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LAN & WAN Reviews

Setup & Administration - more

All the utilities are bascially customized versions of the PowerPacket Utility supplied by Intellon and the versions supplied by NETGEAR and SMC are functionally identical (SMC didn't even bother to change the PowerPacket name or icon). Only Actiontec has chosen to dumb things down by combining the Security and Main tabs, eliminating the Diagnostics tab, and removing the Rate information as shown in Figure 7.

Actiontec's censored Advanced screen

Figure 7: Actiontec's censored Advanced screen

Speaking of the Diagnostics tab (Figure 8), it contains a bit more info for the curious to glance through. I thought it interesting that the only device that displayed any info in the Diagnostics > Vendor column (you need to scroll to see it) was NETGEAR.

NETGEAR Diagnostics screen

Figure 8: NETGEAR Diagnostics screen

If you do need to change the Private Network Name, you'll first need to enter the 16 character password printed on each device's label that you wish to change and then execute the change. Actiontec makes the process easier than SMC and NETGEAR by allowing you to do both the device password entry and execution on one screen instead of clicking between two.

SMC Privacy screen

Figure 9: SMC Privacy screen

The password-setting process seems to have been tightened up since the last time I played with HomePlug gear, which is a good thing. It may be a pain to have to enter the 16 character "password" from each device, but this method ensures that your neighbor can't accidentally (or on purpose) change your HomePlug device security.

Performance

I've established five test locations around my home that I use for wireless product peformance testing. Since they represent places where one might want to place networked devices, I figured it would also be reasonable to use them for testing "alternative" networking products, such as HomePlug. Go here if you want the details on the locations and distances.

I used Ixia's IxChariot and set up two copies of the standard throughput.scr script to run simultaneously, one from the IxChariot console to a remote endpoint (for transmit), and the second with endpoints swapped (for receive). I used TCP/IP, changed the file size to 300,000 Bytes from the 100,000 Byte default, and set the scripts to loop for one minute. Note that I didn't mix products between manufacturers for the tests.

Throughput results

Figure 10: Throughput results
(click image to enlarge)

Figure 10 summarizes the total average throughput measured for the simultaneous receive and transmit tests in all five locations for the three manufacturers' products. You can see that best case average throughput of just under 25 Mbps was clocked for the NETGEAR XE104 pair for Location 1, which had both adapters plugged into outlets on the opposite sides of an approximately 13 ft. X 13 ft. room. This throughput is only about 30% of the 85Mbps prominently featured in the products' literature. Note that the difference between the NETGEAR and Actiontec results is about 5% and probably within the margin of error of my test methodology.

Figure 11 shows an IxChariot plot of the simultaneous receive and transmit runs so that you can see the throughput variation.

Location 1 NETGEAR throughput 

Figure 11: Location 1 NETGEAR throughput
(click image to enlarge)

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