|Mac User Reports on PowerLine AC Network Adapters
Reports last Updated: Feb 25th, 2010
This page is a catch-all of reader comments/feedback on PowerLine (AC) Network adapters. Other feedback is welcome.
First Impressions of Netgear XAVB1004 "Home Theater Internet Connection Kit": (Feb 25th, 2010)
For years I've been curious about these "PowerLine" (AC) network adapters, especially for use downstairs for machines that haven't always had reliable connections (w/5GHz N mode at least, which has higher performance but less range than 2.4GHz mode). And recent experiences with the wireless on my O!Play Air media player (noted on this page) had me considering this option again. I recently traded my previous Airport Extreme base (1st gen N model w/gigabit ethernet ports) for a Netgear XAVB1004 PowerLine AV Kit w/4 port Ethernet Switch. The original owner had bought it as an open box/return and found out (as with all powerline kits) YMMV as far as performance. (Depending on outlet/circuit used, house wiring, etc.)
Since I wasn't using that AE base anymore (replaced it with a simul. dual-band model last spring) I offered to trade for the Netgear kit. I had a specific application in mind - providing a wired internet connection for my O!Play air and some other devices. (As I mentioned earlier here, the O!Play Air built-in (2.4GHz only) N wireless has been disappointing - affecting response to remote control and showing constant activity on my AE base even with the player idle.) Until I stumbled on this kit trade, I'd considered buying something like a Dual Band Wireless-N to (4 port) Ethernet Converter which lists for about $50 less than one of these PowerLine kits.
Components of the XAVB1004 "Home Theater" Kit
The kit also includes two Ethernet cables, although they're only 5ft long. The AC power cord for the XAV1004 adapter/switch is 6ft long.
Just like the previous owner, my first setup/location with the PowerLine adapters showed the lowest connection rate. (The XAV101 adapter and XAV1004 4-port switch LEDs were red, indicating "less than 40Mbit" rates. Orange = between 40-60Mbit, Green = greater than 80Mbit rate.) Granted my DSL (used for internet sharing) is only 1.5Mbit (rated - less real-world) and was the primary use of the adapters but I decided to move the AE base/DSL modem to another room so that both the powerline adapters would be on the same circuit. (LEDs showing green now.) The downside is that moves the wireless base from the middle of the house to one end, but only one device that uses wireless is at the other end of the house and although 5GHz signal strength dropped at bit there, it's still usable. (Besides improved powerline performance the other upside of the new location is it's a switched AC outlet, so I can turn it off when not used via a wall switch.)
The Netgear PowerLine adapters support QoS (Quality of Service) and the 4 port switch has color coded ethernet ports with port 1 having the highest priority. (That port is used for the O!Play Air.) I used one of the other connections for my Toshiba HD-DVD player's ethernet port. (I bought that player at a "black friday" sale in 2007 - several months later the format was axed.) I hadn't checked for a firmware update for it in years but using the Powerline net connection I found and applied a later firmware version.
Here's a pix of the back side/ports on the XAV1004 Adapter/Switch:
These adapters support 128-bit AES encryption with a button to generate a 'private' key. (One user in the Netgear forums noted slightly lower performance after doing that, but later said a reset restored performance to original levels.) These are listed as "up to 200Mbit" (based on 100Mbit/duplex) but of course the ethernet ports are 100Mbit (max) and like any interface/spec - you'll never see the max rated speed typically. It's more than satisfactory for my needs/usage. (And is fast enough to stream HD video should I ever use it for that.)
Performance with the O!Play's (recently added) Online media options (Internet TV, etc.) definitely seems better than when using its Wireless. Wired connections have a lot less latency (and overhead) than wireless. Although I'm currently not using the powerline adapters for online gaming that's still a plus. And they've been total plug and play.
I also did a short test of it with the (09) Mac Pro as I wanted to see what the Netgear utilities would show as far as connection rates and firmware versions. Unfortunately so far (first try) the netgear utilities for both OS X and Windows 7 did not "see" the adapters. I used the Mac version of the 1004 config utility in OS X 10.6.2 and their latest version for Windows run from Win 7 Pro via Bootcamp. Their current mac software does not support the firmware update feature but hope that may change in the future. The adapters were working of course and performance seemed good, but I want to try again later to see if I can get their utilities to recognize the adapters.
BTW: Netgear lists the XAV101 adapter as using 4 watts and I did see that their power saving feature was working. (Via the powerline status LED on both units.) I'm not sure how that compares to other models/brands but consider the power saving feature a plus. (In the last few years I've become more interested in reducing parasitic power usage and I try to switch off devices when not used if possible.)
The XAV101 adapter included in this kit is apparently being replaced by the new XAV2001 adapter Netgear announced at CES 2010 back in January. The XAV2001 is smaller and claimed to have "up to 20%" better performance. But bottom line so far I'm satisfied with this kit despite it not having the new adapter. (Customer reviews of the XAVB1004 kit at various dealers also have generally been very positive.) I'm curious as to how long they will last. (The warranty is 1 year.) I've seen some Belkin Gigabit PowerLine adapters for about the same list price ($149.99 a pair). But I think I'd still prefer this kit, as the devices I'm using with the 1004 Netgear kit are only 100Mbit ethernet (and again my DSL is only 1.5Mbit), plus it has a 4-port switch included.
