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Wireless Performance - more

Throughput vs. attenuation curves provide a better view of relative performance. We added the only other AC1200 access point tested with the current process, the Edimax CAP1200 for comparison. The 2.4GHz downlink plot shows the Edimax has higher throughput with lower attenuation values up to 27 dB (stronger signals), while the Xclaim has the throughput advantage as signal levels drop.

Xi-3 2.4GHz Downlink Throughput Performance

Xi-3 2.4GHz Downlink Throughput Performance

The 2.4 GHz uplink plot shows the Ediamx CAP1200 and Xclaim Xi-3 to be quite similar, with the Xi-3 holding a slight throughput advantage through all ranges.

Xi-3 2.4GHz Uplink Throughput Performance

Xi-3 2.4GHz Uplink Throughput Performance

The 5 GHz downlink plot shows the Edimax CAP1200 with a slight throughput advantage through most of the tested range.

Xi-3 5 GHz Downlink Throughput Performance

Xi-3 5 GHz Downlink Throughput Performance

5 GHz uplink results are similar to downlink, but with the Edimax providing higher throughput at higher signal levels.

Xi-3 5 GHz Uplink Throughput Performance

Xi-3 5 GHz Uplink Throughput Performance

Closing Thoughts

Tim said in the Xi-2 review that "a web interface is sorely needed" as an alternative to the Harmony app. Clearly, CloudManager meets that requirement. After using both Harmony and CloudManager, I doubt I'd use Harmony. I found CloudManager more intuitive and easier to use and offers the added benefit of managment access to my wireless network from anywhere.

But does CloudManager bring Xclaim any closer to its claim of "Simply Better Wireless"? Yes and no, but mostly no. CloudManager is definitely a step in the right direction for managing multi-AP WLANs. It makes it easier to access features and monitor networks and doesn't log you out every time you switch focus to another app like Harmony does.

However, CloudManager does nothing to address Xclaim's poor documentation and support approach. At least there are now Quick Setup Guides for each of the APs. But Xclaim seems to be sticking to its Forum-only support model, which makes the company look like an amateurish KickStarter-funded startup vs. the subsidiary of an established business-class Wi-Fi company that it is.

Although I found help in Xclaim's forums, forums are a useful tool for a manufacturer to get user feedback, not a replacement for good product documentation and phone / email support. When a company doesn't list its phone number, provide a company address or even an email contact address, you have to wonder. When your Xclaim network hits a snag, do you really want your only alternative to be a Forum post and cross your fingers for a timely (and helpful) response?

As 802.11ac pushes more traffic to 5 GHz, more APs are required due to 5 GHz' lower coverage vs. 2.4 GHz. This means that small wireless network admins that used to have only a few APs to worry about are finding themselves with larger networks to manage. Fortunately, more companies are coming to the rescue with lower cost alternatives to WLANs based around expensive hardware controllers and dumb APs.

Xclaim is in an increasingly crowded space that companies like Ubiquiti, Edimax and others have also set their sights on. Ubiquiti also has a free controller approach, but runs on a local computer vs. a cloud service. Edimax uses a hardware-controller approach that converts an AP into a dedicated controller. Both let admins dig deeper into settings and monitor more aspects of network performance than CloudManager, which assumes admins won't want or need to go there.

Overall, after getting through my initial issues related to an older software version, I found the Xclaim Xi-3 and Xi-2 APs functional and useful. The Harmony app is an, uh, interesting solution for AP control unsuited for managing more than a handful of APs. CloudManager is better, providing a free, very easy to use cloud-based AP controller. But Xclaim's system seems too simplified, without features like fast roaming, band steering and load balancing, or at least doesn't let admins control them.

When Ruckus announced Xclaim, it proclaimed "a new kind of Wi-Fi system exclusively developed for the small business market that redefines the model for offering enterprise-grade Wi-Fi services to organizations that have little to no IT expertise". Both Harmony and CloudManager limit wireless features to just the options Xclaim thinks these organizations need. The question is whether Xclaim has made Harmony and CloudManager functional enough for their target market.

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