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Powerline Performance

Although you can use the W306AV as an AP without employing its powerline connectivity, you wouldn't be taking advantage of its flexibility. You can connect the AP to any network via powerline simply by adding any HomePlug AV adapter and connecting it into your LAN's switch.

Of course, D-Link would prefer you pair the DHP-W306AV with its DHP-1320 powerline router, so that's how I tested it.

I plugged the DHP-1320 into the hallway outlet outside my downstairs office because my office outlets are all behind a powerline-throughput-killing AFCI breaker. I then plugged the DHP-W306AV into an above-counter outlet in my upstairs kitchen, directly across from my old test Location E. The AP was set to Auto 20/40 mode and Channel 1 and secured with WPA2/AES.

The IxChariot plot in Figure 7 shows three traces. The bottom trace shows one of the downstream test results from my wireless testing with the AP sitting in my downstairs office, the test client in Location F and AP set to Auto 20/40 mode. Under those conditions, I was able to get only 2 Mbps of throughput.

DHP-1320 to DHP-W306AV throughput

Figure 7: DHP-1320 to DHP-W306AV throughput

The top trace shows powerline throughput measured from a computer plugged into one of the DHP-1320's switch ports, through a powerline connection to the a second computer plugged into the Ethernet port of the upstairs DHP-W306AV. The 46 Mbps measured represents the bandwidth of the powerline connection between the two DHPs.

The middle trace essentially measures the wireless throughput improvement from the wireless test client associated to the powerline-connected upstairs AP. The connection path is from a computer plugged into one of the DHP-1320's switch ports, through a powerline connection to the upstairs DHP-W306AV, then a wireless connection from the AP to a wireless client sitting in Location F (about 10 feet away).

The 35 Mbps throughput is an almost 18X improvement over the non-extended 2 Mbps throughput. This is about twice what I could obtain using an 802.11n wireless repeater (NETGEAR's WN2000RPT).

Closing Thoughts

Most people are stuck in the mindset of doing everything wirelessly. We can thank the Wi-Fi Alliance for part of this, which has done an excellent job of marketing consumer wireless technology. But we can also thank the powerline networking industry, which squandered most of the past ten years (!) with a destructive battle between competing standards and overly long delay in the development of technology fast enough to provide a viable alternative to Wi-Fi.

But that's all behind us now and powerline has matured into a technology capable of providing 40 Mbps and more of stable throughput throughout an average home. And once the bugs get worked out of Qualcomm's 500 Mbps HomePlug AV compatible technology, that 40 Mbps could easily move up to 60 Mbps and possibly double today's 40 Mbps capability.

At least for now though, D-Link's DHP-1320 and DHP-W306AV duo could be the answer for those of you who have been fighting the wireless extender wars and losing. If D-Link were smart, they'd put these two into a bundle with a nice discount and promote the hell out of them.

But it looks like they're still stuck promoting the promise of single-router whole house wireless coverage that doesn't work anywhere near as well (I'm looking at you, DIR-657) because that's what they've trained us all to demand.

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