TIG Welder Reviews: The Best TIG Welder for the Money
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding – otherwise known as GMAW – is a welding process which uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode. This process needs you to use both hands, which makes it much more challenging than stick and MIG welding. It’s an incredibly popular type of welding, which is partly down to the fact that it creates very clean, smooth, spatter-free welds which are very visually attractive. Perfecting the art of TIG welding takes time and practice, so it’s important to start out by getting the best TIG welder for the money – at least this way you’ll be likely to get good results right from the start.
Before you head out to part with your buck, you should take into account each machine’s features, performance and portability to weigh up how suitable it is for your needs. Read through our TIG welder reviews, comparisons and comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you choose from some of the best TIG welders on the market!
AHP AlphaTIG 200X Welder
Lotos TIG140 Welder
EVERLAST PowerARC 140 TIG Welder
Eastwood Pro 200 AMP TIG Welder
Hobart 500551 EZ TIG 165i Welder
|Reviewer Comments||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
|Value For Money||4.5||4.7||4.2||3.5||3.2|
|Material thickness||Up to 3/8"||18 ga. to 1/4"||Up to 3/8"||Up to 1/4"||22 ga. to 3/16"|
|Duty cycle||60% @ 200A||35%||35%||45% @ 150A|
|Digital display||with manual knobs|
|Weight||50 lbs||9.9 lbs||24.8 lbs||50 lbs|
|Product dimensions||9" x 21" x 17"||12.5" x 20" x 13.5"||20" x 12.5" x 13.5"||27.7" x 11.9" x 22.1"||27" x 21" x 14"|
|Starting type||High frequency||Lift start||Lift start||High frequency||High frequency|
|Value For Money|
|Warranty||3 years||1 year||5 years||3 years||Hobart 5/3/1 Warranty|
The Best TIG Welder Reviews
The top performers in our review are the AHP AlphaTIG 200X Welder, the Gold Award winner; the Lotos TIG140 Welder, the Silver Award winner; and the EVERLAST PowerARC 140, the Bronze Award winner.
#1 Best Overall – AHP AlphaTIG 200X WelderAHP is a reasonably priced brand which is well known for constantly updating its technology, releasing new machines each year. This AlphaTIG 200X welder is the newest model for the year, which has features which make it far superior to the previous versions. One such feature is the adjustable pulse frequency; previous models only went up to 5Hz, but now the welder starts at 0.5Hz and rises as high as 200Hz. In addition, the regulator which comes with this machine is much better quality than in years gone by. This mid-range welder can be used for stick and TIG welding, and as it has both AC and DC power outputs you can use it to weld aluminium, should you choose. Once you get started, this welder is so easy to use, forming a really smooth, stable arc. We found that it puts down a nice bead, and the welds look really clean and smart. The practical long cable, fantastic build quality and the foot pedal which is included with the package all make this incredible value for money.
On the downside, this TIG machine only uses high frequency starts – although this might appeal to some welders, it doesn’t have the lift start function which is usually really appealing. Another frustrating feature is that the foot pedal slipped very easily on our workshop floor. This can be fixed very easily with a rubber pad or a wooden board attached to the bottom, but it’s still a hassle that any busy welder could do without. The design and build of this machine is somewhat confusing; the on/off switch is awkwardly located at the back of the machine, the plastic cover on the front doesn’t serve any real purpose and just becomes annoying with constant use, and the torch might need replacing as it isn’t the best quality in the world. However, these factors don’t detract from the ease of use or weld quality with this machine, which is still great value for money.
#2 Best Value – Lotos TIG140 WelderThe best cheap TIG welder on the market, the Lotos TIG140 offers outstanding performance for the price. In terms of build quality and arc control this is comparable to other TIG welders which are several times more expensive – but here it’s all packaged into a seriously compact, lightweight case. Suitable for stick and TIG welding, this machine can weld everything from stainless or ferrous steel right through to copper and other materials (except aluminium). The lift start function is easy to use, and creates really smooth, steady arcs for welding in all positions. You can hook this welder up to any 110V or 240V power source – as well as generators. This makes it even more portable as you can weld virtually anywhere. One added extra is that this welder comes with a basic face mask, but it’s hand-held and relatively poor quality so you should always look to purchase an auto-darkening helmet as well.
Please note that this is a DC only welder – as you need AC to weld aluminium, welding that type of metal isn’t a possibility with this machine. However, when it comes to welding steel and other metals, some users have reported difficulties with using the lift start function, saying that it’s only possible to scratch start. However, this is a difficult technique to master, so with a bit of practice the lift start should work without any problems.
