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A Comprehensive Summary of Different Types of Resistors

The preceding table summarizes important electrical characteristics of various resistor types. There are 5 kinds being compared: carbon composition, carbon film, metal film, wire wound, and chip resistors. Skimming quickly through the visual, one can infer that there is no single resistor that tops the rest in all aspects. There is always a trade-off, consequently making the table a pivotal tool for an electronics hobbyist in making the right choice.

9 characteristics have been bluntly shown, with the last 2 rows describing advantages and disadvantages concluded from those 9 factors. In terms of accuracy and stability, wire wound resistors are the way to go, and not the carbon composition ones which happen to be the worst. Those with stringent budgets may find carbon film resistors a reasonable alternative, at the cost of a significantly high tempco.

Metal film resistors seem to balance everything, with the minor flaw of having a poor surge capacity. From personal experience, I tried drawing a high transient current from a regulator using just metal film resistors (lots and lots in parallel) and they burned easily - D'OH!! An ohmmeter check yielded a completely different readout! Better watch out for that poor surge capacity, eh?

By the way, it is worth noting that even though carbon composition resistors are infamous for inaccuracy and instability, they are able to provide a maximum resistance of 100MΩ.

Many resistors have their ups and downs. It is up to the hobbyist to choose which befits his/her unique application.


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