REVIEW: Network test tools from Fluke, NETSCOUT and SignalTEK

It’s not good enough to run cables and just hope they work, or simply say it’s all good if they provide a working network connection to the computer or device. You should double-check by testing or qualifying the cable runs before you call the job complete.

You should use a tester to check if all the cable pairs are intact and correctly wired and see if the cable can truly handle the data rates you desire. Network testers can also be a lifesaver when troubleshooting network issues or making changes to the wired network.

They could for instance tell you which cable pairs you might have mixed up when terminating the cable. Or if you’re working on someone else’s network install that didn’t document or label any cable runs, you can utilize the tester to help identify where the cables are running.

Here we take a look at three different network testers from three of the major players: Fluke Networks, NETSCOUT, and SignalTEK. All three of these testers can check cable pairs and wiring, estimated cable lengths, and data rates. Plus all can blink the switch port LED lights to help identify the port you’re testing and send tones across the cable to physically locate the cable throughout its path using a separate tone probe.

The Fluke Networks CIQ-100 is the most basic tester and least expensive of the three we reviewed. It’s designed just for cable qualification, can test Ethernet and coax runs but has no fiber support.

The NETSCOUT LinkRunner G2 and SignalTEK NT units are the most similar in regards to what they test. Both support Ethernet and fiber cables. They give details on any connected switch, PoE capability and test for IP network/internet connectivity. The NETSCOUT unit is the most expensive of those tested but also has the most functionality, a touchscreen, and an Android OS.

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