My good mate Darren has the “Daddy” of all Cable Testers. It’s a Fluke something-or-other and it’s amazing! It can ping IPs, generate network traffic, test bandwidth , tell how long your CAT5 cable is, how many metres down the cable the break is (if there is one) and even the date and time the cable was manufactured (ok…I made that last one up). The only problem with this hand held wonder is that it’s the same price as a small farm in Donegal!
Enter the Atlas IT Network Cable Analyser from Peak Electronic Design Ltd. The small but perfectly formed Atlas is a CAT5 “network cable analyser”. It is supplied in a foam-filled custom hard plastic case along with 2 patch leads, 2 terminators and even a spare battery! There’s a small paper manual included in the box (around a dozen pages) and it gives details of the 14 day money back “Peak Satisfaction Guarantee” as well as the one year warranty.
Using The Atlas – The Atlas is pretty idiot proof. Take one of the little dongle terminators from the package and attach it to one end of the included CAT5 patch leads. The other end of the lead is plugged into the patch panel or RJ45 wall socket. The Atlas is plugged in at the other end. Hit the TEST button, simple as that. The Atlas automatically identifies the cable type it’s connected to and verifies all the connections. With the 2 patch leads and 2 terminators included in the package it’s possible to test cables which are plug to plug, plug to socket and socket to socket.
I have to say that the AtlasIT has saved me a lot of time already! My second lot of Clipsal RJ45 sockets used a different colour code to the first lot meaning they didn’t work when I installed them! A few minutes with the AtlasIT showed me that the orange and green pairs were swapped. On another occasion I was connecting my TiVo to the phone line using one of the CAT5 cables at the back of my AV system. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but a couple of minutes with the Atlas and I realised I had patched the phone line in to the wrong port on the patch panel.
The Terminator can go at the patch panel or the socket end of the cable
Faults are clearly displayed and explained on screen.
Some Example Screen shots taken from Peaks website
Atlas can be at either end of the cable, just connect, hit the button and wait for the results
- Automatic identification of Straight-Through patch cables
- Automatic identification of Cross-Over cables
- Comprehensive analysis of above cable types
- Analyses all 8 lines of the cable
- Fault identification and highlighting for the following faults: Shorted Lines, Open lines, Swapped lines
- Display of cable-making instructions when not testing cables
- Can test plug-plug, plug-socket and socket-socket
- Support for up to 150m (500ft) of cable
- Miniature Atlas Terminator, ideal for use in tight spaces
- Clear and user-friendly scrollable display
- Spare battery and spare Atlas Terminator supplied
Improvements – One thing that would be a nice addition to the package is something that would allow you to connect it to cables that have not been terminated already. Something that you could push or clip the loose ends into to allow you to quickly connect a bare cable to the Atlas.
Conclusion – The old adage about having the right tools for the job is very true. The Atlas has reduced cable fault finding to in our house almost to the level of fun! 🙂
Update – Peak have just announced a new “ID” feature for the Atlas!
“Cable-Run Identification for Atlas IT! – The Atlas IT Network Cable Analyser has now been programmed to automatically recognise the new ID Terminators. Using the new ID Terminators provides all the existing functions of cable type identification and fault detection in addition to cable-run identification. Now you can analyse and identify lots of cables without needing to make lots of trips to swap terminators. Sets of 8, 16 or 24 unique ID Terminators are available from Peak Electronic Design Limited. Availability: June 2002. Please note that ID Terminators are only suitable for the Atlas IT cable analyser with firmware revision 2 or later. This extra functionality can be added to earlier analysers upon request.”