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LAN & WAN Reviews

{mospagebreak toctitle=Introduction, Features, Configuration}
LinkSprinter 200
At a glance
ProductFluke Networks LinkSprinter 200 (LSPRNTR-200)   [Website]
Summary

Handheld pocket-sized Ethernet network test tool w/ Wi-Fi connect.

Pros• Small, convenient, easy to use
• Communicates via Wi-Fi with phone / tablet without existing network
Cons• Inconsistent LLDP/CDP performance
• VLAN testing limited to native port; no 802.1q support

Typical Price: $670  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

Updated 4/24/2014: Cloud service fees dropped
Updated 3/24/2014: Updated with Fluke Networks comments
Updated 3/23/2014: Corrected pricing information

Fluke Networks, a division of Fluke Corporation, recently announced the LinkSprinter 100 and 200 Ethernet test devices. You're probably familiar with the Fluke name; their website lists them as "the world leader in the manufacture, distribution and service of electronic tests tools and software." Personally, I've had good experience using Fluke products. I have an older Fluke 77 Multimeter that comes in handy when I'm trying to replace an outlet or light fixture and not electrocute myself.

The LinkSprinter 100 and 200 are small handheld Ethernet test instruments, designed to simplify troubleshooting network wiring and connectivity. The 100 and 200 are nearly identical, with the 200 having the additional ability to wirelessly communicate (via Wi-Fi) with any device that supports a web browser. Note, the LinkSprinter 200 is a wired Ethernet test tool, not a Wi-Fi test tool.

The LinkSprinter 100 and 200 are handheld devices and easily fit in a shirt or pants pocket. They measure approximately 4.5" long by 1.75" wide and 1.5" thick and weigh .25 lbs. Both are housed in a solid plastic case with the familiar bright yellow Fluke color. Fluke's specs list a shock rating indicating it can survive a 1m drop. I accidentally dropped it on a concrete floor and it wasn't damaged.

There are six LEDs on the front of the LinkSprinter to display test status and results and no screen on the device. It has a single Ethernet port on the bottom of the unit that does not have link / activity lights. The LinkSprinter is powered by a pair of AA batteries, as well as via Power over Ethernet (PoE). All test results are communicated by LED, to the cloud, and in the case of the 200, wirelessly to a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

The LEDs on the front of the device, from bottom to top, indicate whether PoE is present, if the link is active, whether a DHCP server is active, if there is connectivity to the gateway/router, and if there is connectivity to the cloud site. On the LinkSprinter 200, there is also a blue Wi-Fi LED that lights when Wi-Fi is enabled. Below is a photo with all the LEDs lit.

LinkSprinter LEDs

LinkSprinter LEDs

Features

Here's a quick feature rundown:

  • Hand held, pocket size
  • Single button operation
  • Powered by batteries and PoE
  • Tests PoE
  • Test physical link, speed and duplex
  • Verify DHCP - can also be configured with Static IP
  • Verify Gateway/Router connectivity
  • Verify DNS lookup
  • Verify connectivity to Internet
  • Displays current results via Wi-Fi to PC, smart phone, or tablet (200 only)
  • Displays current and saved results via cloud based website

Configuration

There are a few simple steps you need to complete to get started with the LinkSprinter. First, install two AA batteries. Second, browse to the LinkSprinter website, create an account and enter your device's MAC address. Third, connect an Ethernet cable to the device and a live network with Internet connectivity. Finally, press and hold the main button for 5 seconds so it will connect to your account. Once complete, you're ready to test and use the device.

The LinkSprinter has a few configuration options in a simple web-based menu. The LinkSprinter can be configured via the LinkSprinter Cloud Service as well as via a Wi-Fi connection. The configuration options include Test 1Gb, auto-off, cloud connectivity options, and Wi-Fi. The Test 1Gb option, when disabled, saves battery life, but limits the device to testing 10/100 speeds. Below is a screenshot of the website configuration options.

Configuration

Configuration

I discovered when you make a change to the LinkSprinter config via the Cloud Service, the change doesn't seem to take effect until after another test is run. Whereas, changes made via the Wi-Fi connection appear to be effective immediately.