#3 Top Contender – EVERLAST PowerARC 140 WelderThis EVERLAST PowerArc TIG welder is incredibly well priced, but its power, size and durability make it seem much more expensive than it is. It’s seriously quiet – much quieter than most other TIG welders we’ve tried – but doesn’t compromise on power or strength. The smooth, stable arc is formed from a lift start, which also features an automated hot start which should prevent the electrode from sticking, which would create unsightly, imperfect welds. The machine itself is really lightweight and portable, but is sturdy enough to withstand continuous, rigorous use around the workshop. When we say around the workshop, we really do mean it: the cable is surprisingly long and it’s easy to attach an even longer length if you so wish. Finally, it features a digital display to make it effortless to see your exact settings.
Bear in mind that this is a DC only machine, so it doesn’t have the AC capability required for aluminium welding. Furthermore, you will need to get hold of a regulator as this doesn’t come with the machine. Sometimes the build quality could be improved: neither the gas hose nor the TIG torch which is supplied are the best quality in the world, but these can be replaced very easily for little cost. Even the price of a new, better quality TIG torch still won’t make the total price of this TIG set-up much higher than most other models!
TIG Welder Buyer’s Guide
TIG welders are fairly complicated pieces of equipment, so it’s important to do your research before you buy, so that you understand all the different features and specifications that you’ll be comparing. This buyer’s guide breaks down the confusing welding language to make these machines easy to understand, allowing you to buy the best TIG welder that you can afford.
Most decent TIG welders are designed to work with both 110V and 240V power inputs. Choosing a welder that has dual power capabilities will increase the machine’s versatility, as you can hook it up and use it almost anywhere. For smaller, hobby projects a lower power should be sufficient, but if you work on bigger, more industrial, heavier projects, then you’ll need a higher powered machine.
Try to find a welder with as wide an amperage range as possible: something which ranges from 5 to 230 amps is ideal. Every metal needs a different amperage level, so having a machine with a wide amperage range will allow you to weld a wide variety of different materials. Bear in mind that aluminium generally requires a higher amperage than steel, so if you do work with this metal then you’ll need a welder that reaches higher than 200 amps.
AC (which stands for alternating current) and DC (which refers to direct current) are the two different types of power output which you’ll see associated with TIG welders. If your budget can afford it, choose a machine that is set up for both, as this will increase the versatility of the machine and prevent you from forking out on several different welders.
If you use soft metals in your welding – such as aluminium or magnesium – then you will need a welder that has AC. DC, on the other hand, is suitable for work with hard metals such as steel and copper. Identifying which metals you use most regularly will help you to choose the most appropriate TIG welder for your needs.
When comparing AC welders, a nice feature to have is AC balance control, although it isn’t essential. In a nutshell, alternating current cleans the weld at the same time as joining the two pieces of metal together; using AC balance control will allow you to adjust this setting, choosing to what extent the machine cleans versus its level of penetration.
Type of arc start
There are three different ways to strike an arc with TIG welding. Every welder will start in a different way, so look for a machine that uses your preferred method.
High frequency – this technique uses a high frequency of energy to strike the arc between the tungsten electrode and the material to be welded. It is suitable for both AC and DC TIG welding.
Scratch start – this technique involves scratching the tungsten electrode against the metal to strike an arc. It is relatively easy to learn, but one downside is that some tungsten may be left behind, which will contaminate your welds.
Lift start – this is a similar technique to scratch starting, except that this method prolongs the life of your equipment as it avoids scratching the electrode.
Welding can be a pretty hot process, so it’s a great idea to have some sort of heat control built into your TIG welder in order to keep things safe and cool. Thin metals tend to warp very easily in high temperatures, so bearing in mind that TIG welding is best for thin materials, having some form of heat control will make your life much easier.
Top quality TIG welders will feature an in-built pulser, which alternates between high and low currents. In real terms, this means that the welder will be able to maintain the arc, while allowing the weld to cool to a much safer temperature.
Hand or foot controls
Many TIG welders come fitted with foot pedals, or with the possibility of attaching one. Foot pedals are really easy and practical to use, as they leave both hands free to concentrate on your welding. In addition, they give greater control over your weld.
That said, it is possible to buy a TIG welder which uses hand controls. There is nothing wrong with using hand controls, but the fact is that they make it a little more difficult to control both your welds and your torch.
Other appealing features
Each TIG welder has its own quirks and features, but here are a few others which you may like to look out for.
Fans are great for temperatures down, even more so if they’re thermostatically controlled. If a fan is running all the time, it will draw a lot of dust and dirt through the machine. As a result, a thermostatically controlled fan which only runs as and when it needs to will maintain the other parts of the machine at the same time as reducing energy consumption.
In addition, look for a TIG welder which allows you to remove and change the torch quickly and easily. Aside from the fact that it will be easy to replace the torch if it ever gets damaged, having this quick switch capability allows you to switch to a more suitable torch for your environment, your job, or even just your own preferences.
As with most things, you get what you pay for. However, hopefully our reviews of the best TIG welders have proven that getting a fantastic quality welder with great performance doesn’t have to cost the Earth.
Understanding your needs as a welder is the first step to buying the best TIG welder for the money, but beyond that, look for a machine that gives you as much versatility, choice and flexibility within your welding career as possible!