As technologies for magnetorheological (MR) fluid hardware further evolve towards commercial adoption, the appeal for simpler, more cost-effective solutions becomes evident. While the skills involved in methods of manufacturing and cost-reduction efforts for mass production lie with the manufacturing community, practical and cost-effective MR technologies must first exist. As part of a 'whole approach' MR solution, the MR damper technology presented in this paper illustrates the development of a fast-response, low-power, cost-effective solution. Fundamentally, a competitive 'whole approach' active or semi-active MR solution can be viewed as system of separate components: parameter sensing, intelligent control, power delivery, and MR hardware technology. The development of any one single component should not successfully evolve without the addressing the cost efficiency and commercialization concerns of the other three. The MR hardware component should be predictable in performance behavior, capable of high damping force at minimal power, and fast in time response to complement simplified control schemes. The design effort is further challenged to meet these requirements within a simple, cost-effective package that holds commercial development appeal. This research includes the characterization of a new prototype MR damper including a description of the device technology, characterization test results and current work. It is evident by these results that this MR technology, comprising simple, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components where possible, presents an attractive, practical and cost effective component of the 'whole approach' MR solution.