offers solid performance at a budget price.  It’s the heaviest one in the group at 61lbs.

The unit operates on both 110v and 220v and has a duty cycle of 20% at 200A.  Pre and post gas are adjustable.  And so is the AC balance for welding aluminum.  It offers both remote foot pedal and control.

If you’re looking for a budget unit that’s got some power, this is a good unit.  But it’s duty cycle is considerably lower than the AHP so that’s the route we would go.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

TOP PICKS 250 Amps

#1.  Everlast PowerTIG 250EX Review

First place in the 250A category goes to the Everlast PowerTIG 250EX.  It offers plenty of power and versatility when it comes to adjusting your welding settings.  To take full advantage of all this power you will need a TIG cooler to go along with this unit.  On aluminum especially it offers a stable and smooth arc that starts very easily.  The 250EX also works with both single and three phase power. 

It offers both HF and lift start capability and has an impressive 40% duty cycle at 250A.  At 200A that jumps to 100%.  The pre and post flows offer a wide range of adjustment.  All in all it’s a very solid machine when you need a great deal of power.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

#2.  Everlast PowerPro 256S

Second place goes to another Everlast product.  The PowerPro 256S offers much of the same performance as the 250EX but with the addition of plasma cutting capability.

It utilizes an Infineon IGBT inverter and offers AC and DC capability.  Duty cycle is 35% at 250A and jumps to 100% at 160A.  It offers both pre and post flow adjustments as well as AC balance adjustments.  It offers only a HF start and operates on single phase power only.

Used as a plasma cutter is it capable of clean cuts on up to 3/4″ steel.  It has a duty cycle of 60% at 60A and 100% at 50A which is pretty impressive for any plasma cutter.  If you’re looking for a highly flexible TIG/cutter this is a great choice at a great price.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

#3.  Miller Syncrowave 250DX Review

Coming in at number three is the Miller Syncrowave 250DX.  To be fair this is probably the most robust and reliable unit in the 250A group, but it is considerably more expensive than both Everlast models and doesn’t offer some of the flexibility of the first two.  That being said, if you’re going to buy a TIG welder to build a business around, this guy will offer you performance and reliability that is unmatched.

It’s a single phase AC/DC with an amperage range from 3A all the way up to 310A.  It can handle steel from 0.012 in. (0.3 mm) – 1/2 in. (12.7 mm) and aluminum from 0.015 in. (0.4 mm) – 3/8 in. (9.5 mm).  It offers a 40% duty cycle at 250A and 60% at 200A.  The 250 has AC balance control and several nice memory features to recall your most recent settings, even when switching back and forth between AC and DC.  It also has a digital readout for amperage and voltage that shows the presets as well as the actual outputs allowing greater accuracy and repeatability.

Miller builds a quality product.  And while the 250DX doesn’t offer some of the performance (duty cycle etc) it is designed to last forever.  If you’re looking for a production/commercial TIG welder this guy is built to handle all you can throw at it.

See Reviews and Current Pricing on Amazon.com

Common Mistakes When Purchasing TIG Welders

Here are a few of the more common mistakes people make when buying a TIG machine;

  • Improper input voltage:   Make sure you understand what your power capabilities are.  Some welders operate on both 110v and 220v.  The power output at 110v will be significantly less than at 220v.  Some machines also operate on single or 3 phase power.  Make sure to check the input voltage of the unit you want to ensure it matches up with what’s available where you’ll be using the unit.
  • Unnecessary functions:  If you’re not going to be welding aluminum or magnesium, you don’t need a unit with AC capabilities.  This can add significantly to the cost.
  • Cooling Units:  Larger welders like the Everlast 256S will require separate cooling equipment to get the full power out of the machine.  This adds significantly to the cost.  Make sure you know if the unit you pick needs a cooling unit to maximize it’s duty cycle and output.
  • Understand Power Demands:  If you think you might require more power from your unit at some point in the future make sure to build this into your decision.  Spending a little bit more now is better than having to invest in a bigger machine down the road.
  • Overkill:  While there are worse problems than buying more machine than you need, it’s easy to get carried away when buying heavy equipment.  If you’re a hobbyist, going with a unit with plenty of power and a lower duty cycle can help you save some money.

Finding the best TIG welder for your needs should be a balance of features and price.  We hope you have found our reviews helpful.