New: Mapping Line Tester (MapMaster 2.0)

By Brian Rhodes, Published Oct 16, 2012, 08:00pm EDT

A new cable testset delivers advanced features at a fractional cost of competitive offerings. However, while the set offers over 15 different tests, how many are useful to the average video installer? Does the tool deliver value, or is it another worthless gimmick? In this note, we dig in and take a look.

Tester Overview

While the Platinum Tools T129 is modestly priced at just over $100, it includes advanced features costing four or five times more than competitor's products:

  • Continuity Testing: Checks that each strand for breaks or miswires over the entire length
  • Cable Location Mapping: Includes receiver clips for 19 locations at once
  • Tone Generator: Individual cables can be found using tone set.
  • Length Measurement: End to end length is measured, using resistance
  • Shield Integrity: The continuity of cabling shields can be checked for interference vulnerability. (See our "STP vs. UTP" report for further details on shielding)
  • "Looping" Feature: A "continuous" mapping mode for troubleshooting intermittent connection issues.

The video below provides a demo of how the length feature works for both UTP and Coax cable:

 

Value to Video Surveillance

While the T129 may not have the widespread utility of a multimeter, it is 'customized' to check the cable types and cabling problems to video surveillance. The T129 is a 'VDV' product - a video, data, voice - tester, which means it is customized to check those specific types of cables. Unlike a Ohm/Voltage/Multimeter, the T129 is designed to check for specific functions, not measure electrical properties.

The Mapmaster 2.0 is designed to work with both UTP and coax types of video cabling, and while individual settings may need to differ, the set provides the same tests for either medium. For example, the chart below shows how overall length measure varies depending on cable type being used:

Length

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The T129's Length Measurements are most useful when determining where a break or short is occurring. For example, if the meter returns a distance value shorter than the overall known length of the cable, then that distance reveals how far up the line the physical break lies. This feature can be very useful in determining if a connector is the problem or the problem lies in the cable itself.

Mapping

The most advanced feature the Mapmaster provides is the 'mapping' function. Given the undocumented/messy nature of many surveillance networks, simply establishing which cable goes where is a daunting effort. The T129 includes 'numbered remotes' (jack plugs) that send an identification signal back home where they are received by the base unit. The video below shows this feature in detail:

Using this feature greatly simplifies the process of discovering which port an unlabeled camera is plugged into, or where a certain cable is connected in a facility.

Comparison

The pricing of the T129 is what makes it distinctive in the market. Because alternative products cost $400 - $500, they are often too costly to issue every technician, and invariably those sets get broken or lost over time. For example, the closest Fluke Networks product, the MS2-100, sells for $400 online.

The $100 Mapmaster 2.0 provides the same features as the Fluke model, but also includes 'extras' like a Remote Port button, Toner/Alligator Cables, and F-style port adapter sets. 

While we have not tested the T129 in the field and cannot evaluate actual performance and durability, it is an inexpensive tester/mapper option for those frustrating and mundane troubleshooting tasks.

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