AllSeq was recently at Illumina HQ to get a sneak peek at their new NextSeq 500. We’ve already listed all of the specs and given our opinion on how we think this new platform fits into Illumina’s lineup and the broader market, but this was our first chance to see it in action.
It’s clear that a lot of attention was paid during the design of this instrument. It’s been built to maximize the ease of use (apparently even easier than the MiSeq), it’s got its own chemistry (more than just the two dye thing – hopefully we’ll learn more at AGBT this week), and it even went through “sound branding” – think Intel commercials and a Mac booting up.
But the two things that stick out the most when you first see it have to do with size. First, the footprint is surprisingly small, even smaller than the MiSeq. It’s a little bit taller, but it’s kind of amazing that something that kicks out around 100Gb of data per day can be so small.
Second, the flow cell is big. Bigger than big, it’s huge! Our photo below includes both a MiSeq flow cell and a HiSeq (rapid mode) flow cell for scale. It’s massive and feels quite substantial in your hand.
Despite what it looks like, this large flow cell has only one effective ‘lane’. What look like four lanes are all connected, so it’s built for only one sample at a time (with multiple samples possible via multiplexing). The cluster density is quite low, at about 1/4th to 1/6th that of the HiSeq. That, along with large clusters, helps the system get by with less expensive optics. However, it does make you wonder if we’ll see density improvements in the future.
For what it’s worth, we also had a look at a new HiSeq X instrument. But as exciting as that instrument is, the looks were a bit of a letdown. It has the same footprint as the HiSeq 2500 and, as it was being used in an Illumina test lab, it even had the old 2500 skin.