Flow cytometers typically incorporate expensive lasers with high-quality (TEM00) output beam structure and very stable output power, significantly increasing system cost and power requirements. Red diode lasers minimize power consumption and cost, but limit fluorophore selection. Low-cost DPSS laser pointer modules could possibly offer increased wavelength selection but presumed emission instability has limited their use. A $160 DPSS 532 nm laser pointer module was first evaluated for noise characteristics and then used as the excitation light source in a custom-built flow cytometer for the analysis of fluorescent calibration and alignment microspheres. Eight of ten modules tested were very quiet (RMS noise < or = 0.6% between 0 and 5 MHz). With a quiet laser pointer module as the light source in a slow-flow system, fluorescence measurements from alignment microspheres produced CVs of about 3.3%. Furthermore, the use of extended transit times and < or =1 mW of laser power produced both baseline resolution of all 8 peaks in a set of Rainbow microspheres, and a detection limit of <20 phycoerythrin molecules per particle. Data collected with the transit time reduced to 25 micros (in the same instrument but at 2.4 mW laser output) demonstrated a detection limit of approximately 75 phycoerythrin molecules and CVs of about 2.7%. The performance, cost, size, and power consumption of the tested laser pointer module suggests that it may be suitable for use in conventional flow cytometry, particularly if it were coupled with cytometers that support extended transit times.