Product Review: AMS Trex Communicator – take 2!

Okay, how many of y’all want a field tool that has all the features you need most for your process? We have some pretty good products on the market now that address many of your needs, and some even give you the ability to add features with simple modules.

In my career, I recall many situations where I needed to juggle both a voltmeter and a handheld. As you know, it takes more time than you want to spend connecting everything correctly. But today you can find tools that cut down on the wrangling you have to do in the field.

Once again, Emerson joins the conversation with its extensive experience in field communication. I’m sure you’ve heard about and maybe even used the 275, 375, and 475. A while back, we reviewed the 475. And actually, we already have a review about today’s featured product. I decided to give a deeper review this time around, because during the first review I was still figuring out the best format for our reviews and comparisons.

So let’s welcome back the AMS Trex Communicator! I’ll offer new thoughts and more details about this handheld from Emerson. You see a lot of AMS Trex marketing out there, but does it bring real innovation to the table? Let’s find out.

Grab a sparkling water, have a read, and draw your conclusions.

Disclaimer: This product review examines only features, not performance. If you’ve used this device, feel free to share your experience in the comments.

Whatcha got there?

The AMS Trex opens a new handheld era for Emerson. It improves a lot on the concept of the old but gold 475, trying to bring you everything you want in a handheld.

I watched an online training video about the AMS Trex that revealed the process of designing this new device. The developers called it the Dragon Project, and they used consumer feedback to design the device and develop the features. Although it lacks many of the features depicted in the video, Emerson’s reps say they’re working on them. We’ll see.

AMS Trex
Courtesy of Emerson Automation Solutions

The device has HART and Foundation Fieldbus (FF) protocols, so you can set up devices from numerous vendors using the Trex. Furthermore, you can power the devices using the communication cables, making a power supply unnecessary. It’s heavier than the 475, around 1.33 kilograms, and I thought the extra weight came from the battery. It must come from something else, though, because its battery only has 8 hours of juice, downright wimpy compared to the 475 battery’s 20!

Its design isn’t one of its strong points, but it has a decent touchscreen display that eliminates the need for a keyboard. It also comes in two versions, one offering only basic communication and the other offering features such as power generation and current measurement.

What can it do?

It can set up field devices, yay! Heh, you thought I was done with that joke, didn’t you? Yup, the AMS Trex brings with it all the expertise from the 475. You have a rich list of device descriptions (DDs), and you can connect and set up a vast array of field devices from various vendors. Plus the updates now come free, woo hoo! Thanks, Emerson!

I mentioned earlier that you can power up your HART or FF devices using the communication cables, but I like this feature enough to repeat it. Yeah, you need an adapter to do so, but it’s still a good feature.

AMS Trex
Courtesy of Emerson Automation Solutions

I also like the HART and FF diagnostics in the AMS Trex. In the FF segment, you can check all the data that can help sort out problems in the network and devices. Last but not least, it also offers wireless, Bluetooth, and USB connections to transfer data. Nice options, right? Pick the best for you.

Why should I care?

Because obviously the AMS Trex has worthy features. If you’ve used an Emerson handheld, you have some idea about the power of this tool. Even the small details look good, like the visualization screen, with its color coding of your device status. The menu navigation is more user-friendly, too. Plus, if you have the positioner from Emerson, the AMS Trex has the ValveLink Mobile app installed, so you can diagnose your valves with it.

AMS Trex
Courtesy of Emerson Automation Solutions

It also has software to install firmware and DDs, called Upgrade Studio. You can connect through USB or wifi, although the wifi brings more options. If you have the AMS Suite platform, you can connect with the AMS Trex to exchange information. And because it has different user access levels, you can limit access on it.


Obviously the AMS Trex can tackle a lot of applications, so you definitely should consider it for your workspace. For the future, Emerson wants to take on challenges such as vibration, workflow management, control systems, and such. We’re also hearing noises about a feature to set up the device through wifi. Of course, you need a wifi structure for that. I have my doubts, but we’ll see. Emerson has more tricks in its bag of holding!

Check out this video on the AMS Trex durability tests:

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