Two types of metal-clad waveguide biosensors, so-called dip-type and peak-type, are analyzed and tested. Their performances are benchmarked against the well-known surface-plasmon resonance biosensor, showing improved probe characteristics for adlayer thicknesses above 150-200 nm. The dip-type metal-clad waveguide sensor is shown to be the best all-round alternative to the surface-plasmon resonance biosensor. Both metal-clad waveguides are tested experimentally for cell detection, showing a detection linut of 8-9 cells/mm(2). (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.