Symptoms of acute febrile respiratory tract infection are often unspecific, but the rapid identification of pathogens allows optimised patient management. The objective of this study was to evaluate a novel multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) suspension microarray which detects 19 viral and four atypical bacterial targets. A comprehensive set of sensitive monoplex real-time PCR assays was used for each pathogen as the gold standard. A panel of archived as well as 300 prospectively collected clinical samples was analysed by both methods. At least one target was detected in 165/300 (55 %) samples by monoplex PCR and in 140/300 (46 %) samples by multiplex PCR, respectively. The positivity rate was significantly higher in paediatric patients compared to adults [126/154 (82 %) vs. 39/146 (27 %) by monoplex and 114/154 (74 %) vs. 26/146 (18 %) by multiplex PCR, respectively]. Among all samples, 17/300 (5.6 %) were positive for atypical bacteria by monoplex and 8/300 (2.6 %) by multiplex PCR, respectively. Multiple detections were recorded in 35/300 (11.6 %) samples by monoplex and 26/300 (8.7 %) by multiplex PCR. For the most common pathogens, the sensitivity ranged from 57 to 93 % and the specificity ranged from 95 to 100 %. The overall concordance between both methods was 77 % [95 % confidence interval (CI) 72-81 %]. False-negative results by multiplex PCR were mainly due to the low target concentration. Compared to monoplex PCR, the novel microarray assay proved its principle but displayed overall lower sensitivities, potentially restricting its use to paediatric patients. For some targets, only small numbers of positive samples were available, requiring larger studies to firmly assess the sensitivity and specificity.