Sunday, 22 October 2017 18:48

Review - NETSCOUT AirCheck G2 Wi-Fi tester


NETSCOUT’s AirCheck G2 is a comprehensive and portable tool for network professionals to test and troubleshoot wired and wireless networks.

Although it is a portable unit, it includes plugs and sockets for external antennas and RJ-45 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet, as well as a Kensington Lock so you can secure it. Other sockets include three USB ports and a charging port.

To get the most out of the AirCheck G2 you will need to sign up to NETSCOUT's Link-Live Cloud Service, a free, online system for viewing, tracking and organising your Ethernet and wireless connection test results. These results are automatically uploaded. You can perform some functions without signing up to Link-Live, and pairing your G2 to it, but you really do get a lot of increased functionality and benefit by doing so, including detailed instructions.

You can also download and run the AirCheck G2 Manager which runs on Microsoft Windows and will check and upgrade your AirCheck's software, create test configurations and profiles, store and analyse test results and generate reports. If you are a Linux or Mac environment, you can run this software within a Windows virtual machine.

After creating your Link-Live account you use the Units drop-down menu on the device, then Claim, to associate your AirCheck G2 and account. You might think the "Units" menu is a little non-intuitive, as opposed to, say, "Settings", and I'm inclined to agree. This isn't a big problem, simply that the AirCheck G2 interface does require a degree of expertise and understanding to use to full effect. In this case, “Units” actually refers not to metric vs. imperial or other measurements but the device — the unit — itself.

The AirCheck G2 packaging includes a very nice travelling case for protection, and a quick start guide but you are well served by downloading the full manual, though this is only available if you have made a Link-Live account. It's definitely well worth doing; the manual is 141 pages and as superb as the product is, it's simply not something you can just pick up and figure out very easily.

NS ACK G2 hand held m

In more detail, the AirCheck G2 Wireless Tester operates on 802.11b/g/n networks in the 2.4GHz band and 802.11a/n/ac networks in the 5GHz band. It offers a wide range of information and tools to diagnose connectivity problems and to optimise your networks. This includes locating congestion, misconfigured wireless access points, discovering rogue devices, understanding why your users say “the Wi-Fi is slow” and many more use cases.

High-level discovery screens for Networks, Access Points and Clients show an overview of devices on your network which the unit has detected. You can drill down from here to view more detailed connections and measurements and to examine in-depth the usage on all channels in your network.

In addition, the AirCheck G2 offers the following very useful supplementary modes and tests:

  1. AutoTest mode provides a comprehensive summary of your Wi-Fi air quality and network quality, at the specific time and location where you are operating it.
  2. Wired Ethernet Test measures power over Ethernet (PoE) voltage and link speed, and indicates whether the unit can connect to various network or user-defined targets.
  3. Locate function aids in physically finding access points, clients, and interference-causing devices. The interface changes to show signal strength represented as both a graph and odometer-style needle. As you move around, these continually update helping you zero in. While the AirCheck G2 has omnidirectional antennas, an external antenna will provide greater precision In a large open space.
  4. Network Roaming and AP Range tests allow you to walk around and physically define the boundaries of your network. This is nifty to see in practice and provides information on how far your access point reaches, and similarly, where you receive the best signal.
  5. Plus much more; there is not space to go into the detail of just how comprehensive the testing options are – well, without being 141 pages. You can measure UDP and TCP capacity and throughput; you can assess how well the network supports client roaming between BSSIDs – the MAC address of individual Wireless Access Points that broadcast SSIDs - and many other things.

Using the AirCheck G2 Manager and Link-Live website you can record your test results and review them. In fact, you can even remote into the AirCheck G2 via VNC over Ethernet on the LAN from your PC. You need the Ethernet cable connected for this.

You can check out the AirCheck G2 yourself on NETSCOUT’s website, via a virtual test drive. Even so, it’s difficult to appreciate the scope of the rugged little device’s capabilities without running it over a real network. I tried it out for two weeks. At home, I identified conflicting Wi-Fi networks in the neighbourhood, helping me improve my own Wi-Fi performance by changing my Wi-Fi channel. At my office, I mapped out the range of our Wi-Fi network and identified one Meraki access point needed to be moved as it was serving the car park more than the office. I was able to effortlessly tag access points as authorised and neighbour to easily identify them as I worked through the options.

NETSCOUT’s AirCheck G2 truly is a magnificent network test and analysis tool that quite genuinely allows front-line IT staff identify and resolve network connectivity problems, including slow speeds, faulty devices, interference, rogue equipment, and a rich range of other concerns.

As you might appreciate, it’s not immediately usable without a degree of expertise and understanding and it’s not a gadget you buy without serious need, retailing at more than $2000.

However, for an enterprise with Wi-Fi networks of reasonable complexity, this is a tremendous device that gives solid information about what’s happening in the air around you, taking the guesswork out of Wi-Fi troubleshooting and diagnosis, resulting in happier users faster.





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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.


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