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LAN & WAN Reviews

Performance - Viewing

But you don't buy this stuff to run throughput tests on it. So I figured I had better see how it did with actual HD streaming.

The rule of thumb for reliable HD streaming is that you need at least 20 Mbps of steady bandwidth. In HD Streaming Smackdown: Draft 11n vs. Powerline I used a few 720p HD clips downloaded from Apple's HD Trailer website. Peak bandwidths in the collection of clips ranged from 13 to just shy of 23 Mbps. I also used these clips when I started to run viewing tests on the MCA.

The test files streamed from an old Infrant (now NETGEAR) ReadyNAS NV+ connected into my LAN gigabit switch. I used my main Dell Optiplex 755 E4400 Core2 Duo machine running XP with an ATI Radeon HD 2400 Pro video card to view the videos.

I started the test using a NETGEAR EVA8000 for video viewing. But it seemed to have problems playing the Quicktime 720p videos reliably. So as not to unnecessarily penalize the MCAs, I switched over to using my desktop machine with the VLC media player (0.9.8a), which reliably played all videos.

I viewed all videos first using a 100 Mbps Ethernet connection and verified that they played without problems. Then I switched over to the MoCA connection and was able to play all the videos without a problem!

I then kicked things up a notch and started the bi-directional IxChariot test file that I had used earlier for throughput testing. This essentially soaked up 54 Mbps of transmit and receive bandwidth. I then tried playing the 720p clips and they played ok...until the clip hit the peak bandwidth points, where the video stuttered, then froze. But this shouldn't be surprising since I found that 70 Mbps is the max rate for a single connection and the video peak bandwidth was over 20 Mbps.

The more important discovery, however, was that there didn't appear to be any QoS kicking in to dial back the bandwidth on the data stream to give more to the video stream.

I then decided to try some 1080p Quicktime clips and found they played just fine—without the IxChariot test running, of course. Figure 18 shows the bandwidth profile of one of the clips, which peaks at around 35 Mbps.

1080p test clip bandwidth profile

Figure 18: 1080p test clip bandwidth profile

My last test consisted of running the IxChariot bi-directional data test, watching a ripped DVD (around 3 Mbps data rate) and running clips from nightly.msnbc.com in a Firefox window. Everything ran just fine, which I suppose I should have expected since total bandwidth was well below 70 Mbps.

Conclusion

Simply put, MoCA is the only "alternative networking" technology that I have laid hands on that can reliably stream HD video—even 1080p. Of course, my limited test enviroment in no way presented a difficult test environment. But then again, my wireless environment is clean and so is my powerline. And neither of those technologies have been able to do what the NETGEAR MCA1001s did.

Which makes me wonder why NETGEAR is the only company that is putting a MoCA product into retail? Is there some nasty secret that I haven't found? Or do companies fear that consumers will balk at the almost $200 price tag for a pair of MoCA adapters? Or is there more profit in selling wireless and powerline products?

I don't know the answers to those questions. But I do know this. If you need to get an HD capable Ethernet outlet somewhere, can't or don't want to run Ethernet, but have TV coax between the locations where your Ethernet is and where you need it to be, then go get a NETGEAR MCAB1001 kit. You may not like the price. But you'll love the performance.

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