I’ve had a chance to work with the Fluke Intellitone Pro 200 Toner and Probe, and I’ve got to say there’s a lot to like about it, especially when tracing down CAT5e and CAT6 cables. It’s a versatile professional tool that’s worth it’s weight when you’re tracing down network wiring issues, and is right at home with multi-line phone systems as well. Only a couple of places they need improvement.
Fluke Networks Intellitone Pro 200 Overview
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In the sub $200 range, the Fluke Networks Intellitone Pro 200 toner and probe gives you what you need to trace down ethernet cables and more. It comes with cables and adapters to test RJ11 (phone), RJ45 (Ethernet and phone), and coaxial cable (cable tv, satellite dishes, and 10base2).
One of the problems with the 8 wire connections is that they’re used for both network and phone, and plugging one into the other can wreak havoc on a network as well as ire from your phone provider (most eight wire phone connections are for corporate businesses, not for home users, enabling them to have a call center and route calls to other offices from the front desk.
While this is changing over to VOIP (Voice Over IP), the installed base will be in use for some time.
Intelitone Pro Toner: Quick rundown of the features
Plugging an RJ45 cable directly into the device and setting it’s rotary dial to “Service” will quickly show you if you’re plugged into Telephone (LED #1 or #2), a live network (LED #3) or into a cable that’s not terminated (LED #4 is lit), or the toner is detecting a connection across the center pins of the jack (LED #4 is off). This could also be an unplugged network device or unrecognized service.
There are also connections for using the supplied alligator clips if you’re testing a punchdown block for a phone system, and a coaxial cable connection as well. In order to test RJ11 jacks (regular phone systems) you’ll need to use the supplied adapter cable.
The Second setting on the toner allows you to trace the cable by sending a digital signal through the wires that you can pick up with the probe. This is for your typical 8 wire Cat5 cables, and sends the digital signal down all the wires.
The third setting on the Toner (showing an icon of a speaker) called “SmartTone” is for use on dry pairs of wires that are un-terminated at both ends of the run, not on live wires with a DC power source (like live telephone lines) or on wire pairs that are carrying AC signals.
SmartTone works on many types of wire pairs including twisted pair, house wiring (NOT LIVE HOUSE WIRING!!!), and coax (the shield is one wire and the center conductor is the other wire of the pair).
The fourth and final setting (showing an icon of the Omega symbol (Ohm) is for testing continuity on an UNPOWERED cable (check with your handy voltmeter before you plug in your Intellitoner!). A lit #1 LED will show continuity, unlit, no continuity or an open/broken wire.
Intellitone Pro Probe: Quick rundown of the features
The most important setting is not really listed on the front – it’s on the side: this is the “OFF” setting. If you forget, you’re out a nine volt cell, which you’ll need most when you don’t have a spare. Actually it will shut off after an hour of no use, but still that’s 60 minutes less use you’ll have when you need it most. The tip is fashioned so you can fit it into an RJ45 jack on your patch panel to verify that you’ve got the right port.
Both units come with wrist straps so you don’t drop them into the puddle you typically find below most patch panels, or onto the cement floor, rendering even the most ruggedly built devices useless once you’ve dropped them enough times.
The settings on the rotary switch marked on the top of the probe are:
Signal (Sensitive) – this is for tracing the general vicinity of the cable in question. If your cabling installer or satellite TV service put things in as bundles, you can quickly zero in on the set. If it’s a hodge-podge of cables, at least you can work from left to right, top to bottom to narrow it down. The sensitive setting is also going to prove to be worth it’s weight in gold when you’re dealing with newer installations.
Cat5e and Cat6 cables have better shielding and wrapping, so there’s less chance of Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) coming out of the wires.
This is where the less expensive probes are going to cause frustration and lost productivity.
Signal (Weak) – once you’ve found the bundle, you’ve got to trace it down to the single wire. If the bundles are loose, it’s easy to pull the cables aside and test, but if they’re tightly bound, or you need to find the exact connection on the patch bay, the sensitive setting is too strong.
Tracing the bundle up to the area of the patch panel you’re dealing with, you can switch to “Signal (Weak)” mode and test each individual port to find the exact one.
Tip: just to verify, plug a cable from the back of the probe into the strongest port, and check the lights on the front just to verify.
Speaker – “Smart Tone” – this is for testing using a 1 kHz signal – mostly for two wire applications where there is NO VOLTAGE on the wires (don’t want to fry your brand new bright yellow probe and toner, do we?!).
Eight LEDs – used for signal strength when you’re tracking down the cable in question (with a signal strength meter range of 1-8), these LEDs are also used to check the integrity of the cabling. In the cable integrity mode, the toner sends voltage down the wires sequentially. If everything’s okay, you’ll see the lights light up one at a time in sequence (LED 1, LED 2, LED 3, etc.). If there’s a broken wire, one of the lights won’t light. If you’ve got a crossover on one of the wires, they’ll light out of sequence LED 1, LED 4, LED 2, LED 3 or something similar).
Testing CAT6 shield integrity: a kludge that works
Where they need to improve
To test the shield integrity on CAT6 cables, you have a bit of a procedure on the probe. This appears to be an afterthought they were able to integrate into this model, I hope they integrate it in future models. Here’s the procedure:
1. Remove the battery door and disconnect the battery from the probe
2. Turn the probe’s rotary switch to CABLE MAP (Note: The battery must be disconnected from the probe for at least 30 seconds)
3. Replace the battery and battery door
The SYNC LED will now indicate a good, open, or shorted shield.
Hmmm. Couldn’t have that as a default without having to remove the battery? Once you turn it off, or possibly even change the setting (I haven’t tested it – we don’t have CAT6 in our current installation), it goes back to using the eight LED’s like every other one. Have to admit – that must have been quite a programming hack for whoever did it – my hat’s off to them for implementing it.
The Fluke Intellitone Toner and Probe make a great set for those individuals that find themselves tracking down wires on a regular basis. The price may be a bit steep for the occasional user, but for the IT department or the professional home network troubleshooter, this is a great product for the price.
Hoping they incorporate the shield testing in future models where you don’t have to remove the battery, set the dial, wait 30 seconds, reinstall the battery, then test – as this will be needed more and more in the future. If you’re looking for less expensive alternatives, you might try the Trendnet TC-NT2 and probe (probe sold separately).