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Wireless Reviews

Closing Thoughts

While ASA is functionally in pretty good shape for a 1.0 product, there is also room for improvement. I came up with this list of User Interface "issues", some of which I admit could be considered personal preferences:

  • The Spectrum feature can display up to nine plot sub-windows at once, but you can't rearrange, resize or detach them. I'd prefer to see close, hide and restore boxes on each sub-window, too
  • When working with the Power vs. Frequency plot, I first thought the ability to change the resolution bandwidth (RBW) was broken, since whatever value I set would get changed back to the original value. But I finally noticed that the desired value was shown in the display and that this was a bug with the control
  • Opening a new plot is always done with all traces turned off, so nothing is displayed
  • The mechanisms for changing Control settings are hidden until you click on them. This is ok once you get the hang of it, but I prefer visual cues to differentiate things I can change from those that I can't
  • You can save plot configurations, but can't save any captured data other than by making screenshots

I'd also like to see versions of ASA covering other bands. AirMagnet has perhaps tipped its hand that 900MHz coverage is coming given the grayed-out selection in the Monitored Bands screen. So it's probably not a stretch to think that versions covering other popular bands are also in the works.

I'm glad to see AirMagnet get a wireless LAN RF analysis product into the market, which has been pretty much dominated by BVS' handheld BumbleBee and YellowJacket product lines. Of course there are always handheld general-use spectrum analyzers from companies like Willtek, Rohde & Schwarz, B&K and Anritsu. But these generally cost significantly more and could present a steeper learning curve given their more general-purpose nature.

As an RF analysis-only product, ASA is more comparable to BVS' BumbleBee than its YellowJacket, which provides both spectrum analysis and decoded 802.11 data features. So what makes the AirMagnet Spectrum Analyzer worth almost $4000 while the Bumblebee can be yours for $2500 (sans Pocket PC)?

Not having had a BumbleBee to put through its paces, I can't speak directly to its possible advantages. But AirMagnet and Cognio are emphasizing the ASA's use of the more powerful notebook / tablet-based platform vs. BumbleBee's PocketPC-based design. (Since AirMagnet has the benefit of user feedback - and sales volume history - for both PocketPC and Notebook-based products with its Laptop and Handheld Analyzer products, they know where their customers' preferences lie.)

AirMagnet also feels that notebooks' longer battery life, larger screen and more powerful CPU - not to mention the tiny CardBus form-factor of the measurement hardware - result in a more user-friendly and feature-rich product. ASA's ability to display up to nine plots simultaneously, its more expansive array of plot types to choose from, and its automatic Interferer identification also contribute to AirMagnet's view of ASA as a superior offering.

So while you may swallow a bit hard at the steep price tag, AirMagnet's Spectrum Analyzer will be a powerful addition to any wireless LAN professional's toolkit. But hey guys, given the top buck you're asking for the product, let the Device Finder help track down 802.11 stuff too!

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