A cable and network tester is an investment — in the device, the time it takes techs to learn it, and the time it takes techs to use it for their work. That makes it a bit more complicated to compare one unit with another, but the Fluke Networks LinkRunner AT (LRAT-1000) and the Platinum Net Prowler (TNP700/TNP850K1) both show their value in different ways. Fluke has clearly worked on the usability design, adding a color display which some of their testing units have lacked, and including the ability to save test results. How does theirs compare with Platinum’s unit overall?
Wiring and Power Testing
Both units have basic network cable testing functionality, identify common LAN issues and monitor for problems. They detect PoE, PoE+, and PoE mode, essential for many security systems and other remote device installations. Load testing for voltage drop is comparable between them. These features allow both to evaluate the quality of network wiring.
Advanced Testing Matchup
More sophisticated tests on live networks start to pull the two apart, however. The LinkRunner LRAT-1000 doesn’t do network mapping, nor port discovery which helps techs identify equipment on the network. The LRAT-1000 does do VLAN discovery, but Net Prowler steps ahead by including that feature with its CDP/LLDP detection for a deeper understanding of the network. Net Prowler also can map network and coax ID-only remotes, up to 20 of them, while LinkRunner doesn’t handle coax. Both test and identify using remotes on network cabling, up to 6 for LinkRunner and 8 for Net Prowler.
|Net Prowler||LinkRunner AT|
|Active Ethernet (Link Capability & Link Status)||✓||✓|
|Detects PoE/PoE+, PoE Mode, and load test for voltage drop||✓||✓|
|Discovery Protocols||(CDP, LLDP, NDP)||(CDP, LLDP)|
|Manual address entry||✓||✓|
|Detect Length to Opens & Shorts||✓||✓|
|Verifies Continuity (RJ45, Coax)||✓||RJ45 only|
|ID Remotes (ID only) Ntwk & Coax||Up to 20|
|Testing & ID Remotes Ntwk & Tel||Up to 8||Up to 6|
|Interface connection||RJ45/F conn||RJ45|
|Max Length 1,500 ft (457 m)||✓||✓|
|Save and export test results||up to 256 tests||up to 50 tests|
|Battery||AA||AA or Lithium-ion|
|Languages||EN, FR, ESP, DEU, ITA||7 languages|
For large network installations, Net Prowler’s much larger memory for test results can be a big time saver, with more tests between data exports. Linkrunner does offer 50 records to Net Prowler’s 256, providing at least the capability for remembering tests for proper recordkeeping when required.
Net Prowler offers an optional kickstand, allowing the user to stand the unit upright for hands-free testing. A clip-on option keeps the unit always handy on the job. Both units provide a variety of languages in the user interface for ease of technician operation.
Potentially Significant Issues
Made in the USA, the Net Prowler is designed and built for overall quality. That can give the unit an edge, especially for companies covered by “Buy America” programs and similar initiatives. Net Prowler’s quality claims can also provide an additional benefit: the device’s firmware is upgradeable, meaning that once the units are in the field, features can be added as they are developed by the manufacturers. This avoids evaluating, purchasing, training personnel on and deploying further devices when testing standards change.
Both units run pretty close together, with Net Prowler going the extra mile in features which could make a difference for broad testing programs. Either one can be placed into service for basic cable testing, although Net Prowler is the only one handling coax. For more sophisticated testing, both keep up with PoE options, VLAN discovery, and non-coax network testing and ID.
There are some additional tests which the Net Prowler handles, including live network checks, which would otherwise require additional purchases of more sophisticated equipment, an important consideration for some companies, especially with large operations. It’s likely that purchasers will see the Net Prowler’s additional capabilities and upgradeability, along with the USA-based quality initiatives, as a tiebreaker in any case, leaning towards the product which seems designed to offer more wherever it can.