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Wireless Reviews

Features

There are many features common to the Xi-2 and Xi-3. The key difference is the Xi-3 is a 2x2 AC1200 class AP, where the Xi-2 is a 2x2 N600 class AP. Thus, the Xi-3's wireless and throughput capabilities are higher when used with an AC client. Below is a listing of features specific to the Xi-2 and Xi-3, followed by a listing of common features.

Xi-2

  • 802.11n
  • 802.3af
  • (1) 10/100/1000 RJ45
  • 300 Mbps maximum link rate on each band

Xi-3

  • 802.11ac
  • 802.3af/at
  • (2) 10/100/1000 RJ45
  • 300 Mbps maximum 2.4 GHz link rate; 867 Mbps maximum 5 GHz link rate

Common Features

  • Dual radio, dual-band
  • 5 GHz DFS channels supported
  • PoE powered
  • Up to 100 concurrent clients
  • Guest access capability
  • 802.1Q VLANs
  • Controller-free multi-AP architecture
  • 100% Free Cloud Management Service (CloudManager)
  • Optional mobile-app management (Harmony)
  • Dynamic channel selection (auto)
  • Automatic traffic prioritization (auto)
  • Airtime Fairness (auto)
  • Band Steering (auto)
  • Client isolation (per AP)
  • Automatic load balancing (per AP)
  • 4 SSIDs per radio, 8 total
  • Bandwidth throttling
  • Cloud management
  • No AP Licenses required
  • One year Limited Hardware Warranty

Xclaim lists these features as available through a free upgrade over the"course of 2015".

  • Captive Portal
  • 802.1x
  • Social Login
  • Simple Mesh
Updated 7/18/2015

Some of the features above bear further explanation. According to Xclaim, dynamic channel selection assesses channel capacity and changes channel when, based on historical data, a different channel is likely to offer higher capacity than the current channel. Automatic band steering to 5 GHz for dual-band clients is done when the client reports a higher 5 GHz signal level. Automatic load balancing happens on an AP basis only, not at WLAN level.

In Use

As you grow the number of APs in your network, it becomes more of a challenge to manage. In many larger networks, multiple APs are deployed using an AP controller, which provides a central point to manage the wireless network. Although a controller provides centralization and efficiency, it also adds cost and complexity.

Xclaim now provides two solutions for managing their APs, both free. Harmony is a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The recently introduced CloudManager is a web-based cloud service accessible via any browser. I'm going to cover my experience with the Xi-3 and Xi-2 using both Harmony and CloudManager.

There are three things to note about these solutions. First, Harmony and CloudManager are mutually exclusive. If your APs are managed with Harmony, they cannot be managed by CloudManager and vice versa. You can convert your network from one to the other, but you'll need to reconfigure the APs, which I'll describe shortly.

Second, you can also access Xclaim APs directly via Web GUI or SSH CLI. But changes made in the GUI of CLI will not be reflected in Harmony or CloudManager. To access the GUI or CLI, browse or SSH to the AP's IP address. As listed in the Xclaim forum, the default username is xclaim-mfg and the default password is mfg-admin12. If you already connected your AP to Harmony or CloudManager, you may need to use your Harmony or CloudManager password instead of the default.

Third, Xclaim APs have a default SSID called xclaim-setup that you can use to access your Wi-Fi network during initial setup. Note, the mobile device running Harmony doesn't have to use the xclaim-setup SSID, but it does need to be on the same LAN (subnet) as the APs.

Harmony

The Harmony app is recommended for environments with up to 10 APs. It is a free download from the Apple iTunes Store (iOS 7.x and later) and on the Google Play Store for Android mobile devices (version 4.1 and higher). I searched the App Store for "Xclaim Harmony" and had no trouble installing Harmony on my iPhone 5s running iOS 8.1.3. The first gallery shows the Harmony install.

I initially ran into some trouble getting my Xclaim APs to connect to Harmony. It turned out my Xi-2 was running an older firmware version causing the problem. The folks at Xclaim gave me steps to update the firmware and Xclaim reports they are updating the initial setup instructions for Xclaim Access Points. The steps to update software on a new Xclaim AP are:

  1. Power on your AP
  2. Wait until the LED is solid or blinking green
  3. Wait 5 minutes
  4. Power cycle the AP.

This will update the AP's software and should prevent the problems I experienced.

You may be able to tell if your AP is using an older software version based on its LED. I noticed that Xclaim APs running the latest firmware have a blinking green LED after initial boot, whereas Xclaim APs running older software have a solid green LED after initial boot. This is pretty subtle. Note neither Harmony nor CloudManager have controls to check for latest firmware or force firmware updates.

With the firmware updated, the process to connect the Xi-3 and Xi-2 to Harmony, configure them and assign an SSID to the AP was quite simple. Tapping the icon for an AP in Harmony brings up its configuration menu. I started by configuring the APs with my desired options and associating each AP to the SSID I created when I installed Harmony. The next gallery shows configuring the APs.

My third note above described the xclaim-setup SSID that is intially present on an Xclaim AP. Once you associate a new AP with your desired SSID, the xclaim-setup SSID is deleted. If your mobile device is connected to xclaim-setup, you'll be disconnected and Harmony will be unable to connect to the APs until you configure your mobile to connect to the new SSID.

Harmony also allows you to edit an existing SSID or create a new one. This gallery shows Harmony's wireless configuration options. Some of the limitations noted in the Xi-2 review, such as the inability to assign an SSID to individual radios have been fixed.

You might wonder about the Harmony VLAN, Client Isolation and Bandwidth Control options. I'll cover the VLAN and Bandwidth Control options shortly. The Client Isolation option is useful for a guest Wi-Fi network to control guest access, but you'll probably want to disable Client Isolation in a network where Wi-Fi devices need to access internal servers or other devices. Harmony also allows you to view basic statistics on APs and connected clients.

A big downside to Harmony that has not been fixed is that every time you switch to another app on your mobile device, you'll need to re-login to Harmony. I found it very tedious having to repeatedly enter an 8 character password while switching between the Harmony app and other apps on my iPhone. Below are screenshots displaying Harmony's statistics screen, client details screen and login screen.

It should be noted that Harmony is not the tool to use if you're managing multiple Xclaim networks, as a small network company might, or managing networks spread over multiple subnets. Everything Harmony manages must be on the same subnet.

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