TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Network Kit

TRENDnet sent their 200Mbps Powerline AV Fast Ethernet Adapter Kit. Should you replace your cables for this solution?
| Aug 11, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 89%Manufacturer: TRENDnet

Introduction

TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
In this ever connected world that we live in, there are a magnitude of ways that one can use to connect their computers and other devices.Back in the day we were limited to 10Mbps and slower local network connections; finally we moved up to 100Mbps connections and today 1000Mbps Gigabit is common place - companies are even working on much faster connections to move our bits and bytes around faster than ever before over the wires.Wireless networking technology is evolving rather rapidly with 802.11n Draft 2 Wi-Fi currently being the standard of choice when going out to the store and picking up the latest router. If you are in the right place, you also have the choice of connecting your devices to the outside world via 3G or faster HSDPA 3.5G and beyond. If you are really in the right place, you might have the option to use WiMAX. Wireless technology is a wonderful technology and it is really pushing radio to extreme limits.What happens, though, when wireless isn't appropriate for your home or office? Maybe wireless isn't an option due to other devices interfering or the range you are trying to work with is just pushing it too much. Of course, there is the CAT5e or CAT6 networking cable option for local Gigabit networking, but if your house or office isn't new and not connected up with this cabling, it can be rather messy having cables running around all over your floors. Furthermore, high quality CAT6 Gigabit cable can begin to get expensive, especially in a large office or house with multiple floors. After a property has been built, it is also much more expensive to connect it up with networking cable as opposed to while it is being built.There must be another option? - Well, there is. Enter the world of TRENDnet and its 200Mbps Powerline AV Fast Ethernet Adapter Kit. This smart package uses the HomePlug AV IEEE 802.3 and IEEE 802.3u standards to create an encrypted and secured local area network within your house or office using existing power outlets and wiring.Read on as we put the 200Mbps Powerline AV Fast Ethernet Adapter Kit through its paces in a range of setups to see what type of performance it offers and if it stands any chance in competing with 802.11n wireless or a standard wired network configured using all CAT6 Gigabit cable.

The Bundle and the Kit

Bundle and Packaging
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
The bundle of the TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit is rather basic, but having said that, it is enough to get you up and running. The asking price tends to be under $120 USD according to the online retailers we visited at our price search website, which is fair for what you get here.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
Starting off the bundle, you get two TPL-302E power line network adapters, which work from AC 100 - 240 VAC, meaning that they will work in all countries. They are light weight and plain, yet stylish - so they won't look out of place or ugly when plugged into your power point.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
The adapter isn't small, probably the same size as the power point itself or a tad bigger - keep it mind it will block one and maybe the other points on the power point.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
The adapters include 128-bit AES hardware encryption, but just like wireless, it comes disabled and you must turn it on using the included software utility. We kept all security disabled throughout all testing, as we weren't working with sensitive data and reckon it would be extremely difficult for someone to logon to the network since we aren't in a shared building and have our own circuit breaker box, which is also not shared with anyone else.There are three LEDs on the TPL-302E - power indicates when the device is on and working, HomePlug indicates that two or more TPL-302E adapters are connected in your building (and connected to the same power circuit breaker box) and that they can see each other and whether or not they are paired and Ethernet indicates network traffic.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
Finally, there is a Connect/Reset button on the TPL-302E which is used when allowing new TPL-302E adapters to be accepted in your existing power line network. Just hold down the button for three seconds on an existing TPL-302E at the same time as the newly added TPL-302E and it will pair and be allowed access.Next up, there is a multilingual Quick Installation Guide that runs you through the process of setting up your power line network. I had a quick glance through just to see what it had to say, since this is my first time working with this type of networking, but even for beginner computer users, it should not be too hard for you to setup yourself - I have confidence that my parents could do it easily. Advanced users won't even need the guide and will be up and running within minutes or less.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
Following on, we have a CD-ROM which includes the more in-depth User Guide along with the included utility, which we will look at more closely later. No drivers are required. Finally, two 1.8m CAT5 cables are included to connect the first TPL-302E adapter to your router and the second to your PC or other device. We would have liked to have seen CAT6 cables included since they are the fastest available right now, but having said that, in our testing we did compare using CAT5 and CAT6 cables for interest sakes and saw no performance difference. And adding in CAT6 cables would only increase the price of the package.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
Now that we've covered the bundle and the kit, let's move onto the setup and installation.

