The Zircon MultiScanner i520 is a center-finding electronic stud finder and wall scanner powered by a 9-volt battery. It's designed to locate metal wiring, conduit and water pipes as well as wall studs, making it a good choice for remodeling jobs where the inside of a wall is fairly unpredictable. Like other electronic stud finders, the i520 emits an electronic field that can penetrate a wall more deeply than a magnetic stud finder, making it more versatile. The LCD display is supplemented by an audio tone and a visible red beam, so you can watch the work surface rather than the tool, yet still know when a stud is found.
This model scans in four modes: one for studs behind wallboard up to 0.7 inches deep, a deeper scan for walls up to 1.5 inches thick, a scan for electrical wiring up to 2 inches behind the wall, and a metal mode for copper pipes, rebar and other metals in the wall. In both wiring and metal modes, the Zircon i520 warns about any live wiring. The warranty is for one year.
Comparison tests at Fine Homebuilding find the i520 accurate in finding studs and wiring (except in tiled walls) but not in detecting copper pipes. However, at least one owner-reviewer at Amazon.com reports that it detected copper pipes in his wall just fine. Accuracy with studs and wiring is also confirmed in tests by an independent testing company, SGS. Reviewers note that this model's size is a drawback if you need to locate studs in a corner or cramped area (it measures 7.25 inches high by 3.2 inches wide by 1.4 inches thick). It's overkill, too, if all you are interested in doing is finding studs behind standard half-inch drywall where the simpler and less expensive C.H. Hanson Stud4Sure Magnetic Stud Finder (*Est. $15) can easily do the trick.
The Zircon MultiScanner i520 is among 12 stud finders tested and compared at Fine Homebuilding -- on four different types of test wall. Independent testing company SGS also includes this model in more technical comparison tests for accuracy, though only in half-inch drywall. We also found ratings and detailed comments from owners at Amazon.com, plus one review at HomeDepot.com. Bestcovery.com recommends the i520 as the best of five stud finders covered there, but testing and usage by the reviewer isn't well documented there.
1. Fine Homebuilding
Based on thorough tests on four types of wall (drywall, drywall plus beadboard, plaster and tile), the Zircon MultiScanner i520 ranks third -- outranking other Zircon models plus a Stanley stud finder -- and the top two stud finders recommended here are either unavailable or hard to find. The Zircon i520 provides accurate results finding studs and wiring (with no false results) on three of the four test walls -- all but tile -- but it doesn't find copper pipe.
Review: Tool Test: Stud Finders and Wall Scanners, Andy Beasley, Jan. 20, 2011
Testing by SGS, an independent company, finds the Zircon i520 performs as specified, both in finding studs and locating Romex cable alongside a stud. The test walls are half-inch drywall coated with rough-textured paint. Though the test was commissioned by Zircon, the results appear to be unbiased and both Zircon and Stanley stud finders are evaluated.
Review: SGS Report: Zircon and Stanley, Greg Hagerty and Greg Wrona, Nov. 26, 2008
The Zircon MultiScanner i520 is the top-rated electronic stud finder at this retail site, though some owners say they can't get it to work properly or reliably. However most say that the i520 is an effective and useful tool. One user-reviewer reports success with a plaster wall; another disagrees with Fine Homebuilding, saying it did find copper pipe in his wall.
Review: Zircon MultiScanner i520 Center-Finding Stud Finder with Metal and AC Electrical Scanning, Contributors to Amazon.com
The sole review published at the time of our report gives the Zircon i520 a perfect 5-star rating. The brief accompanying comment says that it is easy to use and works as intended.
Review: Zircon Corporation MultiScanner i520 OneStep Stud Finder, Contributors to HomeDepot.com
The Zircon i520 earns the top spot among five stud finders recommended here. The author is a working electrician but this review does not make it clear that he has personally used or tested the i520.
Review: Zircon MultiScanner i520 Center-Finding Stud Finder, Craig Nance, Oct. 6, 2010
This video shows how to use the Zircon i520. While demonstrating the stud finder in action is helpful, there are no comparisons to other models.
Review: Zircon Multiscanner i520 OneStep, "MAPUKOnline", Nov. 20, 2010