The LinkSprinter is quite simple to operate since there is only one button on the device. Simply connect an Ethernet cable and press the button to initiate a test. Results are automatically transmitted to the LinkSprinter Cloud Service dashboard where you can log in and view them. Results are also sent to the email address you set up on your LinkSprinter account. Press the button on the LinkSprinter 200 a second time to enable Wi-Fi so results can be viewed on your PC, smart phone, or tablet.


In Use

The LEDs on the front of the device, shown previously, provide a quick indicator of the Ethernet network you're testing. The LEDs blink while a test is in progress, are red if the test fails and green if the test passes. The only exception is the Wi-Fi LED, which is blue when Wi-Fi is manually enabled and off when manually disabled.

As discussed earlier, the LinkSprinter 200 can transmit test results via Wi-Fi to a computer, smartphone or tablet. The LinkSprinter transmits an unsecured 802.11b/g Wi-Fi signal. There are two adjustable Wi-Fi options. You can change the SSID and the channel (1-11). There are no options to enable Wi-Fi security.

All you do is connect to the LinkSprinter's SSID and browse to its default IP address (172.16.9.9). No application needs to be installed on the PC, smart phone, or tablet. This makes testing quite convenient by simply carrying the pocket size LinkSprinter, an Ethernet cable and a smartphone.

Below is a screenshot of test results from my iPhone connected to the LinkSprinter via Wi-Fi. The remaining screen shots in this review were taken from a PC to simplify pulling screen shots. Functionality and information displayed on my iPhone and PC were the same.

LinkSprinter and iPhone

LinkSprinter and iPhone
Updated 3/24/2014

My first test was to connect the LinkSprinter to a ZyXEL GS1900-HP PoE (Power over Ethernet) enabled switch, which has a total PoE power budget of 70W. I tested the LinkSprinter connected to the GS1900-HP with several other PoE devices connected and with no PoE devices connected. I ran the test with two different Ethernet 6' pre-made CAT 5E Ethernet cables.

In all my tests, as shown in the screenshot below, the LinkSprinter detected 55V coming from my PoE switch. The ZyXEL switch reports only PoE power consumption, which was 4.2W.

PoE Test Result

PoE Test Result

When connected to a PoE source, the auto-off function is disabled on the LinkSprinter as it will draw power from the PoE source instead of batteries. I took the batteries out of the LinkSprinter and connected it to my PoE switch, and verified the LinkSprinter can run on PoE power alone. The auto-off function simply turns the device off after 3 minutes to extend battery life.

The next test performed by the LinkSprinter is LinkStatus. Speed, duplex, wiring, and polarity are all tested. As you can see in the image, the LinkSprinter has detected it is connected to a 10/100/1000 full duplex Ethernet port, with wires 3 and 6 used for receive, and having normal polarity. I enabled the Test 1Gb feature for this test.

Link Test Result

Link Test Result

I changed the settings on my switch so the port being tested was only running at 10 Mbps. As you can see from the second screenshot below, the LinkSprinter correctly detected a link speed of only 10 Mbps.

10Mbps Test Result

10Mbps Test Result

In Use - more

The LinkSprinter also reports switch and VLAN information. The next screenshot is the LinkSprinter's display when connected a NETGEAR GS108T. The LinkSprinter is correctly displaying that it is connected to port #6 and VLAN 1.

Switch Information

Switch Information

In my testing of the LinkSprinter, switch information display was inconsistent. According the LinkSprinter support site, the LinkSprinter detects switch information via LLDP/CDP. I connected the LinkSprinter to a NETGEAR GS108T, Zyxel GS1900-HP and Cisco SG-200 switch. All three had LLDP enabled and could detect each other via LLDP, but the LinkSprinter picked up switch information only from the NETGEAR and Cisco switches.

Updated 3/24/2014

Fluke Networks said the LinkSprinter uses the identical LLDP/CDP discovery code used on its more expensive LinkRunner product. The code has been verified on over 40 different products from nine manufacturers and also supports Extreme Discovery Protocol (EDP). I'll be providing a Wireshark trace of the LLDP/CDP session to Fluke and will update the review when the problem cause is found.

