Metageek defines low-end WLAN analyzer space

Score: 3.95 out of 5.0

The DBx is the latest in a line of inexpensive spectrum Wi-Spy analysis USB dongles from Metageek, dating back to the original $99 product of a few years ago that many (including us) purchased on impulse. The DBx is the first Wi-Spy product to cover the 5 GHz (5150-5850 MHz.) bands, which are of increasing importance with 802.11n deployments and the availability of low-cost dual-band Wi-Fi access points and adapters. The DBx is very easy to use - install the Chanalyzer 3.2 software from the Web, insert the dongle, and you're off.

Metageek's Chanalyzer application is geared towards casual users. Three key "views" are presented: Spectral, which shows energy over time; Topographic, which displays waveforms by frequency ("popularity" indicated by color); and Planar, which shows instantaneous, average and maximum energy by frequency.

Recording and playback are supported, with the ability to save data to files if desired. Switching between 2.4 and 5 GHz., or filtering by channel, however, involves entering center-frequency and bandwidth numbers (or an obscure right-click), which is inconvenient. It would be nice to be able to just select specific bands or channels with a more obvious metaphor. The manual isn't really a very good tutorial, but it will get a user started.

One very clever feature is the ability to display sample waveforms with a tool to overlay these on live data, making it easier to classify a Wi-Fi signal or an interferer of any form. We used this feature to discover that an access point we thought we had set to 802.11n with a 40-MHz. channel was in fact operating in 802.11b mode, a typical problem one might encounter. Overall, Chanalyzer's user interface needs work, but Wi-Spy DBx is regardless a great entry-level product that could serve even in larger enterprises.

< Return to test: Analyze this: Low-cost WLAN spectrum analyzers do the trick>

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