People don’t take to change easily, especially when it comes to things they love. Wi-Fi support folks are no exception, so it’s not surprising that some Fluke Networks customers are a bit uneasy with the latest versions of AirCheck. A product line that started with a wildly popular hand-held dedicated tester has grown to also include a Windows version and, most recently, an Android app. I’ve personally heard protests over the direction AirCheck is headed by those who would rather see the evolution of the tester restricted to newer versions of the stand-alone, but I personally think that Fluke Networks has got it *mostly* right after using all versions.
I reviewed the original AirCheck for Network Computing back in 2010, and then found fault with what I considered risky marketing as AirCheck was touted as a law enforcement tool of sorts, in 2011. The AirCheck is and has been a big story, and Fluke Networks did well with it through the years.
Fast forward to earlier 2014, and here’s my Network Computing write-up on AirCheck for Windows. Again, not everyone was diggin’ it, but I’ll come back to that. Now, as I write this, I’m having a great time kicking the tires on AirCheck’s Android version. Before I spill the beans on my findings, let me also point you to a piece I just did on the evolution of established networking tools making the jump to the mobile form factor. It’s bound to happen, but there are considerations to be aware of for sure.
So what about AirCheck for Android?
I’ve been spending a fair amount of time of late pondering how to quantify the wireless end-user experience, and lofty topics like “service assurance”. These are both giant topics in their own right, but all AirCheck versions have a place in these conversations. Where the AirCheck for Android shines is by bringing the basic testing that makes AirCheck what it is to Android smartphones and tablets. These functions include:
- Site surveying
- Device discovery
- A battery of tests measuring key network services like:
- Basic WLAN connectivity
- HTTP download
- Video, audio, and browsing performance measurement
The app simply shines in it’s UI and use of the limited screen size of the tablet I’m playing with. I’m not so sure I’d feel as excited about the tool on a smallish Android phone, but I really like the performance and usability on a 7-inch tablet. This would not be my primary or only tool for WLAN support duties, but AirCheck for Android would certainly get frequent use. As a go-to “quick check” app that you can trust even lesser-skilled staff to get right, the app has it’s place.
Where the stand-alone AirCheck equates to a piece of test equipment (as in all AirChecks running same code should behave pretty similar), the Android version (and Windows version as well) is at the mercy of the device it runs on. THIS is what doesn’t sit well with AirCheck purists, but to me it brings the advantage of truly measuring what a major device type (like the Samsung S3 tablet I’m testing with) will act like on a given Wi-Fi network in a given spot. Get a few AirCheck for Android on a number of different device types, and you get a good sense of how real devices perform versus the “control set” of the AirCheck tester. They both have their place, to me.
Where my appreciation for software versions of AirCheck pales is when it comes to cost. I do agree with the traditional AirCheck die-hards that say the Windows and Android versions should be much, much less expensive than any hardware-based version. If Fluke Networks can find the right price to cover their development costs yet appeal to those who expect to pay far less when there is no hardware involved, then an excellent tool will find wider acceptance. That would be good news for those who support Wi-Fi networks and the clients who benefit from their efforts.