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Hands On: Luxul XWS-2500 Wireless Controller Kit

Integrator Joe Whitaker finds setup, implementation and performance of Luxul's new Wi-Fi kit may epitomize what it takes to bring enterprise-grade home networking to the masses.


Hands On: Luxul XWS-2500 Wireless Controller Kit
As tested, Luxul's High Power 900M Wireless Controller System (XWS-2500) is $1,499.

Photos & Slideshow

Joe Whitaker · June 29, 2015

Wireless networks have become a core component of any installation; one that can make or break an end user’s experience. Recently there has been much talk and even published research on how homeowners use, and have a distaste for, the performance of residential networks as they are provided today.

From my own experience as an integrator, response to prospective sales for residential networks typically falls into three categories:

  • I don’t want to spend additional money above the equipment provided by my ISP. This set of consumers attempts to use the router/Wi-Fi combo to accommodate the entire system. These consumers show the biggest dissatisfaction with wireless performance and overall network performance.
  • I just need a couple access points that run on their own placed around the house to deal with dead spots. These users are happy that Wi-Fi is available to their entire property, but don’t quite understand the drops, lags, and the other issues that arise, usually when roaming the property, with a broken up, non-managed wireless solution.
  • I want a seamless wireless network that lets me roam my entire property as if I was standing right beside my wireless access point. This is that answer we would all like to hear, but the cost to deploy this type of network often kicks this crowd back to point No. 2’s train of thought.

Thankfully, wireless networks provider Luxul recently released a host of affordable controller-based products that perhaps can fit the budget and provide the experience to satisfy the requests and expectations of all the above. I had the opportunity to evaluate the company’s XWS-2500 Wireless Controller Kit, which includes one XWC-1000 controller and two XAP-1500 high power access points (APs).

“The XWC-1000 is the first wireless controller designed specifically for the custom integration pro,” Luxul CEO Jeffrey Curtis tells me. “It addresses the primary wireless networking challenges our dealers face daily, including seamless roaming, simple setup and profitability.”

I’d say that not only does Luxul’s new line fit well into design considerations and budgets, but based on my experience you can seriously run through the setup of a multi-AP environment in 10 minutes with time to spare to look at the advanced settings.

Installation was comparable to that of other manufacturers’ wireless networking products. It took mere seconds to install the controller, which came with rack ears and features a small 1U form factor. The APs have a nice trim ring that can be used on either wall or ceiling installations.

I would prefer a mounting ring format like Cisco’s Meraki MR18s where the holes lined up with a common LV1 cut in the ring so I wouldn’t have to create new holes. But overall, the mounting was easy and the look of the access points was acceptable, falling somewhere between a smoke detector and a Frisbee.

Related: RMR Done Right: 5 Tips for Selling and Renewing Network Service Plans

A downside to the installation is that the high power access points require that you use the included PoE (power over Ethernet) injectors. They will not work if you just plug them into a Luxul network switch. I tried to do this just to see what actually would happen and while the PoE from the switch powered up and did let me configure them, the missing additional power left the antenna array pretty much dead.

Luxul also threw every installer unfamiliar with setting up a managed wireless network a bone if they take a second to actually read the instruction manual. In there you will find a link for a free heat mapping tool that will allow you to achieve a perfect access point spread for the installation. By going to www.ekahau.com/wifidesign/ekahau-heatmapper you will able to test the access points around the location to get it right the first time. I think this was very prudent of Luxul to provide a free third-party solution for integrators, as embedding this type of software into the controller would most definitely increase the price.

I was highly impressed by the simple and guided setup. When you open the setup wizard you not only see how easy it is but you are flat-out told that “setting up a wireless network is easy” with the Luxul controller.

image

And the company made good on that declaration. Click here to see what Luxul’s 7-step setup process looks like onscreen step by step.

So that’s seven simple steps that even a complete network novice can accomplish in less than 10 minutes. The ease of setup takes away the fear and intimidation of the less savvy integrator to allow them to install a complete and managed solution that they might not have been able to offer before without white-glove service.

Performance was well above what I thought I would find at this price point. I did run though a fair amount of diagnostics including AirPcap with Wireshark, Heat Mapping, WiSpy, and some other analytic tools. What I found with distance, signal quality, packet loss, retry rates, and a host of other things I look for was an affordable access point that falls on par with solutions much more expensive. Performance is solid compared with top competitors, and the bang-for-the-buck value this solution provides is tough to beat. Plus, just like most Luxul products the price is great for customers while integrator margin is kept to a high standard.

While I have tested just about every wireless access point used in the integration market today as well as many from the enterprise level, I feel comfortable saying that Luxul’s new controller-based Wi-Fi line be the product that finally marches wireless networking with an enterprise-grade experience to the masses.

Considering this test from my iPhone was teetering on the max up/down speeds at my house under full use conditions on my system, I would say this is acceptable to any client.
image

MSRPs:
The standalone controller (XWC-1000) is $399
The High Power 900M Wireless Controller System (XWS-2500) is $1,499 (model tested)

Also there is a 300N Wireless Controller System (XWS-1310) that includes three standard power 300N APs, the controller and a small PoE switch priced at $699, and Luxul will be introducing a High Power 300N Wireless Controller System (XWS-2210) that includes two High Power 300N APs, PoE Injectors and the Controller for $899.

From Luxul:
USE THE XWS-2500 TO:

  • Seamlessly roam between multiple access points
  • Simply configure up to 16 Luxul access points
  • Create a secure guest network

CONTROLLER FEATURES:

  • Seamless client roaming between access points
  • Simple central control and configuration of Luxul APs
  • Secure guest networking
  • Durable 1U metal enclosure for rack mount or desktop use
  • Three-year limited warranty

ACCESS POINT FEATURES:

  • High output power (1000mW) for maximum coverage
  • Concurrent dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5GHz)
  • Data tansfers of up to 900Mbps
  • Low profile design that installs easily on ceiling, wall or other flat surface
  • Three-year limited warranty


  About the Author

With over 20 years of experience in home systems installation and design as well as being an award winning product designer, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm thethoughtfulhome.com. He is a current member of the CEDIA board of directors first elected in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Joe at [email protected]

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Joe also participates in these groups:
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View Joe Whitaker's complete profile.


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