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How We Test Powerline Networking Adapters

Testing Powerline In Real-World Environments

As with other communications technologies, the testing environment is always a concern. Product specifications typically indicate maximum throughput based on optimal conditions, which are usually achievable only in a lab. Caveats to optimal powerline conditions outside of this environment include the following:

  • Wiring: Because electrical wiring is used for transmission, the quality of the wire is important. This means that, in older homes or apartment buildings, the signal could be degraded based on the wiring quality.
  • Home/building size: Attenuation is a concern, and the increased size of the home means there's more wire for the signal to traverse. HomePlug AV works better in areas smaller than 8000 square feet (743 square meters), and some vendors specify a maximum distance of 300 meters as the maximum length the powerline signal can travel without suffering signal degradation and/or loss.
  • Number of appliances and other "noisy" electronics: Sources of big power draw create noise on the circuit that can impact the powerline adapter's ability to filter for its own communications channels.
  • Plugging into a power strip or similar device: Powerline adapters have built-in filters so that the signals hitting the PHY layer can be quickly sifted through for actual HomePlug transmissions. Power strips  and uninterruptible power supplies do not have those filters, and thus ultimately slow down the receipt and transfer to the powerline adapter. On the flip side, some vendors recommend plugging appliances into surge protector outlets in an attempt to filter out some of their noise.
  • Electromagnetic radiation: We're talking about transmission over electrical wiring using the same frequencies as other home electronics. Large sources of electromagnetic radiation will affect more than just your powerline adapters.
  • Certain capacitors on circuit breakers: If you're not familiar with capacitors, there's a great 15-minute YouTube introduction that shows how performance is better when there is no capacitor, the size of the plate influencing the positive flow is larger and the material of the dielectric insulator is more conductive.

Keep in mind that the powerline adapters are not switches, and they do not store MAC addresses. That means you must have at least one Powerline adapter connected to either a switch or the switch ports on a router. This also means that each test requires two powerline adapters.

Although there are several models available that include features like Wi-Fi extension and plug-in pass-through, the products we chose for our initial round-up reviews were selected because they were the fastest entry-level adapters in their class at the time. Also, although single powerline adapters can be purchased, when starting out, you'll need at least two of them, so it's better to search for powerline starter kits.

  • TechyInAZ
    Interesting. It's pretty cool that you can basically have a mobile wired network. :)

    The unfortunate thing about powerline Ethernet is that it really depends on your house's power lines in order for that to work. If you have two separate power connections, a 120v and a 240v I don't think that will work.
    Reply
  • Reatork
    I like the testing so far. It seems well based and well covered..

    I do however have a few concerns that I am curious if you could cover in your testing.

    You stated you live in a town home. I am curious on what I would call bleed threw.

    I am not sure how your home is wired. In my area most town homes and apartments have a single power line to the building and then the power is distributed to each meter then to the unit. I am worried about the ability of say a neighbor being able to plug in and access the network. Or lets say you wish to share you internet with your neighbor and wondering if you can plug into your home and theirs and still get on the network. If either of these are possible what kind of data transmission would you get that way going threw so many junctions when you consider your breaker box and meter and then your neighbors meter and breaker box.

    Just tossing this out there.
    Reply
  • melanfred
    I am using a Netgear A.C. powerline. From a security point of view, the devices can be paired, so you press a security button on one device and have a minute or two to press the security button on the second device. My device has N300 WiFi on it as well. These things are great, they give me 30 Mbps (using Speedtest) at the farthest reach of my house. There are lights which tell you how well the devices are communicating. All "blue" is good. Very simple, works well and are unobtrusive, and only cost me about $65 a pair.
    Reply
  • Schmide
    Interesting. It's pretty cool that you can basically have a mobile wired network. :)

    The unfortunate thing about powerline Ethernet is that it really depends on your house's power lines in order for that to work. If you have two separate power connections, a 120v and a 240v I don't think that will work.

    A 240v connection is just 2 120v out of phase lines. The main line is usually split into 2 rails and distributed throughout the house. If one side of the 240v receptacle fails to see the network you could always switch to the other. I think the PL stuff bridges this at the box through the ground anyways.
    Reply
  • f-14
    Interesting. It's pretty cool that you can basically have a mobile wired network. :)

    The unfortunate thing about powerline Ethernet is that it really depends on your house's power lines in order for that to work. If you have two separate power connections, a 120v and a 240v I don't think that will work.
    Schmide is right, it doesn't mater it's flowing thru your homes wires, the only thing i noticed affecting these is A) appliances (toasters, electric shavers, freezers to name the most common anything that generates static lines on a tube television which lets you clearly see the interference) that generate alot of dirty line noise which interferes with the signal B) anything that cleans up dirty noisy electricity such as surge suppressor & arrestors.

    i've run these things out on the frozen lake using a portable 3500w generator between 2-5 fish houses while we video conferenced & voice conferenced and did some card playing on our laptops as well as some classic games the run great on modern laptops such as total annihilation and supreme commander to unreal tournament and unreal tournament 2004 and diablo2 and rarely microsoft combat flight simulator2 and they worked ok, not great, there are alot of factors being dealth with because the generator made alot of line noise when switching the load and ramping up. i have been trying to resolve this with UPS's that are old and cheap and not much of a load and easy to maintain.
    the one thing that wrecked the lan was the electric kerosene heater and the electric heaters. i have solved that on my end by getting a portable desktop i-7 with a gtx470 (because chris angelini said they ran hot i specifically bought that one for the purpose of replacing my fish house space heater and because they are dirt cheap on ebay so if the system gets wet and fries i won't cry much and no, i don't keep this any where near the floor where all the water is, have some common sense the only thing traversing the ground is the power extension cords running from the generator strapped to the towing arms of the trailer hitch where the portable propane tanks used to be, and that's because we almost clothes lined a friend on his snowmobile in a snow storm running the cords from roof top to roof top, we forgot snow drifts could form 4 feet high on the middle of a lake randomly and be gone the next day and reappear another day all depending on the weather.)
    model used is the linksys plsk-400
    Reply
  • house70
    Been using a setup in my apartment for a few years, because there is no pretty way to run Ethernet between the router and the desktop's location. This works great, even if not on the same breaker circuit.
    Reply