Restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, schools, hotels, malls, and many other public gathering locations all contain one important necessity in today’s world and that is access to the World Wide Web. Over the years, the term “Coffee Shop” has begun to transition into an “Internet Coffee Shop” as people seek the public atmosphere, but still wish to be productive in their work.

From laptops to MP3 players, everything we are buying that can be portable comes with some type of wireless capability and when we are away from our home and don’t wish to use our wireless carrier 4G LTE data plan, finding an internet location is a life savior.

However, not all public wireless gathering locations are the same. Some may pay for the lowest possible plan, while others may have a fast connection, but not enough local IPs for people to connect to or use poor hardware.

Wireless is a complex technology and can be difficult for the typical coffee shop owner to setup. You have to analyze everything from the number of walls, to the number of microwaves in the building, to how many people will be pulling off your hotspot at any given time. Then to top it all off, when your shop is filled with customers and you’re focused on serving each and every person with a smile, a wireless network that doesn’t crash under the stress is important.

There are some iconic wireless telecommunication equipment manufacturers in the world, but a major leader in wireless equipment, Ruckus Wireless, tends to skip the names you can list off. The same goes for their small business orientated wireless solution, XClaim Wireless, and although these two brands may not be known by the millions, their technology and services are certainly not to be messed with.

Small businesses are typically left in the dust when it comes to enterprise support. They cannot afford the enterprise solution, but the consumer grade equipment doesn’t suffice. To help the small business owner, XClaim’s focus is to create powerful Ruckus hardware that is user friendly all while maintaining a reasonable price point.

Welcome to my review of the XClaim Wireless Xi-3 Wireless Access Point. Throughout this review, I will be discussing the following topics: the design, functionality, and my final thoughts. A special thank you to XClaim for providing this product.



Design

XClaim’s product lineup consists of three indoor units with the Xi-3 being the highest tier, although, when comparing between them, you wouldn’t be able to see any difference as they all support the same design. A smart decision if you plan on purchasing multiple units.

Its plastic marble white outer shell consists of the XClaim logo alongside the green/red power and status LED on the front, while the rear has an opening for DC power-in, a PoE (Power over Ethernet) connector, an Ethernet 10/100/1000 connection, and a reset switch.

On the bottom of the Xi-3 are four rubber feet to prevent any scratches to both the unit and its future position. Moreover, the Xi-3, as with most wireless solutions, provides mounting brackets and needed hardware to be mounted to a ceiling or wall.

Once set in its desired location, its marble white glossy finish looks pleasant, but not in your face. Likewise, it tends to blend into the white of most ceilings.

The design doesn’t end there, as it continues to the XClaim Wireless mobile application that allows you to configure and access your Xi-3. While the functions of the application will be discussed below, the user interface is colorful and is easy to use when it works. Its layout is simple and information is shown in an orderly fashion. More on its functionality below.



Functionality

A wireless access point is a connection hub that mobile devices can connect to, but receives an IP that is managed by your router. Its function is to allow you to extend your router’s wireless range and offer a better experience.

Before you even begin to configure the Xi-3, a location must be chosen. Wireless connections can be a difficult thing to setup, especially for the average coffee shop owner. The best location for such a device is a location that has a nearby power outlet, is high up (preferably a ceiling), is away from any wireless emitting devices like microwaves, and is within 300 feet of your business’s router.

Once the location has been made, the Xi-3 requires a stable 12V DC or PoE power adapter. Inside your Xi-3 is a PoE converter that I chose to use; the adapter even doubles as a LAN port. The next connection that must be made is an Ethernet cable to your router. I recommend using CAT5e cable and to opt for a shielded cable if you plan on running cable through walls or exiting the building, otherwise non-shielded cable will suffice.

Boot up from a cold start happens in under a minute and devices that know the network connect almost instantly. Configuration is needed to setup your wireless connection and XClaim made the bold choice to use a mobile iOS or Android application for configuration instead of a traditional web interface.

XClaim’s application can be a joy and a headache both at the same time. For setting up the device, the app was fairly straight forward by selecting the AP, creating a wireless hotspot, and then setting a password. Sounds easy? When setting up the Xi-3, the unit blinked with its LED for a 10 minutes before I finally manually rebooted it, to find that it had saved my settings and began to work. Later on, I decided to look at the application for statistical information, only for the application to drop or crash.

While it was a hit or miss with the application, once installed, the Xi-3 performed flawlessly and amazed me every single day. Never once did it drop my connection or struggle under load, nor did it ever crash or need a reboot. The term “setup and forget” was true throughout the review process, so much so that this is the first time the Xi-3 has been unplugged in just over a month of usage.

I previously used a wireless router that had internal wireless antennas and what I quickly discovered is that internal antennas have a tough time penetrating through walls. The Xi-3 has one of the best wall penetration capabilities I have ever seen. I can walk 100 feet away from the Xi-3 and have the wireless burst through an entire building (multiple walls) only to have a stable 35Mbps download connection halved.

Lastly, the Xi-3 can handle up to 100 different clients at any given point and supports the highest 802.11AC wireless connection all the way back down to the lowest A wireless connection. Likewise, it sends out a 2.4GHz and 5GHz connection that it automatically manages. It also supports WPA-2 encryption, but be warned as anybody with access to your network can bypass your encryption and view network traffic. Then with its omnidirectional antennas, you can reach a maximum speed of up-to 1.167 Gbps.

To add to the review, XClaim offers a new cloud base service that they call CloudManager. This web based server allows you to access a plethora of data and network statistics to show you how well your system is performing. The feature allows for upgrading all units, rebooting, or creating a new separate network for employees. It's colorful and user friendly system is a pleasure to use and it gets better with XClaim offering the service for the low, low price of free! Enjoy enterprise networking management for no additional cost, even if you select the base Xi-1 model.



My Final Thoughts

All in all, the XClaim Xi-3 wireless access point is an incredible device for a small business that seeks out wireless in a big or small room. Its trouble-free and painless operation makes it suitable for business owners who may not be well in tune with today’s technology. Priced at $249, the Xi-3 brings a powerful network solution that makes this a must have device for any small business.

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© 2015 Justin Vendette