AirMagnet Puts Net Analysis on Bigger Screen

But laptop protocol analyzer lacks mobility of handheld model.

AirMagnet Laptop Version 2.0, AirMagnet Inc.s follow-on to its very useful handheld wireless network protocol analyzer, is a good step toward a well-rounded product roster that will be of greatest use to IT departments that want a larger view of their data.

AirMagnet Laptop, which uses Version 2.0 of AirMagnets namesake software, doesnt set new standards in wireless network management, but it will help the company round out its product portfolio. IT managers who like the AirMagnet handheld for its easy portability and concise screen displays will enjoy seeing the bigger wireless network picture on a laptop.

However, eWeek Labs considers the AirMagnet handheld version to be a superior platform for almost all wireless network trouble-shooting. Nearly every feature offered in the Version 2.0 software that shipped with AirMagnet Laptop earlier this month is also available in the handheld version, which is based on Hewlett-Packard Co.s iPaq.

Like its handheld sibling, AirMagnet Laptop comes in at the high end of the price chart. Most basic protocol analyzers, even wireless ones, can be had for around $1,000. In contrast, AirMagnet Laptop starts at $3,495, including a Cisco Systems Inc. Aironet wireless card. This price scheme is left over from the days when customers paid a premium for wireless access and should fall to more reasonable levels.

AirMagnet Laptop should be most handy where an established access point is used by frequently changing end users. For example, having AirMagnet Laptop nearby to help resolve connection problems would likely be invaluable when a conference room plays host to numerous salespeople who are constantly coming and going.

AirMagnet Laptop is less suited to site surveys or hunting for rogue access points. The device can perform these tasks, but any IT manager who has wandered around holding an open laptop knows both the hazards (bumping into people or dropping the laptop) and the indignity of using a full PC to snoop for stray signals.

This version of AirMagnet wont support 802.11a until December, company officials said. Competing products from Network Instruments LLC already provide 802.11b and 802.11a analysis only on a laptop platform. Protocol analyzer company Network Associates Inc. provides a handheld version, but it supports only 802.11b.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant is at