I try out the new Fluke Networks LinkSprinter 300 Network Tester while upgrading my home network and installing a PoE security camera. The LinkSprinter 300 adds distance-to-fault cable tests and switch port identification features that are normally found only in much more expensive test tools with Cloud integration and built-in Wi-Fi.
The LinkSprinter holster (purchased separately) includes a test cable to round out the package:
The holster has magnetic clasp and adjustable Velcro loop to fit any belt size with a clear pocket for business cards:
The holster fits all LinkSprinter models 100, 200 and 300.
Fluke LinkSprinter 300 Network Tester Review
The LinkSprinter 300 operates identically as the LinkSprinter 200 and performs the same Layer 1 through 7 network tests, but adds cable wiring tests as illustrated in the following diagram. Cable testing means you’re not wasting a lot of time figuring out if the problem is the problem with the cable (especially if the Ethernet cable is concealed in the walls) or the network equipment. Both Cat5e and Cat6 Ethernet cables are supported up to 1 gigabit/sec Ethernet port speeds (1000BASE-T).
The LinkSprinter 300 has a built-in WiFi access point to manage and view the tests with your smartphone or tablet. Network test results are uploaded to the LinkSprinter Cloud service at Link-Live.com and can be automatically e-mailed to you.
Fluke LinkSprinter 300 Cable Testing
The LinkSprinter 300 supports the following Ethernet cable tests:
- Open: Distance to Open, meaning the distance to a break in the Ethernet wire pairs.
- Short: A short circuit where two or more wire conductors are touching.
- Split: Wire pairs are crossed, typically due to miswiring a RJ45 Ethernet jack or plug.
LinkSprinter Cable Test Setup
I pulled a generous length of Cat5e bulk cable from the box and wired an RJ45 plug on the end. The cable has an RJ45 plug on one end and is unterminated on the other end.
- The Cat5e cable is plugged into the LinkSprinter Ethernet port.
The other end of the cable MUST NOT BE connected to the Ethernet switch or other network equipment for this test, otherwise you’ll get an error warning.
- The LinkSprinter 300 WiFi is enabled by clicking the green On/Off button twice.
- Connect to WiFi: for an iPhone, go to Settings → WiFi and select the “Linksprinterxxxxxx” SSID, where xxxxxx is the serial number of the unit.
- Open Safari and type standard http://172.16.9.9 in the URL to open the LinkSprinter web page.
Tip: Create a bookmark for next time.
- Tap the hammer & wrench Tools icon at the bottom right of the screen to display the cable tests.
- Tap Cable to run the test:
The LinkSprinter 300 cable test results indicate everything is good and the cable is 21 feet in length per the following screen grab:
In reality the cable is 20 feet long and my bench testing reveals the distance estimate to be accurate within 4% or 5% of the actual length. The distance estimate is based on Time-Domain Reflectometry (TDR). TDR is a sophisticated test that requires speed-of-light precision timing and the LinkSprinter 300 results are impressive for the product price. Definitely good enough to tell you where look for a cable fault – patch cable prior to the wall jack, inside the wall, attic, basement, etc.
Now let’s break stuff!
LinkSprinter 300 Distance to Open Test
The Distance to Open Test uses TDR to estimate where the Cat5e/Cat6 wire pairs are broken or disconnected:
I opened up a Cat5e Ethernet cable and cut the Green Stripe wire in two. The LinkSprinter 300 correctly indicated the Green/Green Stripe twisted pair has an Open fault at approx. 5.2 feet:
Open cable test screen grab for the above:
LinkSprinter 300 Short Cable Test
Next the Green / Green Stripe wires are twisted together to create an electrical short in the cable. The LinkSprinter 300 correctly identified the fault. Note the distance to the short is 5.2 feet which is consistent with Distance to Open test result above:
Screen grab for the Short-fault cable test:
LinkSprinter 300 Split Cable Test
The Split test identifies miswired cables where transmit & receive wire pairs have been crossed and/or shorted. In this example I’ve shorted the Green and Blue Cat5e wires together:
Split test screen grab:
The wires do not need to be shorted to be identified as Split fault. I purposely miswired an RJ45 crimp connector plug on a new cable with the Green Stripe wire on Pin #2, splitting the Orange/Orange Stripe & Green/Green Stripe twisted pairs. (There are no shorted wires in this test.) The LinkSprinter 300 correctly identified the problem as shown in the following screen grab. Amazing as there’s nothing connected to the other end of the cable!
In the above image the LinkSprinter 300 estimated the cable to be 15.7 feet long. The cable is actually 16.3 feet long per my tape measure. The estimation error is 3.7% on the short side: (16.3ft – 15.7ft)/16.3ft * 100% = 3.7%. Again, that’s great accuracy for a TDR test at the LinkSprinter price point.
It’s impossible for the LinkSprinter to actually “see” the actual wire colors. All tests assume the cable is wired per the EIA/TIA T568B standard and displayed as such, however it will correctly indicate which RJ45 pins / wires have a fault. T568B is the most popular wiring scheme in office and commercial business installations and I wired my home network per the T568B standard. The option to select T568A or T568B may be available in a future firmware release.
Ethernet Cable Wiring
I installed two 100 feet plus runs of Cat5e Ethernet cable while my covered porch was being built for Power over Ethernet (PoE) network security cameras, taking care to use plastic staples designed for data cables. The big question before the builder closes up the roof is: “Are the new cable drops good?” because it would be extremely difficult to replace the Cat5e later. I’ll test the cables with the LinkSprinter 300 to know for certain.
After pulling several long runs of Cat5e through the walls and attic, I wired on RJ45 jacks, labeled each cable and connected a short patch cable to the LinkSprinter 300. The cable test is good indicating it’s 103 feet long (including the patch cable):
Next I temporarily wired a RJ45 crimp connector plug on the porch end of the cable where it goes into the soffit and connected the other end to my Ethernet switch for network connectivity testing. The network cabling is illustrated in the following diagram. The LinkSprinter 300 is plugged in at the camera position (the outdoor camera will be installed after the builder finishes the porch construction):
The new Cat5e cable drop tested out at 52 volts PoE and 1 gigabit/sec Ethernet speed to my switch. Perfect!
12 port Ethernet Wall Plate Installation
With so many Ethernet cable drops throughout the house I upgraded to a Leviton 42080-12W 12 port dual gang wall plate:
The new Cat6 RJ45 wall jacks are on the left and the older Cat5e jacks on the right in the next photo. (You can use Cat6 jacks and plugs with Cat5e cable however the full Cat6 10 gigabit/sec performance won’t be realized by mixing Cat6 & Cat5e components.)
I had to cut the drywall to install the black dual gang Arlington LV2-1CS Low Voltage Mounting Bracket to mount the Leviton wall plate. I was careful to attach cable labels to each Cat5e drop and make a drawing on a sheet of paper noting the name & purpose of each port on the wall plate:
This project is continued in Fluke LinkSprinter 300 Network Tester – IP Camera Install.
Thanks for reading,