Here's some reference links for the Netgear components (XAV101 adapter and XAV1004 adapter w/4 port switch) and a review of this kit:
(Earlier Reader Feedback from July 2009 Follows)
(From owner of an early PowerLine series)
"Just wanted to add to the content. I had installed a pair of Powerline network adapters a few years ago when they were new. Unsure of the brand name, but recall they looked like the Belkin ones. (Later models are much improved in performance with much higher spec/ratings than early versions.)
Anyway, they died almost exactly a year to the date of install. The home I put them in was 150yr old carriage home. The AC was updated from the home to the detached garage/cabana/SOHO where the network was needed without pulling Cat5e underground (putting in conduit, drilling...).
Since the electric was there, and fed from house, it was a no brainer. Testing got us about 14Mbps and this was more than the DSL feeding the home. But I feel that several storms and the condition of the home wiring greatly affected the units and then, they died. Both units.
I wondered it adding a conditioner to the units would affect their performance? And how can these units get clean current? (the spikes in the rural home's electric definitely contributed to their failure. I don't think the brand was robust enough). (as mentioned yesterday, they won't work if plugged in surge suppressors, although they should have some level of protection built-in, but of course it won't handle very high spikes I doubt (neither will your typical surge strip - many are not very highly rated)
Eventually, I pulled a Cat5e from the home to the garage via a conduit that was there (owner never thought it was...). Still the units were a test for me and an option for networking to rooms/home that normal networking can't be feasible (100+yr old homes, can't drill or no pull access...)
Best, Ed S."
Wireless is still an option for many. I'm amazed at the number of wireless networks I see considering my area (rural, although appx .4acre lots) - as many as 10 others at times. But if I am ever able to build a new home (or buy one) I'm going to definitely want ethernet wall jacks in every room. Currently I'm using a (simul) dual-band base w/5GHz network for upstairs and 2.4GHz for downstairs (and G/B clients).
I got a 40GB AppleTV a few months back and it helped itself to the 2.4 software upgrade. I have a Time Capsule that could provide wireless to it but I have it on wire. I use Linksys PLE200 powerline adapters throughout the house so that I don't rely on wireless, the performance of which has been spotty at times. My broadband connection is in my upstairs office and the AppleTV is downstairs. A cable running from my Linksys RVS4000 router goes to a PLE200, and a corresponding PLE200 is downstairs. It connects to a switch that has the AppleTV, a ReplayTV, and a backup Airport Extreme Base Station for the times that the signal from the Time Capsule isn't so strong downstairs. That gives great results without fiddling with the wireless setup on the 'TV, and is trouble free unlike using wireless seems to be.
I can't say enough good things about the PLE200s. They can provide over 100 megabit throughput over powerline, so says the Linksys utility at least. I have several in use, mainly for connecting my ReplayTVs to my network. Using those over wireless gave hiccups in playback over the network, and that got tiresome. I only use wireless for my notebooks these days.
(he later wrote)
A check at Linksys' site shows that PLK300 and PLE300 have taken the place of the 200s (a PLK is a pair of PLE's in one box). They do cost a bit, I got my first PLK200 for $145 at Best Buy. Then I got another PLK from Sears online when they had a sale on 'em for $90, which was a screaming deal at the time. I got another off ebay with only one of the PLE's working for $15, and lastly another new PLK for $59 when Circuit City was going out of business. I should be set with that many on hand.
The 300s look the same spec wise as the 200s, but are a different form factor. The 200s are a wall wart type box that plugs into an outlet and has an ethernet jack, and the 300s are a free standing box with a power cord to go to the outlet. That would be better since you can't plug them into a surge protector because that kills the powerline signal, and I have some of the 200s plugged into extension cords to get them off the wall anyway. The 200s have exceedingly bright blue LEDs so I have them hidden behind or under furniture, and using an extension cord allows for that plus keeps them from blocking outlets.
(His full comments on the AppleTV added to the AppleTV reports page.)
"I've been using PowerLine connectors for years. Works fine unless the plugs are on different circuits. In my case, upstairs and downstairs won't talk to one another.
A reader replied to the above:
"There's a utility that's Windows only (naturally) that Linksys provides for setting up the encryption and the name of the Powerline network. The name functions kind of like the SSID with wireless, i.e. only PowerLine devices with the same network name can talk. It shows the throughput to each PLE on the network as well. One that I know is on the same circuit breaker can show as high as 140 megabits. The rest are on different breakers and range from 80 megabits down as low as 30 megabits, and tend to fluctuate a little. I would say that they all run 60 to 80 megabits as a rule.
These use the HomePlug AV standard and cannot talk to the older/slower powerline devices, although they can both be present on the wiring in the house. Here's a wiki article:
Notes on Phase Coupler
"I just read the powerline network adapter reports on your site. I dont use them. But I did read a comment from someone saying that they only work on the same circuit. (There was a rebuttal to that - although noting lower performance if not on the same ckt.) I think what he meant was the same "leg" of the circuit. I use X10 throughout my house which suffers the same "leg" problem.
The solution is a phase coupler. This site on a 220V plug (e.g. dryer) and passes the signals between the two legs of the system. Here is an example: http://www.thehomeautomationstore.com/4816a2.html
"I tried the powerline 200 AV kit this weekend from Belkin. Worked, and worked ok, from basement to third floor, but had higher latency and similar download speeds as compared to a relayed 802.11n airport signal. May try the gigabit set when available, but it may also just be the distance/wiring in our (older) home.
(name withheld by request)"