WIFI Convenient but slow
WIFI is a wonderful thing and makes our lives that much easier. Even with the latest and greatest technologies, WIFI is often slow and unreliable compared to a wired network. Interesting real world tests conducted by Epitiro show that a WIFI connection is on average 30 percent slower than a wired one.
You're not going to wire your iphone, Android or ipad and browsing the web on WIFI works well enough but the minute you start playing games, streaming video, using HD video chatting or other service that requires low latency high bandwidth connectivity, you'll feel the pain of WIFI.
Start passing the wires
If your lucky enough to build your new house, you may be able to wire every room with nice and reliable Category 6 cable. You can then route all the cables to one central location and interconnect everything with a gigabit switch.
But most of us won't be building a new home anytime soon and making holes in perfectly good walls and floors is out of the question.
Enter Powerline adapters
Powerline adapters are small little devices that plug into your electrical outlets and use your house's existing electrical wiring to transmit data. Powerline networks aren't as fast as a direct wired Ethernet network but they are the next best thing. There are various models currently available but you should expect between 200Mbps up to 500Mbps networking performance.
Even the slowest name brand powerline adapter will provide enough bandwidth to play games, transfer large files and stream high quality video. It will provide wireless coverage anywhere you have a power plug and in most cases will be much faster (and more reliable) than your WIFI setup.
Dlink PowerLine AV+ Mini Adapter Starter Kit (DHP-309AV)
Looking a the box, I thought the adapters would be huge but I was oh so wrong. These adapters are small and light. Installation couldn't have been easier. I plugged both adapters into separate power outlets, I then pressed the little button on the bottom of the first adapter, I then pressed the button on the bottom of the second adapter and within 2 minutes I had setup a secure network connection between these 2 adapters.
It's important to note that these adapters should be plugged directly into the wall without a power adapter, no extension cords or other line conditioner. It is also recommended that you not plug these next to a power hungry appliance. Otherwise you shouldn't experience any issues.
Click on the image to see the full size one in a new window.
At first I was going to test it for a couple of days and write my review but I had such a wonderful experience, I decided to do a longer 3 week test instead.
My internet connection at home is fiber to the house with 16Mmbps down and 8Mbps up. When plugged into the main router, my speed is always constant with only 8ms latency and I always hit the advertised speed.
I conducted WIFI tests with an Engius, Linksys, Apple Airport Extreme and the WIFI built into my fiber router. All wireless routers were configured into a forced 801.11n mode and I chose a channel with very little interference. Most devices were MIMO with multiple antennas.
My test devices were a laptop, desktop with gigabit Ethernet adapter, iphone 4, iphone 4s and an ipad. I tested my internet speed on each of these devices using all of the Wireless routers (only 1 router was online at a time so as not to create interference). My first tests were conducted in the same room, then I move one floor up/down and the last test was from the basement.
The best performance was when I was in the same room as the router and I was very close to wired performance. The next test from 1 floor up/down showed good degradation and my speeds were almost half or worse. The last test from the basement was the worst with speeds less than a quarter of wired.
I then placed one of the powerline adapters next to the router and went to the furthest point in the house (based on location and wiring layout). I then plugged my laptop and desktop (separately) and conducted my tests. I started with a speedtest. Then I tested transferring large (2-20GB files). I also played latency sensitive internet using games. My last test was streaming an mkv super high quality video file from my server to a set top box. Everything worked flawlessly and everything was super speedy. The powerline setup added a 15% latency (negligible). Tests to and from the internet delivered the full capacity of my internet connection. Transfers from my laptop to my desktop where happening at speeds of between 120Mbps to 178Mbps (these adapters have been designed for 200Mbps).
As for latency, WIFI game me 30-100ms of latency whereas the powerline adapters were 12-15 ms (with a wired connection into the router I get 8ms)
I lent these to a friend who connected his Xbox 360 to the internet and everything worked perfectly. No lag or slowdowns. No degradation. It just worked.
Comparing to others
I compared the performance of the Dlink to other 200Mbps rated powerline adapters from Tenda, TP Link and Trendnet. Dlink seemed to outperform its competitors by 8-17%. Dlink really shined when I started streaming HD video. Some of the others caused the stream to buffer whereas the stream powered by DLink was consistently fast and smooth.
Considering the others are sold at almost the same price, Dlink seems to be the better investment.
Doing a quick internet search, Americans can pick these up from Amazon for about $49. Canadians can scoop up a pair from FutureShop for $69.