JMTN blog

(Japanese Model Train Newsletter)

Tomix vs. Kato E233-1000 model review

Having the unique opportunity to compare these two items side by side, I decided to write a review and make up a scorecard …

The E233 trains were first introduced on the Chuo line in 2006, and the E233-1000 series variant was introduced on the Keihin Tohoku line in late 2007 to replace the 15 year old 209 sets.

The two models available are …

  1. Kato 10-543 E233-1000 series EC 6 car set (Keihin Tohoku line)
  2. Kato 10-544 E233-1000 series EC 4 car addon (Keihin Tohoku line)

and …

  1. Tomix 92348 E233-1000 series EC 3 car set (Keihin Tohoku line)
  2. Tomix 92349 E233-1000 series EC 3 car addon I (Keihin Tohoku line)
  3. Tomix 92350 E233-1000 series EC 4 car addon II (Keihin Tohoku line)


The Kato main set comes in the familiar green 6 car case, and the addon set is in the mini-size 4 car case. The main Tomix set comes in a cardboard & foam box, and the two addon sets both come in the new style 7 car hard case. I have used a ten car insert to keep my Tomix set in one box, so I have a spare case left over 🙂  Score :-

  • Tomix – 1 (only because I think their plastic case is better than Kato’s cardboard/vinyl version)
  • Kato – 0


It is immediately apparent that the blue striping is a different colour – Kato’s is a more paler shade of blue than the Tomix, and their underbody details and bogies are a slightly paler shade of gray. The roof vents on the tops of the cars are white with Kato and light gray with Tomix. Looking at photo’s, the Kato stripe and the Tomix underbody both look to be more correct, but who knows if the photo is correct ?  Tomix’s silver body colour is a little brighter, otherwise at a distance, I doubt you could tell which was which. The size and shape of some of the underbody details also differ on the cab & trailer cars, but they may be representing a set built by a different manufacturer ?  Kato’s front destination boards seems a little too narrow.  Score :-

  • Tomix – 1 (but really much difference here)
  • Kato – 0


The Kato set is completely pre-numbered & lettered (including side destination boards) – Tomix provide a sheet of rub-on lettering for the car numbers, set numbers, wheel-chair signs & low A/C car signs (but no side destination boards).  The door surrounds are a little thinner on the Kato, and they have fans in their air conditioners.  Score :-

  • Kato – 1  (again not a lot of difference, but mostly only because of their pre-lettering)
  • Tomix – 0


Both sets have blackened wheel sets and one power car with 6 wheel pickup & 2 rubber tyres. They also both have reversing head & tail lights. Even though Kato does not have Tomix’s CL lighting function, the lights on both sets do come on at voltages lower than starts the train moving. However Tomix’s lights are brighter overall, and they do provide an on/off switch.  Score :-

  • Tomix – 1
  • Kato – 0


Both sets have 2 small flywheels but on the Kato set, these and the motor are easily accessible by sliding & unclipping the bottom underbody detail cover slightly. To access the Tomix motor, you need to take off the body, and dis-assemble the chassis.  The Tomix starts at a lower voltage, but also has a higher top speed. The Kato seems to be able to run a little slower, even though the voltage is higher, and it is a little quieter at high speeds. The flywheels don’t really make a lot of difference on either sets.  Score :-

  • Kato – 1
  • Tomix – 0


Both sets have small parts to be added to the roof of the cab cars. Tomix provides 12 different destination signs that you can interchange with the one that is pre-fitted, including local & express versions of ‘Keihin Tohoku line’, ‘Omiya’, ‘Ofuna’, ‘Kamata’ & ‘Minami Urawa’ – with Kato you are stuck with ‘Express – Keihin Tohoku line’. Whilst the Kato set is pre-numbered & lettered as set #4, Tomix provide a sheet of rub-on lettering for 5 different sets, if you wanted a fleet of these.  Score :-

  • Tomix – 1
  • Kato – 0


If you are into DCC, the Kato set is what they call ‘DCC Friendly’ and has small panels under the cab cars to allow you to slip in their own decoder boards for the lights. Normally they also have a space on the power car to clip in the motor decoder, but this was not apparent without further dis-assembly. Tomix do not provide any facilities for DCC.  Score :-

  • Kato – 1
  • Tomix – 0


As usual, Kato’s version is cheaper by around 10% than Tomix, and with Tomix you also have to add the TN couplers if you want to.  Both sets are made in Japan, not China.  Score :-

  • Kato – 1
  • Tomix – 0


  • Kato – 4
  • Tomix – 4

As you can see, there is really not much difference between these sets, unless you have some type of personal preference (DCC, using TN couplers etc). However it may depend on which one is available at the time you decide to buy 🙂

rear - Kato, front - Tomix

rear - Kato, front - Tomix

Kato cars with their Kato Couplers

Kato cars with their Kato Couplers

Tomix cars with optional TN Couplers

Tomix cars with optional TN Couplers


February 22, 2009 - Posted by | Kato, model review, Tomix

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