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LAN & WAN Reviews

Performance - more

In past powerline tests, I've run tests in the same five or six locations that I use for wireless testing. I've also included locations that are behind AFCI breakers, which greatly reduced performance.

This time, I've made sure that no locations put adapters behind AFCI breakers and tested only three locations:

  • Location A: Adpaters plugged into same unfiltered outlet strip
  • Location C: Outlet in living room, one floor up and middle of home
  • Location E: Outlet in kitchen, one floor up and opposite end of home

For the Location C and E tests, the other adapter was plugged into an outlet just outside my office on the lower level and one end of my home, so that it was not behind an AFCI breaker. If you want more info on the locations, see this article.

I also made sure that no noise sources were present. The culprits in past tests have included a cellphone charger and answering machine power wart in the kitchen location.

Table 2 summarizes the average throughput from a one minute IxChariot test in the three locations. I've bolded the highest throughput in each location.

Product
(click link for throughput plot)
Test Locations
A C E
Cisco Linksys PLK300 37.3 39.2 38.6
Plaster Networks PLN3 / AV200 45.6 43.9 36.6
NETGEAR XAVB2001 44.8 47.2 44.6
NETGEAR XAVB2501 48.6 45.6 44.1
TRENDnet TPL-303E2K 43.6 44.8 42.1
Table 2: Transmit throughput summary
Product
(click link for throughput plot)
Test Locations
A C E
Cisco Linksys PLK300 33.3 33.9 34.0
Plaster Networks PLN3 / AV200 37.3 35.6 35.2
NETGEAR XAVB2001 41.4 40.3 39.6
NETGEAR XAVB2501 43.7 40.6 38.5
TRENDnet TPL-303E2K 37.1 38.3 38.0
Table 3: Receive throughput summary

The remarkable thing about these results is the very small throughput degradation across locations. For all intents and purposes, all the adapters, except for the Linksys, provide more than 40 Mbps average throughput for transmit and 35 Mbps for receive.

The transmit and receive average throughput are reduced by 5 Mbps each for the Linksys, I assume due to its second-generation HomePlug AV chipset. But while average throughput is lower, throughput reduction from location to location is also negligible.

While these results are hopeful for those trying to use HomePlug AV for HD video streaming, I must dampen your enthusiasm a bit. If you use the links in the tables to open up the IxChariot plots, you can see that all products show some dropouts during the one minute test periods.

The worst of the group tested was the Plaster Networks pair. Figure 28 shows the three location transmit results, which have multiple dropouts. Unless your HD streaming player has very good buffering, I'd say there is a good chance that you would not have a trouble-free streaming experience using the Plaster Networks adapters.

Updated: 9/21/2010

As it turns out, the the tests I ran in HD Streaming Smackdown: The Rematch with the Plaster Networks adapters run fine with HD content.

Plaster Networks transmit throughput

Figure 28: Plaster Networks transmit throughput

Closing Thoughts

It looks like HomePlug AV has finally matured to the point where it can be a viable alternative to wireless for those who can't get Ethernet to everywhere it's needed. While mid-40 Mbps throughput ain't 100 Mbps, HomePlug AV's ability to maintain that throughput throughout a 3000+ sq. ft. two-level home and be unaffected by walls, wireless neighbors, microwave ovens and other Wi-Fi killers makes it a very attractive networking option.

The other good news is that the cheapest kit in the roundup, TRENDnet's TPL-303E2K at $80, was just about as good as the more expensive kits at around $120.

Getting the best performance out of powerline, can take some tweaking, however. So you might want to read Slow HomePlug? Five Ways To Boost Powerline Network Speed for some tips. I plan to test a few designed-for-powerline filters soon and see if filters designed for X10 applications also work for powerline.

In the meantime, if you've had a bad powerline networking experience in the past and aren't happy with the performance you're getting from Wi-Fi, you really should take a look at these latest HomePlug AV adapters. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

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