New Low Voltage Installation ToolBy: Brian Rhodes, Published on May 07, 2013
Cable testers are typically the most expensive tools an installer uses. Many offerings cost tens of thousands of dollars, yet a surveillance technician may use just a few features. Byte Brothers' Low Voltage Pro, an entrant for the best new security product at ISC West 2013 [link no longer available], claims to offer just the tests needed by the installer at such a low price point the device can go in every installer's toolbag. We look at the pros and cons inside.
The Low Voltage Pro is available in three versions [link no longer available], with the most basic tool, Level 1, upgradeable to the most advanced Level 3 version through a firmware update. While the range of features varies according to the model, all three versions offer basic tests, including:
- Cable Pass/Fail
- Line Resistance
Here's a breakdown of the model/options:
[link no longer available]
Check the manufacturer's video below for a general overview of what the tool offers:
For installers looking for more powerful features [link no longer available] like PoE/Phone line voltages, analog CCTV camera (1 volt Peak-to-Peak) voltage, network speed, cable length and return loss quality, then an upgrade to the Level 3 is required, which can be done via software on the manufacturer's website.
The cost of the units increase with the addition the increase features. The basic 'Level 1' model is available through national distribution or online for ~$150, while the full-featured 'Level 3' unit costs ~$300.
The low price of the unit is its greatest advantage. Compared to full-featured testers and certifiers priced for thousands, the Byte Brothers unit is a fraction of the cost. Unlike Fluke's CIQ-100 model [link no longer available] that offers similar features for ~$1500, the Low Voltage Pro is 80 - 90% less.
Despite a heavy market emphasis on the lowest price 'Leve 1' unit, the Low Voltage Pro does not provide the ability to print test reports with the two basic versions. While casual readings taken on the fly can be useful, the ability to assemble and print reports is key and drastically diminishes the value of the cheaper options, and most will need to purchase the full fledged Level 3 unit to find it useful.
Bytebrothers does not offer the measurement precision or methodology sophistication of high-end network certifiers. For example, Fluke certifiers are built with hardware filtering that screens out low-level noise that the Bytebrothers unit lacks. However, the high-precision of those units are not typically advantageous to the video market. The Low Voltage Pro offers 'good enough' features mixed with a low price point to be a benefit for surveillance installers who have not been able to justify more expensive offerings.