• Just got back from a demo of the Fluke Aircheck handheld unit, here in Orlando. Over the years, I have seen and/or used quite a few different pieces of Wi-Fi gear. Usually it's just "Oh that's nice" or "that feature could come in handy..." or whatever. I rarely go "Wow !!". If I wasn't amongst a group of people, I would have done that. Very impressed indeed. There are quite a few reviews on this website and elsewhere about it, so I won't repeat what is said there. Loads of sophisticated reports if you want etc, but the thing I loved was it's simplicity of use. A few buttons pushed and off you go. Pings, DHCP server checks etc. I really liked the connect button, where you press a button and you actually physically connect to the access point of your choice. That is very powerful. Physical bits flying through the air to the AP and ( hopefully ) back to you.

    Someone in an organization with very little Wi-Fi experience could quickly learn how to use this and go off on surveying/troubleshooting tasks. Reports are great. Physical paper can be printed as a result to be given to the customer to say "This is a snapshot of the network at point X in time". Now you have something that you can give the customer, and then use later on for comparison with freshly generated reports later on in troubleshooting.

    It's pricey at about two grand, but when you look at networks going down and "running like chickens with their heads cut off" situations that often happen when engineers/techs don't have the right troubleshooting tools, could be well worth it.

    Am retiring to the Caribbean with all the money Fluke gave me to say this.

    Kudos to Fluke for a great piece of test gear.


  • Dave,

    Thanks for your post. I'm probably missing something important, but why Aircheck is better than a fully-fledged site survey program running under Windows 7 on a light notebook or tablet PC? Simply because it's compact and because "someone in an organization with very little Wi-Fi experience" could press the buttons? This won't do any good anyway, if someone with very little experience is going to troubleshoot a WLAN. This reminds me of the iPad "wow". Yes, iPad is light, and the battery life is long, and your grandma can use it, but please ... it's a toy, it's not mean for serious business. So what can Aircheck do that cannot be done with a normal site survey program (like their own AirMagnet Survey)? And, speaking of two grand, can Aircheck do all that can be done with a normal site survey program for the same money?


  • Programs running under Windows, especially on laptops, often have real problems doing anything near realtime - for example, collecting data or even presenting it visually.

    Windows is usually off doing it's own thing, and the user or an application programmer have no real control about what is going on in the background. Talk to anyone who has tried making a radio direction finding program on a laptop with Windows - either your direction pointers are bouncing all over the place, or the amount of averaging you are having to do is slowing down response terribly. If you or your targets are moving even slowly, just forget it.

    A dedicated machine can cut out a lot of that background nonsense and do the real work you want it to do.

    Another thing that a dedicated product like this can have is calibrated (as in power readings) results. It's much easier to build into a dedicated device, and to calibrate it at the factory. You can't do that if you are using a built-in client card in another manufacturers laptop.

    The only thing I would be concerned about is whether Fluke comes up with (free) firmware updates on a decent schedule.

    Granted $2k can seem like a lot, but how much did your fast laptop cost?

    I would much rather carry around one of these, than a laptop, if it does what I want too.

  • Wlanman,

    Calibration: good point, didn't think about it.

    Laptops having problems presenting data visually: C'mon, it's not 1998:-) I can't agree with that. I think that Intel i5 or i7 with 4 GB RAM will beat any handheld device in terms of data processing and visualization speed. Besides, RF data collection is done on the kernel driver level, which guarantees the highest priority.

    About "how much did your fast laptop cost" ... $1,500. And I can have a bunch of Wi-Fi applications installed there: a packet sniffer, a site survey program, etc. All sharing the same laptop. I don't need to pay two grand every time.

    Mind you, I have nothing against that device by Fluke. If one's company has a big budget -- why not. I was just trying to understand if one really needed it, or a laptop with quality site survey software would be good enough.

  • I'll stand by my Win comment.

    I use several pieces of Wi-Fi related, PC connected lab gear. The gear itself does all the real work, and the PC is only used to control the overall start/stop control, test selection, and data presentation.

    All the data accuisition, measurement, and processing is handled by the CPU in the box. There is no way these tests could run under windows.

  • Dieter

    Firstly, Wlanman must be psychic !! Those were some of the main points I was going to say. Dedicated processing is very important.

    I was in no way implying that someone with no experience go off and troubleshoot a WLAN. But let me ask you this:

    Have you ever had a network go down and all of a sudden you are the only person around to "do everything" ? I know it's happened to me.

    An extra pair of hands can be a great thing. If I have some spotty young tech and can say "Son, grab this, run off to the following places and press this and then that". Have him collect a bunch of data which an experienced engineer can then download and analyze can be a life saver. In the meantime you can concentrate on other things.Am talking about enterprise locations where time is big money. Have you ever noticed how there is never another experienced engineer around when you need one. Three a.m. in a call center and it's you against the world. Not in Wi-Fi, but in other situations, I've grabbed a security guard and said "Right mate, take this thing, go to to these sockets, plug it in and tell me write down what you see".

    Aircheck is primarily a troubleshooting tool ( although it has it's place as a site survey tool/accompanier to Aimagnet etc ).

    This was purely my personal opinion. Have worked and work with the excellent Airmagnet Survey tool, but that little box has a bunch of great troubleshooting features. Lot of info available on what it can do.

    To reiterate, I am NOT saying you should have some inexperienced person try to troubleshoot a Wi-Fi network, but rather that if you have an apprentice with you with even a modicum of common sense, he can be shown how to go out and gather useful data.

    If it's Joe-Bob's Pizza then sure, use what you have, but for enterprise stuff, I'd say it's well worth looking into.

    Last thing. Ever heard "!@#$ I just dropped the laptop", followed by "Hey it's 2 a.m. now but can any of you guys lend me a laptop?" Followed by deathly silence. Or "My bloody arms and shoulders are killing me lugging this around ten floors even with this stupid shoulder harness".

    That unit is a lightweight, tough little sucker with a really great screen in even challenging lighting conditions.

    Must ask Fluke for more money next time............


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