Setup and Installation

Setup and InstallationWhen I was first given word of getting this kit in for review, I thought it may be a challenge and hassle to get up and running - especially since testing was to be done in a building which is around 20 years old with no new wiring. I was pleasantly surprised, though.
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
As you can see from the diagram above that was plucked from TRENDnet's website, installation is simple and painless.First, you take one of the TPL-302E adapters and plug it into a power point close to where your modem and router is located. Take note that while you physically can install the power line adapter into a a surge protector, this impacts performance and TRENDnet suggests against this. We had no issues when we were testing whilst plugged into a power brick. Ideally, you'd have the TPL-302E plugged into a power point by itself with no other devices, otherwise the performance could potentially be impacted by as much as 15%, especially if something like a hair or clothes dryer is sharing a point with it (according to our contact at TRENDnet). Our contact also went on to say that there is no known electrical device which will break or stop the network, which is certainly good news. Throughout our testing, we had no issues with the network failing or getting errors at multiple tested power points.Once you've found a place to plug in the first TPL-302E, run a network cable from it to a spare LAN port on your router. Do note that even though TRENDnet recommend using the power line network in conjunction with a router, you don't need to. As we tested, you can run a direct point-to-point connection and all you need to do is give each PC or device a manual IP (such as 192.168.0.1 on client one and 192.168.0.2 on client two) rather than automatic (DHCP) that is normally assigned by your router. This could be handy if you just want to transfer files from one PC to another and they are in different rooms or on different levels of your building / house.Next up, once you've decided where you want to extend your network, just plug in the second TPL-302E adapter into a spare power point. The maximum range claimed by TRENDnet is 300m (or 984 feet), which is quite a distance considering that cable usually runs the most efficient path. We tested with one adapter on our first floor and one on our third floor and noted ping latency at up to 5ms. With two adapters relatively close to each other and both on the first floor, we only saw ping latency of up to around 2 - 3ms. If you can reach the full 300m using the same circuit breaker, you are obviously really rich and live in a mansion and would just get your whole house wired up with CAT6 cabling.The kit comes with both TPL-302E adapters already paired, so it makes setup dead easy. You can add up to a total of 15 adapters inside your building (as long as each is connected to the same circuit breaker in order to be seen on the same network). After playing with this kit for a while, we wondered if it would be possible to connect up a whole street (or at least some of it) using a bunch of TPL-302E adapters. While in theory it is possible, each would need to be using the same electrical distribution system (circuit breaker or the like). This is another reason why even though TRENDnet pack in 128-bit AES data security, it is of little to no use in a home environment where the house is not shared with others.You can easily move around the non-router connected adapter anywhere in your house, depending on where network access is required. Once you plug in the adapter, it only takes around about a second for the network connection to be established.

Included Software Utility

Included Software UtilityIncluded in the package on the provided CD is the TRENDnet Powerline AV utility.It is a basic piece of software that allows you to check out network information, set a password for the power line network, change QoS options and do firmware upgrades. It is nice that TRENDnet decided to include a utility, as it kind of polishes off the whole package, even though it might not be of much use to everyone.It is important to mention that this software is only compatible with 32-bit operating systems. TRENDnet has told us that they will be releasing 64-bit firmware soon, along with drivers - we didn't get an exact date so you may need to contact TRENDnet before buying this product if you are using 64-bit Windows.Below are some shots of the software so you can see what is on offer. Click on each for the full sized version.- Device Info
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
- Network Info
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
- QoS
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
- Network ID for security
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
- Upgrade Firmware and Reboot
TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit
Now, let's move onto the test results!

