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NETGEAR Powerline 500 Mbps Nano Kit (XAVB5101)
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert
  • Owned For: 1 month to 1 year

4 out of 5 eggs Eggspert Review from a Network Engineer 05/19/2013

This review is from: NETGEAR Powerline 500 Mbps Nano Kit (XAVB5101)

Pros: It really is just plug and play. The speed from the device certainly is good enough for internet use, including streaming.

Streaming works well with 3 1080p streams from my NAS. I got 4 720p streams running smoothly as well. Above that, the buffer could not remain filled and playback failed. Since the 1080p streaming from my NAS is of much higher quality and uses more bandwidth than streaming from online sources, i assume 3 devices streaming from the internet will work well. Details on this and other testing are below.

I have used this device for one PC for about a month and it is still working great. It gets a little warm, but does not get hot.

Notes: I am a network engineer. I have a B.S. in computer engineering. I've got about 15 years of enterprise systems experience and 7 years of enterprise network experience. Friends of mine have used these things for years to get internet access to rooms in old houses they have lived in as renters, but i have never used one myself before obtaining this model. Subjective experiences with past models have left me generally dissatisfied with them. Network delay was huge and speed was worse than 1 Mbps usually. I must admit that i was pleasantly suprised with the performance of this device.

Cons: Speeds obtained during testing came no where near the advertized speed. For this, i knock off an egg. I've never seen these types of devices with honest speed ratings on the box though.

Notes on cons mentioned by others:
Others have pointed out that there is no ground, but this is really not necessary as neutral is the same as ground from a house wiring and safety persepective for small electronics (Neutral and Ground are joined at the same bus in the main panel). Grounds are only really needed for larger transformers and A/C motors. I am not concerned about zaps any more than through any other network devices plugged into the wall. Also, all homes should have a lightning protector at the electrical panel. These are available for less than $75 at home stores. My knowledge of this comes from electrical engineering classes, years of studying electronics, and experience.

Other Thoughts: Test environment: The network is on a 24 port (all gig) enterprise switch (cisco 2960s) with more backplane bandwidth than 2x the number of ports on the switch. Switch ports are 1/2 occupied but use is very low. CPU on the switch is <5%. End devices are connected directly to this switch. Media source: Synology DS1512+ with 5x 2TB RE4 drives in RAID 5 with Link Aggregation (2x gig) for network connectivity.

Testing: I wrote a script which copies 3 files (311, 970, 4300 MB in size) and times those copies in milliseconds, then computes the md5 sum to ensure integrity. I ran this script on the same computer three times for each test case and averaged the results to compare performance across test cases. Test cases were: Gigabit LAN (to determine a base for comparison), wifi 15' from AP [listed as 270Mbps] (MIMO 5Ghz band 3x3, through 1 wall), wifi 50' from AP [listed as 130Mbps] (through several walls), Powerline in the same room (different outlets), Powerline across the house (signal must go from source to electrical panel then to detination room elsewhere in the house) estimated at about 150' of electrical cable between source and destination. Note the APs used are enterprise network APs with 3x3 MIMO operating on the 5Ghz band.

Results: In summary, the device was just under 30x slower at transmitting files than over gigbit lan, and about 2-3x slower than wifi with a strong signal. It is likely that this device would be as good or better than consumer grade APs, especially those built into home routers. I did not test the device against consumer grade APs because i don't have any and would never recommend anyone use one (low end enterprise APs can be obtained used from auction bay for as little as $50, new for $300). The full data collected is attached to this product as a video review.

Streaming testing was simple. I attached 3 computers to a small 8 port switch and the switch was fed from the Powerline. (The switch has a backplane of 16 Gbps.) I opened up media files until the buffers could not stay filled and playback stopped. The computers were not the limiting factor as they are all quad core i7's with at least decent dedicated video cards and are all able to play more than 3 1080p streams on the gigabit LAN.

My expert opinion: I would recommend this device if connectivity is needed (and cannot be obtained by running more ethernet) across a house for internet access, streaming for 1-3 devices, or to provide LAN access for an AP to extend coverage. Ideally, always run more LAN if more network connectivity is needed, but when this is not possible, this Powerline device will work well for general use.

Last, performance is degraded if an A/C motor is run on a circuit used by the Powerline devices. Performance about halved when i had a ceiling fan running on the same circuit as a Powerline device. The Signal to Noise Ratio decreases, making the circuit much more noisy. My house is less than 2 years old and has modern wiring.

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William L.'s Profile

Display Name: William L.

Date Joined: 07/23/06

  • Reviews: 1
  • Helpfulness: 1
  • First Review: 05/19/13
  • Last Review: 05/19/13
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