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Which Networking Technology Is Right For Your Home?

Final Thoughts

Is it worth restating the obvious again that Gigabit Ethernet, if possible, is the only way to fly? Probably not. And that’s not what we came here to find out. We know there are many scenarios in which a Gigabit Ethernet-based infrastructure simply isn’t an option. Fortunately, three viable alternatives exist.

Of these three contenders, powerline technology, at least as tested with the user-friendly XAVB101 kit, emerges as the lowest performance option. It offers the lowest average and minimum performance in essentially every situation and is prone to more performance degradation across distance than the other two options. However, powerline is fairly cheap, its performance is good enough for low-demand environments, and you sure can’t knock the pre-installed ubiquity of data ports.

Deciding between Netgear’s 5 GHz 802.11n HD/Gaming kit and the MCAB1001 MoCA parts is far more tricky. Really, it boils down to your needs and budget. If you can afford the most expensive infrastructure technology on the consumer market and if you have enough coax drops in the right locations throughout your home, then MoCA is clearly the non-Gigabit go-to. However, what if you want to get online in your backyard? What if you want to plant computing devices in places where there are no data jacks of any type? You need wireless.

Netgear’s 5 GHz solution deserves praise here. We said in our beamforming article that we’d never before seen a consumer WiFi product carry two concurrent HD video streams with no visible jitter or pausing. The WNHDEB111 can—at least one, probably two, and maybe even three on a good day. So lest the 5 GHz option be overshadowed by MoCA’s brighter performance, just keep in mind why you need a LAN in the first place. If the numbers you’ve seen the WNHDEB111 deliver above satisfy your demands, then perhaps 5 GHz 802.11n, particularly with a basic beamforming implementation as Netgear has done here, strikes the best compromise of price, convenience, and performance for your needs. It quickly became clear that, given the wiring present in our test home, this was the best overall option for that environment. MoCA is clearly the superior technology for speed and reliability, but, barring any dead spot issues, dollars and convenience will likely win out among the majority of users.