NETSCOUT AirCheck G2
Recently NETSCOUT released the long awaited update to the [Fluke] AirCheck product line and it’s an awesome update! Now we’ve done a couple of tool posts in the past about why you need this and what it does but nothing really compares to the flexibility an AirCheck gives you. I’ve been using an AirCheck for a number of years now (even though I have been critical of it in the past! http://blakekrone.com/2013/10/21/check-check-123-aircheck) and it has always been my go to device for quick site checks when looking at RF quality. As technology as evolved though the AirCheck hadn’t kept up, so while it was great for checking and seeing what the channel utilization and signal strength looked like overtime it started to miss the mark for a throughput device.
The G2 fixes that, we now have a handheld 802.11ac 3×3 test device, before you go and say I can’t generate enough traffic to overwhelm an 802.11ac Access Point I agree, that isn’t the point of what I want to do. The G2 allows you to verify at a minimum associated 802.11ac MCS rates, which comes in handy just as much as full throughput testing. Looking past the obvious throughput increase the receive sensitivity seems to have been immensely increased as well. A few weeks ago while onsite in Philadelphia I had both my G1 and G2 units out comparing results. I easily saw double the number of networks with the G2 than I did with the G1. Albeit they were on the fringe of what I consider impacting on the network it was still nice to see all those other networks. Remember my link up above to where I was critical about the device if you are keeping score this is a +1 for the G2 having 802.11ac.
Other major enhancement in the G2 is that its small LCD screen + directional button interface has been replaced with a large touchscreen interface. I will say that during my testing my muscle memory was getting in my way while I was using the G2. I keep moving my thumbs toward the directional buttons for the G1 unit to move around forgetting that it was a touchscreen. This muscle memory quickly wore off though and the touchscreen interface became more intuitive and efficient. Typing on the device is easier with the touch keyboard so I’m finding myself actually entering in more appropriate and descriptive details about the test locations than the shorthand I was using with G1 to reduce the typing needed. Here is another +1 for the G2 from my list of requests.
It wouldn’t be a device of this era if it wasn’t cloud enabled in some shape or form so the G2 obviously has upload capabilities of the test results. With the introduction of the LinkSprinter came the Link-Live cloud service from NETSCOUT. We gave a quick overview of the Link-Live during one of our video series earlier on so we won’t go into too much detail other than the fact that like the LinkSprinter and LinkRunner the G2 will upload its data upon getting a successful connection via either the wireless card or the ethernet connection (more about that soon!). Just like any of the other Link-Live enabled devices you claim your G2 unit and the data will show up in your account. What type of data is included in the upload?
PHY Data Rate: 195
Retry Rate: 1
Signal (dBm): -51
Noise (dBm): -98
SNR (dB): 47
AP Name: Aruba:00:00:16
Adv Media : [“a”, “n”, “ac”]
This is a great start and I’m hoping we’ll see more data such as the AutoTest results. This, along with profile management of wireless networks from the Link-Live service, removes the need for the PC only software. Yet another +1 for the G2 on my list of needs.
Wires for the Wireless Tool?
That’s right, one of the new features of the G2 combines some of the LinkSprinter features into the G2 removing the need for both devices to be carried by the engineer. The G2 doesn’t fully replace a LinkRunner though as it does not have the capabilities of doing 802.1X authentication nor VLAN support. For advanced ethernet testing you’ll still need your LinkRunnerAT but at least to check to verify that a port is functional and in the correct VLAN you have that ability. I see some future use cases here where we could hopefully one day configure a VCI to test to see what controller IP address an Access Point might discover via that port using the various discovery methods. This data as well is uploaded to the Link-Live service and any time you connect successfully via ethernet the G2 will upload any stored tests currently in its buffer. I didn’t have this in my original “I wish” post but it certainly has become a nice feature to have.
So how does the G2 stack up? Well it meets or exceeds almost all of my requests for what I thought the G2 should be. It’s still a somewhat larger clunky device when you go to put it in your bag but it really needs to be that way to withstand the abuse it’ll receive. While the G2 UI mimics the G1 almost in its entirety only adding efficiencies with the touchscreen I feel that NETSCOUT will be building upon this platform for awhile to come adding new software features such as my most wanted feature floorplan annotations. Now that we have the updated hardware platform the software will improve as time goes on giving us new features and use cases. Speaking of updated hardware platform did you notice the USB ports on the side of the unit? I’m expecting a lot of modularity with those ports and hope to see saving results to flash drives, keyboard support for profile entry, GPS logger support, and maybe even spectrum analyzer adapter support. NETSCOUT has clearly hit another home run with the G2 and I foresee a lot of folks updating their G1’s to G2.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”