Testing

TestingOur main focus on testing the 200Mbps Powerline AV Fast Ethernet Adapter Kit is to first determine that it works properly (check!) and what type of performance it is capable of producing against standard wired and wireless network connections.We used PerformanceTest 6.1 by PassMark which you can find out more information about here. It has a handy Advanced Networking section which is perfect for our testing. My main desktop PC acted as the server (Intel Q9450 quad-core CPU and 4GB DDR3 RAM running RAID 10) and the client PC was a brand new high-end Hypersonic notebook, kindly provided by the friendly folks over at OCZ. Results were gathered by sending data from one computer to the other and determining the average transmission speed.We tested in a whole range of different configurations, but decided we would provide results for the most common configuration that is likely to be used by most users. We plugged the first TPL-302E adapter into a power point by itself and into a spare LAN port on our D-link Extreme 802.11n broadband router. The second TPL-302E adapter was plugged into a power point on the first floor of our house (about 10m away) and also into a third floor power point (about 75m away).To give these results some context, we compared with a CAT6 connection cable (15m in length from the router to the notebook) and also against wireless 802.11n on the first and third floor (we used the built-in Intel 802.11n networking on the Hypersonic notebook).- Bandwidth
 TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit - Testing
It is of little surprise that the CAT6 connection provides the best performance at 917Mbits (or 114.7MB/s). On the first floor, when we compared the TRENDnet solution (3.2MB/s) to the 802.11n connection (1.9MB/s), power line was out in front, offering about 1.3MB/s faster transfers.On the third floor, both feel the pain of an estimated 75m range and the wireless connection struggled to provide a solid connection at just 22KB/s. The point line device provided 1.5MB/s (a little over 12Mbit), which was enough to max out a standard ADSL2 connection and stream MP3s as well as DVD and 720p quality movies. We tried streaming 1080p video but it was just too much for it to handle at the 75m (third floor) range.- Latency
 TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit - Testing
Of course CAT6 is the leader of the pack offering sub 0ms latency times. On the first floor the 802.11n wireless connection actually managed to provider a slightly faster latency than the TRENDnet power line solution.On the third floor, things were almost neck and neck with only a 1ms latency difference. The power line solution changed between 4 and 5ms. And even though it had the highest latency, it will not affect you much at all.- Connection Speed
 TRENDnet 200Mbps Powerline Home Networking Kit - Testing
The final test result is the connection speed in Windows. The only real thing of note here is that the power line adapters always connected at 100Mbps, no matter where they were plugged in.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsThis is the first time that we've had a chance to try out power line networking and the 200Mbps Powerline AV Fast Ethernet Adapter Kit from TRENDnet manages to impress.The asking price is under $120 USD according to the online retailers visited at our online price search website. It is not super cheap nor a real bargain - don't get us wrong - but you are paying for a convenience in not having to run potentially messy cabling all over your floors or wire up your house with networking cable, which will cost you MUCH more than this solution.The TRENDnet kit will cost you a little under double the price of a basic 802.11n access point, but as we saw from the results, the wireless connection on our third floor was not solid, dropped out now and again and offered hardly enough bandwidth to do anything useful with - such as streaming media or downloading files. We only managed 22KB/s over 802.11n on the third floor while the TRENDnet power line kit provided a network connection capable of 1.5MB/s. And while it is nowhere near as fast as a CAT5e or CAT6 Gigabit wired connection, it is simple and quick to setup and a network connection can be created wherever there is a power point - and this is exactly what impressed.If you do want to extend the wireless range in your building, you could get a power line kit of this nature and also an access point and create a new area in your building for wireless clients. In our case, we would plug the power line into the router on our first floor, plug a power line adapter into a power point on the third floor and then simply plug an access point into the third floor adapter - Hay presto; we have very solid wireless connections on the third floor.If your house or office is not wired up with networking cable and you don't want network cables running all over your floors, or wireless is not a viable solution for you due to dense building construction or security concerns, you have the choice of power line networking. While this is the first power line solution we have looked at so far, TRENDnet has provided a package that while not super cheap, won't break your bank account. It's also easy and very quick to setup and the adapters aren't ugly looking, either. Performance is not spectacular and very well under the 200Mbps labelling on the retail box, but it beats wireless 802.11n in our testing hands down.Do keep in mind that TRENDnet told us that their next product to be released will be a 400Mbps power line kit with 200Mbps adapter and Wireless N access point built in. While this product will inevitably cost more than what we reviewed here, it will be cheaper than buying this one now and an additional standalone access point. We'll get this product in for review when it will be released, as it is what the 200Mbps Powerline AV Fast Ethernet Adapter Kit from TRENDnet should have been in the first place.
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