Wi-Fi products

5 Wi-Fi stumblers and analyzers for less than $100

Wi-Fi stumblers and analyzers are a must-have when troubleshooting Wi-Fi interference and performance issues, or when simply checking channel usage on the wireless bands. They’re also needed for Wi-Fi site surveys during the network design and deployment phases, as well as for security audits to look for rogue or misconfigured access points.

Each tool gives you the basic wireless details of nearby access points: SSIDs, signal strength, channels, Media Access Control addresses, and security status. Most can even reveal “hidden” or non-broadcasted SSIDs. Some offer additional functionality, such as details of nearby wireless clients, raw 802.11 packet capturing, frame statistics, performance testing, and map-based surveying.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: 7 free Wi-Fi stumbling and surveying tools +

Here we review five low-cost Wi-Fi stumblers and analyzers: Acrylic WiFi Professional, insider 4, NetSurveyor, Wi-Fi Scanner and WirelessMon. It should be noted that, with the exception of Acrylic WiFi Pro, these entry-level tools don’t show you the noise or signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) values like higher-priced enterprise solutions do. Here are a few quick takeaways:

-- If you’re looking for something really simple, consider the least expensive stumbler here: inSSIDer 4. It’s user-friendly, gives you channel recommendations and helps identify interfering access points. However, it doesn’t offer any saving or exporting. If you’re looking for something more advanced, particularly with the ability to detect non-802.11 interference, take a look at the inSSIDer Office edition. It comes with the Wi-Spy adapter to take full RF spectrum measures with inSSIDer in the Wi-Fi bands.

-- Acrylic WiFi Professional is a great option for more advanced wireless technicians since it can show the raw 802.11 frames, aid in penetration testing of Wi-Fi security, and even show the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) values of the access points. However, entry-level techs might be turned off by the lack of help and documentation.

-- If you want to check the Wi-Fi performance or prefer a stumbler that can generate reports, consider NetSurveyor Professional. However, since it doesn’t provide full channel or security details and doesn’t offer graphs for 5GHz, it’s not the best tool for general surveying.

-- If you’re looking for an inexpensive map-based survey tool, or a tool that can help detect non-802.11 interference, take a look at WirelessMon. However, keep in mind that detecting non-802.11 signals or interference does require the Wi-Spy RF spectrum adapter, just like with the inSSIDer Office tool.

-- And if you’re looking for a simple stumbler that also gives you details on frames counts, consider Wi-Fi Scanner from LizardSystems.

Here are the individual reviews:

wifi stumblers compared
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