I also tried connecting the LinkSprinter to 802.1q VLAN trunk ports on two different switches with multiple active VLANs. But the LinkSprinter connected only to a single VLAN. I tried various combinations of permitted VLANs on a trunk. It appears to me the LinkSprinter only tests and detects the native VLAN on a port.

Updated 3/24/2014

Fluke Networks confirmed that joining a VLAN is not currently supported.

The LinkSprinter will use DHCP to acquire an IP address and validate the presence of a DHCP server. Alternatively, you can give the LinkSprinter a static IP address. I tested both successfully.

Once the LinkSprinter gets an IP address, it pings the DHCP identified or programmed gateway three times to verify connectivity. As shown in the screenshot, the LinkSprinter has connectivity to my router at 172.23.1.1, with ping times of 1ms.

Gateway Test Result

Gateway Test Result

The last test performed by the LinkSprinter is to verify Internet connectivity. It does so by going to port 80 of a preset website (google.com). You can customize the website and port it checks, however. Alternatively, you can configure the LinkSprinter to ping a specific address instead of browsing a website. Below is a screenshot showing the LinkSprinter successfully connected to google.com.

Internet Test Result

Internet Test Result

As a final test, I connected the LinkSprinter to a network with no Internet connectivity. The LinkSprinter now displayed google.com in red, correctly indicating loss of Internet connectivity.

Internet Down Test Result

Internet Down Test Result

As mentioned earlier, your test results are emailed to the email address you set up in your LinkSprinter account as they occur. In addition, test results are recorded on the Cloud Service dashboard. Below is a snippet of the dashboard from my tests, showing results with switch information, different IP addresses, and with and without PoE.

Cloud Service Dashboard

Cloud Service Dashboard

Email and dashboard functionality are features of the LinkSprinter Cloud Service, which can also be used to configure the device. Further, the Cloud Service provides the ability to comment your test results, sort, analyze and filter results, generate custom reports, and update firmware.

Closing Thoughts

Fluke is offering the LinkSprinter for sale at Amazon.com. The LinkSprinter 100 is listed at $199 and the LinkSprinter 200 is listed at $299. $100 seems like a big jump in price for Wi-Fi, but it certainly adds to the convenience factor by allowing you to use the LinkSprinter with a Wi-Fi enabled browsing device.

Updated 3/23/2014

In addition to the purchase price, Fluke prices the optional cloud service at $9.95 for 100 tests and $79.95 for 1000 tests. There is currently a promotion that if you purchase a LinkSprinter by May 31, 2014, you get unlimited use of the Cloud Service for the first 120 days. Both model LinkSprinters also come with 10 free tests per month and free configuration support, forever.

According to the folks at Fluke, "The Cloud Service is optional. The LinkSprinter functions like an ordinary tester without it. Like traditional testers you can test indefinitely without it and view your test results on your LinkSprinter or your phone with the model 200."

Although the Cloud Service is optional, the LinkSprinter 100 without the Cloud Service is pretty limited. You can only view results via LEDs and won't be able to view PoE, link, switch, VLAN, or IP details, nor will you be able to configure the device.

The LinkSprinter 200 without the Cloud Service has fewer limitations due to its Wi-Fi connectivity. With either device, the Cloud Service is useful, but the pay-per-test cost can add up quickly. I generated nearly 50 tests writing this review. Perhaps Fluke will come out with an unlimited price option for the Cloud Service.

Updated 4/24/2014

Responding to customer feedback, Fluke Networks dropped all cloud service fees as of 4/22/14.

Fluke Networks said its goal in producing the LinkSprinter was to bring tester cost down to the point where even hobbyists and prosumers could purchase it. $200 and $300 price points are significantly below other Fluke Network test instrument prices, which typically run thousands of dollars. But $300 is pretty heavy lifting for the occasional use a hobbyist might have. Pricing the LinkSprinter 100 and 200 at $100 and $150 might bring more buyers in the door, but the additional volume probably would not offset the lost profit margin on each unit sold.

Pricing issues aside, I really liked the Fluke LinkSprinter. I found the LinkSprinter 200 super convenient to carry around and use and it sure beats lugging a laptop around to test Ethernet ports. Finally, it is ridiculously easy to run a test, works quickly, provides useful results and the Wi-Fi functionality with no app to install is brilliant!

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