Affordable Spectrum Analyzer  

WiFi Planet reviews the $399 Wi-Spy 2.4x, an inexpensive spectrum analyzer that can check on common interference from devices like cordless phones, microwaves, and other WiFi and Bluetooth devices.

The Wi-Spy 2.4x from Metageek consists of both a hardware and a software component. A USB dongle — no bigger than a Flash memory drive -— has an RP-SMA antenna connector (with an included, small omnidirectional antenna).

To record and display the data collected by the Wi-Spy 2.4x, you get Chanalyzer 3.0, an analysis utility that runs on Windows 2000 through Vista and requires the Microsoft .NET 2.0.

Chanalyzer only works with Windows, but third-party utilities compatible with Mac OS X and Linux are available for download from the MetaGeek Web site.

Wi-Spy 2.4x’s $399 may seem dear, but its price tag is but a fraction of the cost of most spectrum analyzer products (like those from AirMagnet, among others).

What you get with the higher-end products, but not with the Wi-Spy 2.4x, is the ability to do things like analyze the contents of Wi-Fi traffic and check security configurations. By contrast, the Wi-Spy 2.4x only concerns itself with the physical signals, but that’s all most non-enterprise and small network users are likely to need.

It’s also worth noting that the Wi-Spy 2.4x is a follow up to–but not a replacement for–MetaGeek’s original Wi-Spy product ($199). The newer 2.4x version improves upon its predecessor by providing higher frequency and amplitude resolution than the original, the RP-SMA connector that allows the use of a variety of external antennas (compared to v1’s fixed internal antenna), and a more recent and capable version of Chanalyzer .

Finally Wi-Spy 2.4x can only analyze the 2.4 GHz wireless spectrum, not the 5 GHz band used by 802.11a and dual-band 802.11n devices. This shouldn’t be an issue for most considering that the latter is much less frequently used and is less subject to interference, but MetaGeek says it plans to release a 5 GHz-compatible version of the Wi-Spy in May.

Berkeley Varitronics makes the popular Yellowjacket handheld analyzer (pdf), which handles 802.11 - B/A/N/G - and will demodulate, sweep, and analyze all popular 802.11 Wi-Fi network standards including 802.11b/g (2.4 GHz), 802.11a (5 GHz), 802.11n and 802.11h. Earlier Yellow Jacket models cost around $6,500 (but of course they do a lot more than a $400 unit from Wi-Spy).

It runs Hive Indoor Mapping Software which allows the users to create , modify and plot measurements in real-time all on a PocketPC.

AirDefense Enterprise 7.3 is the first enterprise product that does not require specialized hardware to detect and analyze non-802.11 sources of interference reports E-Week. AirDefense works with the standard Wi-Fi sensors can access this functionality on existing equipment with a software update alone.

AirDefense sells an Enterprise starter kit with pricing beginning at $7.995, which includes one appliance (for centralized data collection, sensor management, policy management and reporting) and five sensors (both the M510 sensor with two integrated antennas and the M520 sensor with a pair of external antennas can do spectrum analysis). Each additional sensor is $995, while the SA module costs $195 per sensor.

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