The TP500 from Platinum Tools is a handy tester of LAN cables. It's easy to use and effective, though it could use a small tweak or two.
When my house was renovated several years ago, I had the electrician install network outlets in numerous places, then run the LAN cables to a wiring closet. But he didn't document the ends inside the closet. That was my problem. To trace the cables, I used a DMM and made a loopback cable to trace the wires. But what if the electrician made a wiring error in a cable? That would have been difficult and time consuming — though not impossible — to find without a LAN cable tester.
There are many cable testers on the market, including the TP500 LANSeeker from Platinum Tools that I tried for this review. The LANSeeker is available through numerous distributors. Prices range from about $59 to $69 (Amazon's price is halfway between).
Let's start with a few photos.
The LANSeeker comes in an easy-to-open package. You don't have to tear the packaging apart to get at the product (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The LANSeeker comes in an easy-to-open package.
Because you need to connect to both ends of a cable to test it, the LANSeeker needs two devices: an active base (which, of course, is portable) and passive remote. The remote module attaches to the base unit for safekeeping, sliding off to the top. That's convenient for storage and transport of the tester — it becomes one piece. I've used other cable testers that are two separate pieces, and this design is better because you're less likely to misplace the remote unit. Pulling the remote from the base was, however, a little harder than I expected, though reattaching it was smooth. Figure 2 shows the remote receiver separated from the base transmitter unit.
Figure 2: The remote unit detaches from the main unit for connecting to a cable's far end. LEDs indicate wiring problems.
LANSeeker comes with a 9-V battery installed in the base unit. The battery resides under the bottom cover (Figure 3), which also serves as a shock absorber.
Figure 3: The battery is accessible by removing the bottom bumper.
Before attempting to see how well the LANSeeker could find wiring errors, I started by connecting a known good network cable. Both sets of LED indicators illuminated. Figure 4 shows that all four pairs of wires are properly connected.
Figure 4: The LANSeeker correctly verified a known good cable.
Testing a cable tester is easier than trying out most test equipment because you can make your own wiring errors and see how it responds. Indeed, the LANSeeker found a wiring error that I made in a breakout panel (Figure 5) that I made from wood and nails (Figure 5).
Figure 5: A breakout panel made from wood and nails: crude but effective.
After building the breakout panel, I had to connect the wires from the LAN cable that I'd cut. Ethernet cables come with four twisted pairs of wires, and it's important to keep track of the four pairs. That's where a table of wires, colors, and pins would have come in handy. Another cable that I tested had a label on the transmitter showing the RJ-45 connector wiring. Sure, you can easily get that online, but having a label on the cable tester is quite handy. Platinum Tools should add such a label to the LANSeeker. The additional cost is minimal, even for a $65 item.
The video below takes you through the tests that I performed. In all cases, the LANSeeker properly identified the wiring errors. The remote unit tells which pairs have wiring errors, while the base unit provides details such as shorts, miswired pairs, reverse wiring on a pair, and a split pair.
What if you have more than one fault? For example, say one side of one pair is open and the other is shorted to another pair. In that case, press the Debug button. The LEDs on the base unit will indicate shorts and opens.
What I liked about the LANSeeker
Ability to attach the remote receiver to the base unit. Other LAN cable testers that I've tried consist of two separate units. It's easy to lose one.
User interface is easy to understand and provides useful information on cable wiring issues.
The package was easy to open.
No on/off switch. Convenient when you're walking around testing cables in a building. Just plug in the cables and go.
9-V battery is easy to replace. No screwdriver needed.
Convenient shape. It fit nicely in my hand.
What I didn't like:
No label showing the cable wire colors and their assigned RJ-45 pins. That's easy to get online, but easier if you have it attached to your cable tester.
No on/off switch. If you lave cables connected and walk away, you drain the battery.
Removing the remote was somewhat difficult. Perhaps it gets easier with use as the plastic tabs wear. Could the tabs break over time?