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The Test

I ran IxChariot throughput tests for powerline and wireless connections in all three test locations, so that we have actual throughput measurements to correlate with the observed streaming performance. Powerline throughput results are summarized in Figure 5.

IxChariot powerline throughput summary
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: IxChariot powerline throughput summary

Note that the living room test showed only 25 Mbps average powerline throughput, but no throughput dropouts. I have no explanation for the change from the HomePlug AV roundup results.

Figure 6 summarizes the wireless performance tests. This time, the living room location has the average highest throughput—60 Mbps. But higher throughput variation than powerline still puts 802.11n wireless at an HD streaming disadvantage.

IxChariot 802.11n throughput summary
Click to enlarge image

Figure 6: IxChariot 802.11n throughput summary

After the throughput measurements, I played 720p and 1080p Megamind trailer clips and watched for playback errors. The results for the 720p clips are summarized in Table 1 and in Table 2 for 1080p. The corresponding IxChariot average throughput results are shown next to each of the results for easy reference.

Location HomePlug AV 802.11n
Behavior Avg Thruput Behavior Avg Thruput
Office One or two frame drops during fast action 50 Mbps No Errors 41 Mbps
Living Room No Errors 25 Mbps No Errors 60 Mbps
Dining Room No Errors 42 Mbps One freeze (recovered) 34 Mbps
Table 1: HD streaming behavior summary - 720p

While neither method produced trouble free playback 100% of the time during this short experiment, it's clear that there were fewer, more minor problems with 720p playback than with 1080p.

Location HomePlug AV 802.11n
Behavior Avg Thruput Behavior Avg Thruput
Office Multiple frame drops during fast action 50 Mbps Multiple frame drops during fast action 41 Mbps
Living Room Multiple frame drops, short freezes during fast action 25 Mbps Multiple frame drops during fast action 60 Mbps
Dining Room Multiple frame drops, short freezes during fast action 42 Mbps Two freeze (recovered); one 5 second hang; frame drops during fast action 34 Mbps
Table 2: HD streaming behavior summary - 1080p

Of particular note is I didn't get a crash or unrecoverable hang in any of the tests. The longest that the picture froze was for around 5 seconds with the lowest bandwidth 802.11n connection and 1080p.


There is both good and bad news in these results. The bad is that if you're looking for flawless 1080p HD playback from either 802.11n or powerline, you still won't get it. At the risk of repeating myself (again and again), if you want trouble free 1080p HD playback, use Ethernet, a local (to the player) file or a networked player with a big, intelligent buffer. 100 Mbps Ethernet will work just fine; you don't need Gigabit.

The good news is that if you can be satisfied with 720p or "1080p" files in formats encoded with lower bandwidth codecs, you have a good shot at getting a pretty enjoyable viewing experience with HomePlug AV. And if your distances are short, neighboring wireless traffic is low and you keep everyone else off your WLAN, you might even be able to watch 720p files in peace via 802.11n

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