Comtrol RocketLinx PoE+ Switch Could Use a Boost

Learn if Comtrol’s RocketLinx ACS7106 is the best product for your installation job with SSI’s Bench Test review.

The RocketLinx ACS7106, according to the manufacturer, is the first UL294B-Listed PoE switch designed for the access control market. When we were contacted by Comtrol about evaluating this product, we were excited. I had never heard of the firm, despite it being in business for more than 30 years, and its Web site showed quite a selection. The electronic security industry is fully onboard the IT train, and any time we see products that are tweaked for our industry, we stand up and take notice. Would this be a valuable addition to the security integrator’s bag of tricks, or another rebranded IT product in search of new markets?

Construction

The ACS7106 is described as a hardened and industrial design in various marketing materials, and it is indeed in a metal case. It is made to mount against a wall or cabinet back and includes metal ears for mounting. Beyond that, we were not very impressed with construction given the price of the unit. Be forewarned, this is a recurring theme that you are going to see in this review.

Comtrol RocketLinx ACS7106 PoE+ Switch

Specs

  • Hardened industrial PoE switch
  • UL294B certification

Pros

  • Easy to set up and use
  • High power output for connected PoE devices

Cons

  • Very basic operation with limited feature set
  • Poor price/performance ratio
  • Test unit had unreliable alarm feature

The case itself is a five-piece design, with an “L”-shaped bottom panel that also encompasses the RJ45 connectors, a top panel that has all of the indicator lights on it, and two side panels. Four screws in each side panel hold the whole thing together, and the unit is fairly flimsy until the last screws are put into place. There are 12 “light tubes” that bring the indicator lights from the single circuit board inside the unit up to the top panel, where everything can be clearly read and identified. We liked that feature a lot – when the unit is installed, all indications can be clearly read. Of course, there’s a disadvantage to this design as well; the ACS7106 requires access to three sides showed us that there is some powerful adhesive also holding the board in place. We didn’t want to risk destroying our re-view sample just to satisfy our curiosity. Although this raised another warning flag – U.S. regulations state, “Every article of foreign origin entering the United States must be legibly marked with the English name of the country of origin unless an exception from marking is provided for in the law.” This was the first time we’ve had an unmarked product submitted to us for evaluation. We questioned Comtrol about it and were told that this product was manufactured entirely in Minnesota. While that may be, then why not say, “Made in USA,” which is required if the product is to be sold outside of the U.S.?

In general, the fit and finish is acceptable, if a little sloppy. The power connector wasn’t centered in the cutout, and flexing one of the RJ45 ports (Port 5) made the data connection intermittent. There was a chattering noise from the Alarm Control relay when Port 6 was alarmed and nothing was plugged into it but something was plugged into Port 5, but that eventually went away. We don’t know why it went away, as the relay continued to work through testing.

Features

At its essence, this is a pretty basic network switch. It is unmanaged, so there are no software features to speak of. There are two high-speed Gigabit ports and four 10/100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet ports, with the four slower speed ports supplying PoE at up to 30W each. How much power each port can supply is dependent on the power supply you use with the switch (a power supply is not included and must be ordered separately), and the maximum power available across all ports in a UL294 installation is 90W. The unit can be powered with either 12 or 24VDC, which adds some flexibility. Chances are, in the intended application, there’s a power supply already in the cabinet.

The ACS7106 also features a relay alarm supporting 24VDC at up to 1A for notification of Ethernet link and PoE power events, programmed as on or off via a DIP switch on the side that enables or disables the alarm for each port. This is another nice feature, although we suspect more sophisticated users may prefer to handle this in software on a managed switch. As previously mentioned, this feature worked unpredictably during testing and we’re not sure we’d trust it.

The indicator lights are nicely located but pretty basic. There’s a power light for the switch, a PoE power indicator for the four PoE ports, activity lights for each port, and a red Alarm LED for notification of alarm events. There’s no indication of device speed or connection, something we are used to seeing on network switches at any price point.

About the Author

Contact:

Bob Grossman has held positions in all areas of the security industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! Bob has authored articles for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION and other publications and has spoken at numerous industry events both internationally and in the United States. Currently the founder and president of R. Grossman and Associates, a consulting firm, he divides his time between project-based work for large integrated systems and product consulting for a variety of cutting-edge manufacturers. For more information, visit www.tech-answers.com.

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